The Future Lies in Rio

With a little over 40 days before Earth Day 2012, the focus on bringing the world together to Mobilize the Earth™ for environmental justice is on everyone’s mind.  But we must not forget that one of the most important international conferences of our generation is just a short two months after April 22nd.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will convene in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between June 20 and 22, 2012.  More commonly known as “Rio+20,” this conference marks the passage of 20 years since the original Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The Brazilian Government has declared the ambition to make this the largest conference ever held by the United Nations.  Over 100 elected officials from all over the world are expected to participate. With a diversity of topics ranging from sustainable energy to water and resources to the green economy, there is a multitude of issues on the table that affect every part of the globe.

So what makes Rio+20 so important? The United Nations will say that the answer lies in the fact that our world is changing.   We no longer have the capacity to consume like we once did.  We need to foster a new era of sustainability built around a green economy, and we need to make sure a strong governing body is in place to see that countries begin to implement these changes. This is all good and true. If the people on our planet continue to live and function as we do now, we will all head down a road where climate change and other environmental factors lead to catastrophic impacts on our daily lives.  But Rio+20 will also offer something else: an opportunity.

Rio+20 will offer an unprecedented chance for young people to become activists for immediate and significant change to improve their future.  After all, no one has more at stake in the outcome of Rio+20 than they do. 

In 1992 at the first Earth Summit in Rio, a then 12 year old girl by the name of Sevrin Suzuki, addressed the Conference and gave a speech that was said to “Silence the World.” She went to the Summit to encourage world leaders to act to create environmental laws that promote sustainability and protect the planet. She mentioned the outside motives of decision makers all over the world who continue to harm the environment even when they have no solutions to fix the problems they create. She famously noted “I have no hidden agenda; I am fighting for my future”.  Her words inspired millions of youth around the globe to join the movement to protect the environment. While we have come a very long way in terms of sustainability since ’92, many of her words on failed action still ring true. 

There are many ways that you can get involved with the Rio+20 process and make sure that your voice is heard.  You can sign the Earth Day Network Global Energy Petition and show your support for energy efficiency.  Or you can enter the Win a Date with History competition for a chance to address World Leaders at Rio+20 much like Sevrin Suzuki in 1992.  We cannot view Rio+20 as another United Nations Conference.  The time for action is now.