So Rio+20 has concluded with only the barest flicker of the needle on the meter of progress to a more sustainable society.* But then if you expected anything different you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog, and I wouldn’t have drafted this opening before the conference had even started.
Away from the big international negotiations and gridlock politics, however, there are some better news stories, most of them inspired by local needs and aspirations, a bottom-up approach this blog is proud to celebrate. So here are a few examples that caught my eye in recent weeks and months:
- Replanting the great Atlantic Forest of South America one tree at a time
- The campaign against the Gibe 3 dam
- The sustainable cities initiative
- Saving turkeys diversifies rural incomes in Guatemala
- Planting mangroves, surviving the next tsunami
- Jane Goodall’s TACARE community-outreach initiative
- Tiny Tokelau joins the Maldives in leading by example
Ultimately, caring for our environmental (our patrimony) is a moral question. It is therefore good to see some religious leaders taking their share of the responsibilities.
The sixty four million dollar question: do these and other initiatives amount to much more than a few isolated successes, or might they add to something rather more significant? Wangari Maathai won a Nobel Peace Prize in part because she succeeded in translating a bottom-up effort into a national movement. Let’s hope a few of these pioneers can taste success on that kind of scale.
* For what it’s worth I agree with Duncan Green; international politics has reached such an impasse that I think progress is only likely in response to major shocks to the system. Depressingly this is probably going to mean a couple of massive environmental catastrophes before the survival instinct kicks in.