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The future we want

Publication Date : 24-06-2012


Quite the most striking and parallel feature during the infructuous Rio de Janeiro summit on sustainable development was the Greenpeace campaign to convert the North Pole and the vast frozen area around it into a global sanctuary where all development would be banned. And more about it in a moment. The summit set no fresh timetable for development, chiefly to bring millions out of poverty without trashing the environment. The principal agenda, therefore, remains unfulfilled, indeed the critical disconnect between poverty alleviation and conservation.

It remains a cruel irony that the first imperative has negated the second the world over. On the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit in Rio, this year’s “Rio Plus 20” has come a cropper. This is proof, if proof were needed, of regression rather than forward movement. Not that the outcome was wholly unexpected; prescience appears to have influenced the conspicuous absence of the leaders of the developed world, pre-eminently Barack Obama, David Cameron and Angela Merkel. There is little or nothing  that is reassuring in the draft titled, “The Future We Want”.

Oxfam’s assessment could not have been more apposite -- “This summit was over before it even started. World leaders failed to seize the day. It will be recognised as a failure -- a fail on equity, a fail on ecology and a fail on economy.”

In the midst of this fogbound scenario, the Greenpeace campaign was launched and significantly so in Brazil, quite obviously to convey a message to the great and the good who had assembled at the high table. The agenda has been spelt out with a chorus of celebrity support, notably from Paul McCartney, Robert Redford and Penelope Cruz. Its Save the Arctic campaign deserves unqualified support from the comity of nations  -- “The Arctic is coming under assault and needs people from around the world to stand up and demand action to protect it. A ban on offshore oil drilling and unsustainable fishing would be a huge victory against the forces ranged against this precious region.”

Internationalising the whole region might perhaps end the current scramble for territory and oil. This will envisage a ban on offshore drilling and unsustainable fishing. It is indeed a struggle for the mastery of the Arctic. With the ice-sheets melting under the impact of climate change, countries and corporations are engaged in a tussle for influence, trade routes and natural resources from oil to fish. The Arctic belongs to the world, and the world must ensure that this wilderness retains its beauty and scientific value. Greenpeace has at least taken a baby-step where the Rio summit failed to tread.


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