‘The future we want’ - or ‘the future we are actually going to get’?

This event is both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time. In too many disparate locations events are taking place (taking precious time to get to) we hear of excellent and innovative solutions to the big fix the planet is in.


There is creativity, and a good measure of agreement about ‘what needs to be done’ and many voices from around the globe having their say. No one seems to argue about the fact that we are on a dangerous course for unprecedented breakdown of the planet’s life support systems; no one is arguing that the current system is broken both for nature and people, but will this, by the end of the week, give us a blueprint for the future we want?

The style of debate has been innovative. Through a series of dialogues (supported by formidable technology involving real time translation on screen) we have heard the voice of civil society who is clearly way ahead of governments in terms of ‘what needs to be done’. These discussions are meant to be further considered at ‘round tables’ which we must hope will influence the final outcomes.

Brazil as the host country is, as ever, showing leadership with flair combined with some interesting techniques to avoid painful protracted sessions arguing about square brackets. ‘I am going to leave the room’ said one coordinator’; ‘when I come back I hope you will have agreed on some new text’. 

On the positive side we had great interest in the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (linking species declines to livelihood and the benefits of biodiversity) and in the Rio Pavilion there was a warm welcome for the announcement of The World Parks Congress to be held in Sydney, Australia, in 2014.

Over 100 heads of state and government have arrived here amidst formidable security. Some significant absentees plead the state of the world’s economy as their excuse for absence. To my mind this is exactly why they need to be here – to get to grips with how the economy can be put on a greener path. 

By Dr Jane Smart, Global Director, Biodiversity Conservation Group, IUCN

Work area: 
Rio + 20
North America
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