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Civil Society groups have walked out of the official Rio+20 talks in protest of the failure of the key negotiators to listen to the calls for a conference which adequately addresses the key issues of sustainable development, with Bill McKibben tweeting "Walkout beginning. Proud to be part of 350, a youth-led movement "

After a three hour sit in, at least 100 representatives have turned in their official UN badges because "the future we want is not here."

Word from the ground is that the group is walking towards the People's Summit, the alternative meeting whose focus is on the rights of indigenous peoples, nature and environmental justice.

Stay tuned for further updates (and clarificatons) as they come in. Follow live reporting and action
• Alas de Rio on Facebook

#riofail on Twitter


McKibben, removed about an hour ago from "The Future We Bought"  demonstration, tweeted before the march began:

"I've listened to endless green leaders say youth should lead, well see in a little while who follows #riofail"

"World leaders have delivered something that fails to move the world forward from the first Rio summit, showing up with empty promises and empty pockets at Rio+20" says Mariana Calderon, a young woman from California. "This text is a polluters plan, and unless leaders start listening to the people, history will remember it as a failure for the people and the planet."

Reporting for Adopt A Negotiator, Joshua Reise releases segments of CAN International Executive Director Wael Hmaiden's  official statementon behalf of NGOs to Heads of State and Government,


You cannot have a document titled ‘the future we want’ without any mention of planetary boundaries, tipping points, or the Earth’s carrying capacity. The text as it stands is completely out of touch with reality. Just to be clear, NGOs here in Rio in no way endorse this document. Already more than 1,000 organisations and individuals have signed in only one day a petition called “The Future We Don’t Want” that completely refuses the current text. It does not in any way reflect our aspiration, and therefore we demand that the words “in full participation with civil society” are removed from the first paragraph.
photoHere are some of the sample tweets offered, all using the hashtag #riofail

I’m calling on world leaders to stop the #RioFail by (bringing forward solutions being called for by civil society / ending handouts to big polluters / enshrining fundamental rights / building a pathway to a just, sustainable future)
    Politicians may be able to live with #RioFail, but the people won’t.
    As it stands, this is a #RioFail for the people, the planet, and our generation.
    Stop #RioFail by putting the interests of the people and planet ahead of the interests of polluters.
    #RioFail has been hijacked by big polluters, profits, and the governments who negotiate on their behalf.
    #RioFail isn’t a failure of the UN, but a success for the corporate polluter lobby.
    Real leaders listen to the people, not polluters. (insert leader name/twitter account here) stop a #RioFail!
    (Insert Name of world leader) put your money where your mouth is and stop the #RioFail

The Guardian continues to be the finest source for breaking news and commentary on the conference. Their Thursday liveblog

And in today's Adbuster's blog, Prometheans vs. Soterians, Clive Hamilton analyses how the nuances in diplomatic language in the fields of science and the environment have shifted since the first 1992 summit to emphasize "technocratic and corporate thinking dangerously changing our relation to the Earth."

Thinking like an Earth system engineer has insinuated itself into unexpected places: Achim Steiner, the chief of the UN’s environment program and a man who will play a key role at Rio+20, has called on world leaders to “better manage the planet.” The new Earth System Governance Project, a consortium of concerned scientists, argues that Rio+20 should establish new institutions of global governance, which are undoubtedly needed, but it slides unnoticed into a call for “Earth system governance,” which is quite a different proposition.

Many of those who have begun to speak of planetary management use the language of engineering metaphorically. But others are deadly serious. Lowell Wood, the legendary Pentagon weaponeer and pioneer of sulphate aerosol spraying, has declared: “We’ve engineered every other environment we live in, why not the planet?”

Resource: Building the People's Summit
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Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 02:06 PM PDT

Hillary Clinton to attend Rio+20

by VL Baker

Reposted from beach babe in fl by VL Baker

President Obama will not be attending the United Nations Rio+20 Conference on Sustainability.   He will be sending a strong surrogate in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who will lead the American delegation.  Clinton will be joined by Lisa Jackson Head of the EPA and the White House environmental official Nancy Sutley as well as state department envoys in charge of international climate change negotiations.

Can't say I'm surprised that the President will not attend as politically it adds another deeply polarizing issue to the 2012 campaign.  Though in an ideal world he would attend which would encourage Merkel and Cameron and some others who have said they will not attend to rethink.   He would then give global leadership to the conference, commit the US to sustainable goals and upon his return the republicans would be so impressed that the congress would pass legislation to finally commit the US to a sustainable future.   Yep,  I'm in major fantasizing mode because we all know none of that will happen.

I do think that sending Clinton is a good move as she will be pushing for her new Clean Air and Climate Coalition which is promoting the global reduction of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP).   This is actually a solution that can work to reduce emissions rapidly.   As we now know C02 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years so even if we eliminated all carbon emissions tomorrow there would still be the damaging remains of the past use of C02 lingering in the atmosphere preventing us from stopping the most damaging effects of Climate Change.  So reducing the SLCP can buy us the time to reduce C02

The fact that Clinton has been involved in stressing solutions to climate change makes her the ideal representative at this time. We all know that Clinton is a tough negotiator so I'm hoping that she will have success in developing her Coalition.  This can make a positive outcome to the meeting and our fight against the worst effects of climate change.


Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 02:06 PM PDT

Yep, they went 'there'

by VL Baker

Reposted from beach babe in fl by VL Baker

As negotiations are still underway for the final draft of the Rio+20 summit on global sustainability which runs June 20-22  in Rio,  the scientists overseeing the discussions are voicing a warning:  You can't tackle global sustainability without focusing on the root causes of Population and Consumption.

The Rio+20 Earth summit must take decisive action on population and consumption regardless of political taboos or it will struggle to tackle the alarming decline of the global environment, the world's leading scientific academies warned on Thursday.

Rich countries need to reduce or radically transform unsustainable lifestyles, while greater efforts should be made to provide contraception to those who want it in the developing world, the coalition of 105 institutions, including the Royal Society, urged in a joint report.

Nobody has wanted to talk about the politically and socially charged terms.  They are aware that the rich nations don't want to talk about curtailing their consumption and the poor nations don't want the stigma of irresponsible population growth.  It's very difficult to talk about reducing consumption. I know.  I've been talking about the importance of reducing meat consumption here for several years and I can't tell you how many times I've had the standard comment; "You will have to pry a burger from my cold dead hands"  People resent being told that their consumption is responsible for some big problems.  But the truth is over consumption of meat is a major cause of climate change and affects us all whether we eat meat or not.   So our consumption is affecting the rest of the world is a very negative way.

So this has been what has been stalling global action on climate change for the last few decades.  The haves want to continue to have it all and the have nots are looking for some of the action and/or some protection from the fall out of the over consumption of the haves .  This is the attitude that is destroying our habitat.

Many in the scientific community believe it is time to confront these elephants in the room. "For too long population and consumption have been left off the table due to political and ethical sensitivities. These are issues that affect developed and developing nations alike, and we must take responsibility for them together," said Charles Godfray, a fellow of the Royal Society and chair of the working group of IAP, the global network of science academies.

In a joint statement, the scientists said they wanted to remind policymakers at Rio+20 that population and consumption determine the rates at which natural resources are exploited and Earth's ability to meet the demand for food, water, energy and other needs now and in the future. The current patterns of consumption in some parts of the world were unsustainable. A sharp rise in human numbers can have negative social and economic implications, and a combination of the two causes extensive loss of biodiversity.

Are we ready to tackle over consumption in the US?  Or are we waiting until 'someone'
somewhere 'makes us do it'.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”

 Mahatma Gandhi

Reposted from DK GreenRoots by boatsie

Bill McKibben, who was back on line tweeting an hour after participating in a walkout from the official Rio+20 negotiations,  reports in a Grist article on the 'listlessness" of a "lame" Rio+20.

McKibben, who tweeted of his pride in participating in the walkout, during which some 100 people handed in their official UN badges, writes:

This gathering, by contrast, is dullness defined. World leaders drone on in the plenary; the bulletin boards are covered with flyers for talks with topics like “Ecovision Turkey 2050” or “A Project for Human-based Sustainability through Ontopsychological Methodology.” The once-crowded halls are half-deserted; reporters search desperately for something, anything, to report.

But against that backdrop the actual truth of this bankrupt process shone more clearly. It took, as is often the case, young people to politely point out that the U.N. has no clothes, that behind the curtain there are just small people unable to do much because of the corporate power that dominates their governments. Hillary Clinton will make a speech tomorrow — but young people really said everything worth saying this afternoon.

It is night now in Rio, and #riofail coontinues to trend on twitter as activists from around the globe amplify the message that "The Future we want is NOT here!"

Reporting on today's events, in which Road to Rio notes:

Denouncing the failed Rio document as “the future corporations bought,” a swaths of youth and civil society groups have walked out of the conference center, turning in their badges as they departed. Earlier this afternoon, hundreds of people flooded the negotiating halls to hold a “People’s Assembly” to show politicians their dissatisfaction with continued preference for polluters and corporations over the people they are supposed to represent. This is an effort to ensure that Rio is not a Failure. Rio+20 needs to create a document that represents the best interests of every individual on our planet, not just the 1%. Actions towards getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies and transferring billions of dollars towards the development of renewables have been stalled. Requests by developing countries have been denied. Big points have been left out or weakened, points ranging from: protecting our oceans, ending food and water inequality, addressing climate change, and creating actual goals to help make our planet more sustainable. Meanwhile, the creation of a High Commissioner for Future Generations has been entirely removed. With our world changing at such a rapid rate, the opportunity to change the tides towards a sustainable future is now. This is our chance. Continued inaction by policy makers has left the youth and civil society with no choice but direct action.
The official Youth Policy Team is providing comprehensive converage of today's action with links to multiple media resources detailing how "dissatisfaction, anger and disillusionment of civil society with the weak outcome text of the Rio+20 Summit—and the lack of willingness of heads of state to make it stronger" triggered the  walkout. —has culminated today in a walkout by civil society.

A mic-check by 11-year old Ta'Kaiya Blaney @ Rio+20

#riofailto stay on top of developments.
• @MGCY_UNCSD  for upcoming statements.

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Greenpeace is @CallingAllOwls - pls RT and @ it to leaders #R... on Twitpic
Greenpeace is @CallingAllOwls - pls RT and @ it to leaders #RioPlus20 + Zero #deforestation.

As the three days of official Rio+20 talks commenced today, representatives of the major groups addressed the convention, voicing their opposition to the Zero Draft Document, also known as "The Future We Want."

The deeply disappointing  final negotiating document, ironically titled ""The Future We Want" has been met with a consensus of anger by civil society, NGOs and major groups, all of whom agree that the text lacks a clear plan of action to monitor or define new goals of sustainable development, nor does it lay out requisite commitments to the design and implementation of a green economy which takes into account both social and environmental issues.

Hopes that the document would set forward a concise timetable and commitments towards  "sustainable development goals" focusing on the safety of oceans, food security, renewable energies, employment and gender equity were dashed as the key power brokers - the US, China, the EU and Brazil - muddied the waters sufficiently to ensure no authentic action remained a possibility.

And once again, as is the case in the UNFCCC Climate Negotiations, the rift between the developed (North) and undeveloped (South) reveals a highly flawed, top heavy and economically driven agenda which disenfranchises the poor, the rights of nature itself and threatens the very essence of biodiversity necessary to maintain life on the planet.

A key shortcoming of the text was the failure of negotiators to effectively agree to terms of "common but differentiated responsibility,"Principle 7 of the original Rio Declaration.

The principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) is one of the cornerstones of sustainable development. It has emerged as a principle of International Environmental Law and has been explicitly formulated in the context of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It finds its origins in equity considerations and equity principles in international law. It informs in particular the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.  Source
In today's major news,  development banks  pledged $175 billion towards building public transport systems to reduce GHGs. The decision, backed by predictions that millions around the globe will be relocating to urban environments over the next few decades, is indicative of a shift in negotiating tactics from the traditional method of working with governments to directly deal with cities themselves in addressing low carbon transportation.

"Once the shackles of climate change are lifted, we are able to build constructive partnerships. The mayor of Beijing might ask for help with problems on public transport, but it would be hard for him to do that on climate change, Slocat’s Cornie Huizenga told The Guardian.

"The real success story of Rio is bottom-up partnerships to advance sustainability, even though governments can't agree what to do at the top level," Huizenga said. (source)

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A Date with History: 17 yr old Brittany Trilford addresses world leaders at the UN Earth Summit

And the talks begin. (Follow the Guardian's Live blog)

UN Secretary General  Ban Ki-moon was upbeat this morning as he initiated the commencement of the official Rio+20 talks, just one day after the final negotiating Zero Draft Document was completed.

“We are now in sight of a historic agreement,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his address to Rio+20’s opening session. “Let us not waste this opportunity. The world is watching to see if words will translate into action, as we know they must.” Source

The deeply disappointing  final negotiating document, ironically titled ""The Future We Want" has been met with a concensus of anger by civil society, NGOs and major groups, all of whom agree that the text lacks a clear plan of action to monitor or define new goals of sustainable development, nor does it lay out requisite commitments to the design and implementation of a green economy which takes into account both social and environmental issues.

Hopes that the document would set forward a concise timetable and commitments towards  "sustainable development goals" focusing on the safety of oceans, food security, renewable energies, employment and gender equity were dashed as the key power brokers - the US, China, the EU and Brazil - muddied the waters sufficiently to ensure no authentic action remained a possibility.

And once again, as is the case in the UNFCCC Climate Negotiations, the rift between the developed (North) and undeveloped (South) reveals a highly flawed, top heavy and economically driven agenda which disenfranchises the poor, the rights of nature itself and threatens the very essence of biodiversity necessary to maintain life on the planet.

A key shortcoming of the text was the failure of negotiators to effectively agree to terms of "common but differentiated responsibility,"Principle 7 of the original Rio Declaration.

The principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) is one of the cornerstones of sustainable development. It has emerged as a principle of International Environmental Law and has been explicitly formulated in the context of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It finds its origins in equity considerations and equity principles in international law. It informs in particular the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.  Source
It's pathetic," said Jim Leape, the head of WWF. "If this text proposed by Brazil is accepted, then the last year of negotiations has been a colossal waste of time. If you saw this document without knowing what it was supposed to be, you might think Rio+20 was convened as a seminar."

Meanwhile, after two years of studying the global financial markets, Greenpeace global leader Kumi Naidoo has informed attendees at Rio that his organization intends to hold financial organizations responsible for the failure of these negotiations.

"We have been investing a lot of effort over the past couple of years to understand the industry and where the leverage points are and I think we are close to this point and finance institutions should be put on notice that not only Greenpeace but others are going to be putting them under much greater scrutiny.

"Our aim is to get all banks to say we won't make loans to oil, coal, gas and deforestation-related activity. We want to shut off the flow of capital. The time is right because the banks are at their most vulnerable in terms of public legitimacy." Source

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Reposted from Meteor Blades by boatsie
John Kerry climate speech
Beginning Wednesday, delegates from around the planet will meet in Brazil for Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. As pointed out by FishOutofWater in his too little noted post, many observers don't hold out much hope for it. For instance, World Wild Life Federation Director Jim Leape said Tuesday:
Despite a late night negotiating session, the revised text is a colossal failure of leadership and vision from diplomats. They should be embarrassed at their inability to find common ground on such a crucial issue.  

Now it’s up to world leaders to get serious about sustainable development and save this process. If they approve what’s on the table now without significant changes, they’ve doomed Rio+20 to ridicule.

Why has this happened? In a ferocious 55-minute speech on the Senate floor today, Sen. John Kerry tells us in some detail. As Ben Jervey at DeSmogBlog writes, he did not "mince words." You can watch the entire speech here. Some key points:
Mr. President: Twenty years ago this month, a Republican President of the United States helped bring together all the world’s largest economies in Rio to confront the issue of global climate change. The President was unequivocal about the mission. George Herbert Walker Bush said simply, “The United States fully intends to be the world's preeminent leader in protecting the global environment. We have been that for many years. We will remain so. We believe that environment and development...can and should go hand in hand. A growing economy creates the resources necessary for environmental protection, and environmental protection makes growth sustainable over the long term.”

When he was asked about his own target for subsequent meetings of the global stakeholders, he could not have been clearer. He said the United States

“will be there with specific plans, prepared to share, but more important, that others who have signed these documents ought to have specific plans. So I think this is a leadership role. We are challenging them to come forward.  We will be there.  I think the Third World and others are entitled to know that the commitments made are going to be commitments kept.”
How dramatic and sad it is that twenty years later, shockingly, we find ourselves in a strange and dangerous place on this issue—a place this former President wouldn’t even recognize.

Thomas Paine actually described today’s situation very well. As America fought for its independence, he said: “It is an affront to treat falsehood with complaisance.” Yet when it comes to the challenge of climate change, the falsehood of today's naysayers is only matched by the complacency of our political system.

It is well past time that we heed Thomas Paine’s admonition and reaffirm the commitment made by the first President Bush. As a matter of conscience and common sense, we should be compelled to fight today’s insidious conspiracy of silence on climate change—a silence that empowers misinformation and mythology to grow where science and truth should prevail. It is a conspiracy that has not just stalled, but demonized any constructive effort to put America in a position to lead the world on this issue, as President Bush promised we would and as Americans have a right to expect we will.

Mr. President, the danger we face could not be more real. In the United States, a calculated campaign of disinformation has steadily beaten back the consensus momentum for action on climate change and replaced it with timidity by proponents in the face of millions of dollars of phony, contrived "talking points," illogical and wholly unscientific propositions and a general scorn for the truth wrapped in false threats about job loss and taxes.

Yet today, the naysayers escape all accountability to the truth. The media hardly murmurs when a candidate for President of the United States in 2012 can walk away from previously held positions to announce that the evidence is not yet there about the impact of greenhouse gases on climate. [...]

The level of dissembling—of outright falsifying of information, of greedy appeal to fear tactics that has stalled meaningful action now for twenty years—is hard to wrap one's mind around. It is so far removed from legitimate analysis that it confounds for its devilishly simple appeal to the lowest common denominator of disinformation. In the face of a massive and growing body of scientific evidence that says catastrophic climate change is knocking at our door, the naysayers just happily tell us climate change doesn’t exist.

In the face of melting glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica, they say we need to “warm up to the truth.”

And in the face of animals disappearing at alarming rates, they would have us adopt an “ostrich” policy and simply bury our heads in the sand. [...]

The conspiracy of silence that now characterizes Washington's handling of the climate issue is dangerous. Climate change is one of two or three of the most serious threats our country now faces, if not the most serious, and the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility. The costs of inaction get more and more expensive the longer we wait—and the longer we wait, the less likely we are to avoid the worst and leave future generations with a sustainable planet. [...]

So, we can pass legislation at the state level to ban planning for sea level rise. It might be easy politics, but it’s not smart politics in terms of protecting our country. Just ask those living in Tuvalu and the low-lying nation of Kiribati. Think they could use some advance planning to deal with the “King” tides that may soon drown out life on their shores? You bet. But instead of learning from them, we’ve succumbed to the siren call of short-term interests.

That speech ought to be the topic of an entire debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney come this fall. But far too many people, too many progressives among them, are silent about climate change. Even if they accept its reality, as most do, they see it as a side issue. Something either too big to handle or for which there is no solution. At least not one for which they are willing to radically alter business as usual.

With CO2 content of the atmosphere now at 400 parts per million, every world leader ought to be in Brazil for this conference. With a fresh urgency. With an aggressive agenda. With determination not to, once again, kick the can to the next conference.

Why they aren't has a lot to do with complacency and silence. Ours and theirs.


Vandana Shiva "The Earth is the Biggest Employer"

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Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 04:22 PM PDT

Riogram: "Punctuation, Not Principles"

by boatsie

As the countdown for civic participation on final recommendations for sustainable development looms, the last round of official negotiations begins tomorrow with only 20% agreement on the final draft document for next week's Rio+20 summit.

Sources close to the negotiations have informed the BBC that the US and the G77/China groups are making mincemeat of The Zero Draft Document, dismantling The Future We Want with so many deletions and brackets that the talks are more about "punctuation than principles."

Russia, Japan, the EU and other participants are also decimating the document with protests over some of the major negotiating points.

"The Rio Earth Summit will not bring about the Future We Want, it will provide a stark and distressing reminder of the present we have," said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International,

"A world in which public health, human rights and sustainable development are subordinate to private profit, shallow national interest and 'business as usual'."< a href="">BBC.

Reporting for Third World Network earlier today, Chee Yoke Ling writes “Common but differentiated responsibilities” under threat, in which he analyses how the US and other Northern countries are attempting to dilute "the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” agreed to in 1992. Ling provides a detailed preview of the negotiating document as it currently stands after negotiations in New York earlier this month and prior to tomorrow's final go round.

Here's one example:

In Section III on “Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” there was a long discussion on paragraph 51 which covers the general objective and Principles of green economy.

The G77 inserted language to re-orientate the approach to “equity” and “the Rio Principles, in particular the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”. These proposals were bracketed by most developed countries with the US asking to delete both concepts.

The US also suggested that reference to being “guided” by “all the Rio Principles” should be amended to “informed by the Rio Principles.”

In contrast, the G77 introduced language that green economy policies should be guided by Rio Principles, “in particular the Principle of common but differentiated responsibilities”. The Group said on the issue of “guided” or “informed” that there are so many things that inform but do not necessarily get applied in life and that it preferred the stronger language.

The US objected saying that “in no way” do the elements of the paragraph “‘guide our domestic policy making.”

Meanwhile, just three days remain for popular participation in the Rio+20 online Dialogues.

The final results,  now narrowed down to 100 recommendations and ten categories, will be presented to negotiators at the beginning of the summit.*

The key categories are:

•Sustainable Cities and Innovation
•Food, Nutrition Security
•Sustainable Energy for All
•Unemployment, Decent Work and Migrations
•Sustainable Development for Fighting Poverty
•Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crises
• The economics of Sustainable Develoment, including Sustainable Patterns of Production and Consumption
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This article was written  by Tom Athanasiou,  Executive Director of EcoEquity, a project of Earth Island Institute. It is being cross-posted with his permission. (See original)

The Bonn workshop on “Equitable Access to Sustainable Development”

A few weeks back, deep in a diplomatic warren in Bonn, Germany, the UN climate negotiations convened their first major session since December’s “breakthrough” in Durban, South Africa.  It would be a bit of an understatement to say that Bonn didn’t go well.  See this rollup or, if you’re braced for the details, see the Climate Action Network’s coverage and commentary, and the Third World Network’s coverage and commentary, and the IISD’s summary.  The UNFCCC Secretariat will also be doing a report; no doubt it will be soon.

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Ecocity Builders and the United Nations NGO Major Group's proposal 'Global Standards of Sustainability for Cities' has advanced to the final round of the Rio+20 Dialogues. Please support us so that the proposal can be delivered directly to Heads of State at Rio+20. Everyone can vote directly from the link.

1. Go to
2. Click on 'Your Vote'
3. Scroll to : Sustainable Cities and Innovation
4. Vote for: Promote global standards of sustainability for cities.
5. Share!

As the Earth's ecosystem and climate is rapidly reaching a "tipping point" it's becoming increasingly clear that we humans all have to pull together to turn the mothership around. Luckily, the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (Rio+20) from June 20-22 (and the weeks leading up to it starting right now) is offering many great opportunities for people from all over the world to come together, build bridges, and draft a common path upon which all residents of this breathtakingly beautiful planet we call home can journey towards a sustainable and equitable future.

Over the last few months I've been peripherally involved in the sometimes hopeful, sometimes frustrating, but always interesting process of midwifing the elusive and almost mythical outcome document that is supposed to become the collectively agreed upon blueprint for a prosperous, secure and sustainable future for people and planet. For the first time ever, rather than just leaving it to high level diplomats and heads of state to duke it out over how to solve the world's many interconnected problems, the UN decided to ask representatives from all areas of civil society, aka major groups, to participate in the process.

As such, Ecocity Builders, the organization I've been dreaming up cities that function like natural ecosystems with for many years, was invited to participate and chime in as part of the NGO Major Group cluster.

As some of you already know, I got to go to New York and look dapper in my Jerry Garcia tie, but since that is such a rare sight and as a little treat for voting for the 'Global Standards of Sustainability for Cities' at, a big thank you smile:


But really, for Ecocity Builders this process started three years ago when the groundwork was laid for a standards system that would measure and quantify the progress cities were making towards becoming more holistic in their approach to planning, The International Ecocity Framework and Standards initiative. A sort of a LEED ratings system for cities, this was something that everyone who knew how big of a role cities will have to play (70% of the world's population, poverty, huge CO2 emissions) in accomplishing anything resembling global sustainable development was clamoring for. In a nutshell, without some sort of a comprehensive methodology by which cities' progress toward becoming ecocities could be objectively assessed we would all just call ourselves "green" cities and the last sprawling seas of suburbia with a few solar roofs and a marketing budget turn the lights off on the planet.

When it became clear that the UN was finally going to get serious about cities and human settlements, including this paragraph in the zero draft...

We commit to promote an integrated and holistic approach to planning and building sustainable cities through support to local authorities, efficient transportation and communication networks, greener buildings and an efficient human settlements and service delivery system, improved air and water quality, reduced waste, improved disaster preparedness and response and increased climate resilience.
...we knew that we had just what they needed to actually follow through on establishing a set of concrete guidelines to building whole systems cities, should the nations of the world commit to that in the final outcome document. So we weren't just at these "informal informal" meetings in New York to talk about the change we wish to see, we had the goods to make those changes happen and we wanted the big fish to use them.

But it wasn't as easy as just walking up to Ban Ki-moon and saying "yo bro, let's get this ecocity standards thing going." Instead, the UN is more like a labyrinth with all the exits blocked, you're just wandering and feeling your way around, bumping into the same people over and over, yet slowly but surely you begin to understand the flow, and then random lifelines seem to pop out of nowhere, and you just grab whatever you can get your hands on.

Kirstin and I in New York.
The real heroine here is Ecocity Builders' ED Kirstin Miller, whose godlike patience and dogged determination led her to become the master of the labyrinth (the Zen UN Maze Master?) and in the process unearthed some of the right clues and accidentally hit some of the right buttons to the secret vaults of UNirvana.

So, somehow our global standards of sustainability for cities made it onto the Rio+20 Dialogues online platform, survived the first rounds of voting, and now is in the Final 10 of the Sustainable Cities & Innovation category. If we're selected, our proposal can be delivered directly to Heads of State at Rio+20.

You know what to do. If you vote now, I promise there'll be more cool Rio+20 ecocity nuggets below the fallen Dutch snowman.

1. Go to
2. Click on 'Your Vote'
3. Scroll to : Sustainable Cities and Innovation
4. Vote for: Promote global standards of sustainability for cities.
5. Share!
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(May 24, 2012 – London/New York/Wellington/Rio de Janeiro) A school pupil from
Wellington, New Zealand has been selected as winner of a global youth speech
contest, to ‘speak truth to power’ and to inspire urgent action from world leaders and
decision-makers gathering at the Rio+20 Earth Summit next month.

Seventeen-year-old Brittany Trilford, in her final year at school, has won the global
“Date With History” youth video speech contest. The contest was open to young
people from all walks of life around the world aged 13-30, to demand action on
sustainability by leaders and decision-makers. Entries from every corner of the planet
were voted on by the online public to elicit regional finalists through the contest
website. More than 83,000 views and votes ended with 22 finalists.


At the first World Summit 20 years ago, Severn Suzuki admonishes delegates for failing to address the world's environmental and social problems:

We're a group of 12 and 13-year-olds trying to make a difference ... We've raised all the money to come here ourselves, to come 5,000 miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming up here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future. Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stockmarket. I am here to speak for all generations to come. I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard. I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet, because they have nowhere left to go. I am afraid to go out in the sun now, because of the holes in the ozone ...

    Did you have to worry of these things when you were my age? All this is happening before our eyes, yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions. I am only a child and don't have all the solutions. I want you to realise, neither do you... If you don't know how to fix it, please, stop breaking it.

Of the contest outcome, Christiana Figueres Executive Secretary of UNFCCC
commented, “Hundreds recorded moving speeches, tens of thousands voted. I am
deeply encouraged to see that leaders of my era will be replaced in future by these
true global citizens. Brittany now has the responsibility to represent all who stand
with her with a vision for a brighter future. She can inspire decision makers in Rio
who can make a difference now to ensure a better world becomes reality.”
Kelly Rigg, Executive Director of Global Campaign for Climate Action, organizers of
the contest says “With youth accounting for 3 billion of the world’s population, it is
critical that young people from all walks of life are engaged in influencing global
decision-making on sustainability now – they will live with the building blocks or the
broken promises, depending on the choices leaders make.”

Only one entry from the contest wins the opportunity to go to the UN Summit in Rio
de Janeiro. Brittany Trilford’s speech was selected from the finalist gallery by a
diverse jury which included more than a dozen respected youth leaders from around
the world, Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke, UN
Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth, actor and environmentalist Leonardo
DiCaprio, actor and activist Hayden Panettiere, UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and
actor Don Cheadle, former Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva, Brazilian
actor and activist Sergio Marone, Carbon War Room President Jose Maria Figures,
Christiana Figueres, and Dr Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General UN Industrial
Development Organisation and Co-Chair Secretary-General’s High Level Group on
Sustainable Energy for All.

Dr Kandeh Yumkella said of his involvement in the contest jury, “Accounting for more
than half of the world’s population, young people must take a leading role in forging
tomorrow’s world, the one they will lead. ‘Date With History’ his given a unique
platform for effective collaborative action by youth, making the most of our
interconnected world. Brittany can speak for millions because of this initiative.”

The winner, Brittany, sees the enormity of the opportunity she has been afforded.
She comments “I entered ‘Date With History’ to show solidarity with youth around the
world, demanding that our leaders remember we are all their children and they owe
us a fighting chance at a future we want to inherit. They need to act now so that we
have a bright future, free from fear. I feel honoured to take up my obligation to stand
up and be counted as one of my generation and the wisdom of youth at Rio+20.”
Severn Suzuki, who made a moving speech at the 1992 Earth Summit at the age of
twelve and is still remembered as the ‘girl who silenced the world for five minutes’,
was also a juror in the contest. Her advice to Brittany is, “Don't be afraid to speak the
truth on the world stage. More than ever, we need the voice of youth to cut through
our justification of why we continue to value profit more than peoples' health, our
ecosystems' sustainability, and justice for the future. Remember you are there
representing those who go unheard. And speak what we all know, deep down, to be

More than 130 Heads of State, Vice Presidents, Heads of Government and deputy
Prime Ministers are currently inscribed on the speakers list for the Rio+20
Conference from 20-22 June, although the list of names has yet to be published by
the UN. In the midst of a convergence of crises set to cause increasing turmoil
around the world if governments are unable to address impacts and pressures on
economic, social and environmental development, it is hoped that public pressure will
stimulate attendance and bold decisions by all Heads of State. It is hoped that
Brittany Trilford will receive a high profile speaking opportunity, such as that awarded
to Severn Suzuki in Rio in 1992.

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