Copacabana: A story of the Rio +20 Earth Summit

Posted: August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

Rosa Koian

FROM the 10th floor of Brasil Apartmentos at 4am I sat quietly and waited for the sun to make its way out of the sea.

Apparently I was looking the wrong way and noticed in the silhouette dark heavy clouds hanging so close to the sea, it looked like they were opening up very soon to let out the rain. In about 45 minutes the edges were illuminated with neon lights to excuse the clouds to hold off for the day.

Soon the place was lit up with the morning sun promising a good day for those who have communed in this great city in the hope of saving it and mother earth. Yet the trails seem less promising of a better future for those yet to come.

On my left an oil rig sits inconveniently in the ships’ pathway. About 13 ships line up the sea in front at some 3 to 4 kilometres away as two military boats patrol the area.

Looking down into the streets early risers are making their morning fitness walks and jogs along the stretch of beach.

On the ground police and para-military personnel are posted at every 300 metres intervals. On one section near our apartment four armed paramilitary officials with a military vehicle stood at still watching the morning traffic as other police and military officials zoom past on their motor bikes. Two helicopters hang in the air in front of our apartment, I thought this must be serious business. It seemed some important government personnel was passing through.

I was told later this was only necessary because US State Secretary Hillary Clinton was passing through. My informant said all these police and military personnel on the street is only because of the big UN conference – the Rio +20 earth summit.

We are staying at Copacabana, one of the richest suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. It is pretty with remarkable landscapes. Copacabana is marked with a stretch of about 3km of white sandy beach with the sugarloaf standing proud on the east and behind us El Christo proudly standing at 250 metres tall and looking down into Rio de Janeiro on the flats and hills in front of it.

Behind us I am told, an untouched virgin forest stands in this modern city. It is Rio de Janeiroʼs pride to tell the world how a modern city can coexist with one of the worldʼs  oldest rainforests.

From the beach and looking into the east, favelas spot the hilltops. At first I thought they were pretty but noted how hard it must be to get up there. I wondered about food supply in an area like this where there seemed to be so little soil.

Another friend told me how basic services are not reaching those people who are living within city limits. “Even though they are not receiving government help with basics like water and electricity those people are not waiting for things to come to them. They are bringing in the electricity and water themselves.”

We are in Rio de Janeiro talking and debating the future we want. I am wondering what is the future this important conference, the Rio +20, wants? Is it a city manned by security forces? Is it a future where the poor and the rich are neighbors but would not share? Is it a future where thousands of people mourn and few people smile? Is it a future where rain clouds talk with the sun and the people accept it whether it is rainy or sunny?

Of the 130 countries present at this world meeting, only Bolivia and Ecuador are taking some real stand to uphold mother earth.

What is the point of talking about sustainable development if countries would not take some real stand to change the current order. There are big talks to reduce poverty but again no real commitments to do business differently.

Twenty years on, recommendations from 1992 Rio earth summit are still on the table with very little movements for the better.

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