Positive change begins personally, but...
By Frances LambertsThat this one Earth is “all we got” is the kernel of hundreds of messages on the United Nations website as world civic, government and business leaders meet this week in Rio de Janeiro.
They are there to review progress made, or lack of it, since the Earth Summit held in that city 20 years ago.
Several non-binding principles and agreements had been negotiated then, aimed at fostering development and meeting basic human needs in a world with a fast growing population, while maintaining environmental integrity.
This year’s Rio+20 summit seeks further commitments for lasting and sustainable development, under an unofficial title of “The Future We Want.”
The website’s message “echoes from around the world” beseech the summit leaders to pay attention to the state of the global environment.
Many messages read like calls from young persons for an assured inter-generational right to food, water and seeds in a functioning natural world and of an ombudsman to safeguard this right for future generations.
They enumerate the threats — oceans rising, forests blazing, species becoming extinct.
They urge recognition, especially, that “climate warming is climate warning” and plead with the (assembled) presidents, prime ministers and world leaders to not just talk about but respond to these challenges with “real actions now.”
A new research report published in the science journal Nature in early June, by 22 scientists from three continents, amplifies the gravity and urgency of this.
The Earth is steadily approaching a point, it finds, when ecosystems could go into sudden and irreversible change that will not be conducive to human life.
Such a tipping point, when reached, will severely impact much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, states the report’s lead author, Professor Barnosky at the University of California, and “this could happen within just a few generations.”
The summit leaders are being reminded of many practical, already-available solutions that should have wider if not universal use.
Why don’t all cities ban plastic bags? Why do we make “lavish cars that have poor average” mileage?
The circle of materials should be closed; things should be re-used and recycled to the fullest extent.
These are a few of many simple solutions the messages from around the world call for.
If they sound like invocations, they also convey ideas of responsibility, solidarity and hope.
Positive change begins personally, several state — we must “live more humble [and] volunteer for our planet.” The business world, corporations and governments must also contribute a bigger share, though, to make our future sustainable.
In the great effort ahead, one message states, strength will come from recognizing our common humanity even as we all “live in different parts of this little world.”
With joint, honest and effective action we can “change today’s desert into a future forest” and, indeed, “for the first time ever make Nature proud.”
With the stakes so high, one hopes the leaders meeting in Rio will heed the “climate warning” and not disappoint the world’s children.