Against a 'green' avalanche
The possible definitions that are used in other documents and in diplomatic discourse do not involve a way of life that is radically different from the status quo. Instead, it points to deepening the dominant production and consumption model that generates inequalities between countries and people, as well as multiple environmental crises.
Pablo Sólon, then ambassador of Bolivia at the UN, remembers that at its moment of conception, Rio+20 was supposed to be a space to evaluate the progress of agreements made in Agenda 21 (the outcome of ECO 92), and perhaps even strengthen these agreements. The green economy was just a topic of discussion at first, but became a central point due to pressures from particularly European countries, according to Sólon.
agro-ecology is only possible with agrarian and peasant reform
In his opinion, the lack of a definition of the term "green economy" is an enormous risk. "The enthusiasts say that that a green economy is everything: separating garbage, clean industries, selling carbon credits, all of this could be green economy. This is why they do not want to define the term in a document. If we accept it, we basically sign a blank cheque," explains the ex-ambassador.
He believes that Rio+20 is not the place to close treaties. "What they want is a mandate for creating the institutional architecture behind this intangible market. If we don't reject this green economy we are accomplices to launching one of the largest deals robbing nature in Rio de Janeiro in June. It is very complicated because there are various interests and a multi-million dollar market that will not solve anything, but they hope, will reverse the declining profit of the capitalist system."
Looking for an alternative economy, social organizations and social movements gathered at the seminar "Towards Rio+20, towards another economy".
There is no lack of alternative practices, concepts and values, which are known and followed by traditional communities and family farmers around the globe. The challenge is to make these alternatives visible, while a global conference like Rio+20 points towards the old economy, only painted green.
Jean Marc von der Weid of AS-PTA spoke about some issues related to agriculture: "We seem to be looking at the prophecies of Nostradamus. The crises seem to be integrating and strengthening each other." The economist used some examples to show how the current hegemonic agricultural model is simply unsustainable in the long term: mineral resources used for producing nitrogen fertilizers are disappearing; the model is entirely based on petroleum and does not question the limits to this; soil degradation has reached alarming levels - it has already reached 22% of the world's fertile land. "Traditional agricultural crops are still disappearing. The importance of this goes beyond the loss of environment and genetic material. We are also losing knowledge. This is a serious problem for the future," he worries, remembering that old and unresolved issues in Brazil, like agrarian reform, are even more necessary.
Lúcia Ortiz of Friends of the Earth Brazil highlighted that there is a decrease in transparency in United Nations conferences. She also pointed out that corporations in- and outside of the UN system are reaffirming their power via the opening of markets in a green economy. In the Zero Draft for Rio+20, "the important role of the private sector on the path to sustainable development" is highlighted.
Camila Moreno of the Heinrich Boell Foundation added that corporations are not as powerful without the backing of authoritarian governments - their actions need to be questioned as well.
According to Denis Monteiro of ANA (Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia), we need numbers to show society concretely what the severity is of the problem: droughts, floods of major cities, disease, pollution, and pesticides contaminating food, water and soil. "All this is clearly felt by people on their lands and shows that these crises are real," he comments.
Similarly, the solutions are on their lands as well, as pointed out by Jean Pierre Leroy of FASE. He thinks territories should be considered as common goods, managed by groups for the good of everyone.
According to Jean Marc von der Weid, the difference between today and twenty years ago is the soundness of practices that respect people and the environment - like agro-ecology. There are many experiences throughout the world, and numerous studies (including UN studies) which prove that these practices are solutions to the social and environmental problems that we face currently. It is necessary to make these experiences visible. However, this is not enough, Jean Marc reminds us, since agro-ecology is only possible with agrarian and peasant reform.
Like Fátima Mello of FASE says, "it is necessary that society knows that alternatives like agro-ecology will never become massive if it does not pass through politics". The People's Summit, according to Fátima, can be an important moment to accumulate political force and to open a large dialogue within society on possible paths to take.
- Contra uma avalanche verde, aposta nos territórios do future - Lívia Duarte (FASE)
- More on Rio+20
Adapted from original text by: Laura Eggens
The seminar "Toward Rio +20: Toward another economy" was organized by: Articulação Nacional de Agroecologia (ANA), Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia (ASPTA), Fase – Solidariedade e Educação Núcleo, Amigos da Terra Brasil and Sempreviva Organização Feminista (SOF)