Rio + 20 Part I

Rio + 20 Part I

It’s boiling and it’s boiling out there – in the world. In Spain, young people march on the streets and call themselves the Angry – “Los indignados”. In the United States, other young people are marching and calling themselves “Occupy Wall Street”. They are primarily angry because they do not get a job, because they believe that the poor get poorer and that the rich get richer. And beneath all this lies the fear that the world is run by the hinges; that our planet, Tellus, can no longer stand it.

It gets too hot, there is too much rain and tropical storms and too many species disappear. We saw the branch we are sitting on, it is said. The Rio + 20 environmental conference took place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012 against this background. The conference was to point to solutions, ways out of disability and towards a new, green economy.

  • What happened in Rio in 1992?
  • What are the recurring environmental themes of the last fifty years?
  • Where do the big dividing lines go?
  • What came out of Rio + 20?

2: The environment comes into play

Since the beginning of the 1960s, we have become far more aware of how humans affect the environment. According to, one of the first “whistleblowers” was the American environmentalist Rachel Carson. In the book The Silent Spring (1962) she wondered why there were so few birds compared to when she grew up. Eventually she found out that it was related to toxic pesticides that the farmers used in the fields. The book was of great importance for the emergence of the American environmental movement, but was ridiculed by industrialists.

Only ten years later came a new book – Where does the border go?(Limits to growth) – published by a group of researchers associated with the project Romaklubben. They looked at population growth, use of resources, etc., and predicted that there were limits to how much humanity could consume. The book was massively criticized by conservatives. Not because they are not interested in environmental protection, but because they saw the book’s signals as a threat to the free market.

In Norway the same year we got our own book that still affects many young people, Erik Dammans The future in our hands . It also addressed our consumption, environmental damage and the need to show solidarity with the poor. The same year – in 1972 – the UN also held its first major environmental conference in Stockholm. The environmental ball began to roll.

A few years later, our own Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland was given the task of chairing a UN commission to look at the connection between climate, biodiversity and development. It presented its report in 1987 – Our common future. The UN decided that with this report as a background document, all world leaders should meet in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. We should look ahead. Together.

3: The world’s largest charity

What happened in 1992? Never before, perhaps except when the UN was formed in New York in 1945, had so many heads of state been gathered on a board as in Rio. Thousands of ordinary activists from organizations, academics and indigenous peoples’ representatives also came here. It became the world’s largest charity. It was a bit like a mix of politics and carnival.

The conference was named the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), but is most often called the Rio Conference or Rio92. Based on the aforementioned Brundtland report, the concept of ” sustainable development ” was launched. Its basic premise was that we must have a societal development that meets all the world citizens’ daily needs for food, energy and goods in a way that does not ruin the unborn generations . Those who come after us must also have their needs met. In other words, poverty problems and environmental problems must be seen in context . Furthermore, short-term economic considerations must give way to long-term environmental considerations .

The Rio conference was a milestone. A number of key plans, agreements and principles for environmental work were adopted:

  • A separate action plan called Agenda 21.It was to be a concrete guide to sustainable development in the 21st century. Through Agenda 21, the industrialized countries in particular have taken on a leading role in cleaning up environmental problems. Those who had created the problems should have a primary responsibility for repairing the globe.
  • international forest principles,
  • a climate convention,
  • a desertification convention,
  • a Convention on Biological Diversity,
  • a separate Rio Declaration, a short document of 27 points , intended as an important overarching guide document for achieving sustainable development.

One of the most important points in the Rio Declaration was the so-called precautionary principle . It says that in order to take care of the environment, states cannot wait for 100 percent scientific evidence, if they in all probability believe that the environment can be seriously damaged. They have to act now.

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