Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another dog & pony show

The UN loves a spectacle nearly as much as they love long-winded resolutions. Last week, they had a day on child labor with all sorts of ceremonial tsking & yesterday they had a day on refugees with more ceremonial clucking. But this atrocity going on in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil called the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20 may take the cake. There are 2,000 participants at an invitation only event built around two major themes: sustainable energy & the greening of industry. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is claiming great progress already but that’s against the low expectations expressed by governments & media. Actually it’s not certain if this is an investment event or an environmental one since despite the themes, UN organizers promoted it saying it will give business & investors an “opportunity to meet with governments, local authorities, civil society & UN entities”. They insist the private sector (what the rest of us call plunderers) play a critical role in Rio+20 & that must be true since there isn’t an environmental organization among the participants. With $1,000 a night hotel rooms, this is a boon to the hospitality industry in Rio but otherwise just an expensive dog & pony show. The list of participants includes 130 heads of state (with Hillary Clinton leading the US delegation); several universities & business schools (to grovel for research dough); lots & lots of banks & investment firms (including HSBC, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, & the World Bank); mining, energy, gas, oil, lumber, pharmaceutical, auto (Mitsubishi, Volkswagen), & telecommunication companies; Coca Cola & Pepsi, Dow, Cargill, Monsanto, Nestle, Disney, IKEA, Intel, Maersk, Levi Strauss, Proctor & Gamble, Microsoft, Nokia, the Ford & Rockefeller Foundations, Oxfam, Save the Children, World Wildlife International, & something called The Happiness Foundation. That’s a rogues' gallery, not an environmental lineup. Any real action taken in Rio is happening at the People’s Alternative Summit Against the Green Economy & the Commodification of Nature. This photo (taken June 15th) of a pig scrounging in a creek filled with trash & stinking of raw sewage that runs toward the Rio+20 conference center would be emblematic of Rio+20. (Photo by Victor R. Calvano/AP)

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