From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2012/jun/22/rio-20-earth-summit-brazil
World leaders have spent 20 years bracing themselves to express 'deep concern' about the world's environmental crises, but not to do anything about them
Posted by George Monbiot
Friday 22 June 2012
Friday 22 June 2012
In 1992, world leaders signed up to something called "sustainability". Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: "sustainable development". Then it made a short jump to another term: "sustainable growth". And now, in the 2012 Rio+20 text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into "sustained growth".
This term crops up 16 times in the document, where it is used interchangeably with sustainability and sustainable development. But if sustainability means anything, it is surely the opposite of sustained growth. Sustained growth on a finite planet is the essence of unsustainability.
As political economist Robert Skidelsky, who comes at this issue from a different angle, observes in the Guardian today:
"Aristotle knew of insatiability only as a personal vice; he had no inkling of the collective, politically orchestrated insatiability that we call economic growth. The civilization of "always more" would have struck him as moral and political madness. And, beyond a certain point, it is also economic madness. This is not just or mainly because we will soon enough run up against the natural limits to growth. It is because we cannot go on for much longer economising on labour faster than we can find new uses for it."
Several of the more outrageous deletions proposed by the United States – such as any mention of rights or equity or of common but differentiated responsibilities – have been rebuffed. In other respects the Obama government's purge has succeeded, striking out such concepts as "unsustainable consumption and production patterns" and the proposed decoupling of economic growth from the use of natural resources.
At least the states due to sign this document haven't ripped up the declarations from the last Earth summit, 20 years ago. But in terms of progress since then, that's as far as it goes. Reaffirming the Rio 1992 commitments is perhaps the most radical principle in the entire declaration.