Given that it has been 20 years since the first Earth Summit and we are going back to Rio de Janeiro in 2012, I thought I would write about our environmental achievements since then.
Then I remembered about Severn Cullis-Suzuki’s tremendous speech to the Earth Summit in 1992 and thought I would listen to it again. OMG, I was shocked! The messages of this 12 year old girl – about intergenerational rights, future generations, poverty, the need to waste less and share more – are all still immensely current today, 20 years on. She speaks with passion and conviction, and has unshakable faith in her elders. I commend you to listen to it again, or for the first time, just click on this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZsDliXzyAY. But there is a warning: it may bring a tear to your eye. Not only because it is endearing that a child can have such a clear understanding of what we adults need to do, but because it is very sad that 20 years on we have not, in real terms, moved forward very much.
On the positive side, the fact that we are still going on and on about the same issues must mean that we recognise that there is a problem. This tells me that we may just not have hit on the right solutions, or allowed the more radical innovative solutions to flourish perhaps because old interests are still holding on for dear life? So what could be possible ways forward?
My first thought was that we need to expose some of the old myths. An obvious one is that we always need to choose between economic prosperity and the environment, that you cannot grow the economy in a sustainable way. The green economy is here and we need to shout about it more and keep investing in our future, even in these difficult economic times. Just look at the economic importance of the debate on IP Rights in Clean Technology, which the “Cancun Agreements” thought to be too controversial to include as part of the agreed text.
Another change would be for us to grant rights to nature in 2012, or for the less ambitious, to at least recognise in an international platform that there is such an imbalance between what humans are allowed to do to the planet and the need to protect nature, that drastic measures need to be taken to protect both the planet and the human race.
A third way would be to require governments to take into account the rights of future generations when they write up and implement policies. Kirsty is blogging on this at the moment. What would the world look like if the regulator would ask itself, how will that abstraction license affect the community’s water resources today and in 2050? What will the impact be in 2050 of failing to “green” old buildings through refurbishment when our buildings represent 40% of our energy consumption?
Do let me know your views on the above and/or tell me about your ideas so we can start the legal community talking about what we want as professionals, individuals and as a society to come out of Rio 2012.