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François Houtart. RIO + 20 AND THE WELL-BEING OF THE HUMANITY

RIO + 20 AND THE WELL-BEING OF THE HUMANITY

 

François Houtart*

 

When 193 countries are represented, 120 heads of state are present and 17,000 delegates are all in the same meeting, it means that it is not just a common event. At the same time, when in a Summit takes place 755 seminars with 300,000 people, it is not by chance. Also, the mayors of the 58 biggest cities in the world, discussed in a meeting, about the cut of 1.3 billion tons of C02 emissions by 2030, and this was not a negligible sign. Speaker symbol: during 10 days, the Christ of Corcovado was green lit. The challenge was, really, the survival of the planet and, therefore, the humanity.

The United Nations Conference in Stockholm, in 1972 initiated the process and extended it to Rio de Janeiro, in 1992. Brazil took the initiative to promote Rio +20, in 2012. Therefore, It was clear that, a long term process should be necessarily accelerated. The poor countries expressed their great interest, asking for precise and collective commitments. In contrast, the United States believed that each country had to take its own initiatives. Two major issues were discussed: the green economy and the role of the United Nations.

Regarding the first point, the green economy, and according to the markets logic, the problem of the nature must be included. Indeed, its destruction can not o­nly be considered as an "externality"; in other words, be seen as an external fact in the calculation of the market, because it begins to affect the rate of profit and the accumulation of capital. Its "reinsertion" will be changed in the fees and the fixing prices of the elements and natures processes, such as the biomass, the biodiversity, the natural functions (pollination, the CO2s absorption, etc.). Kyoto had already started the process with the CO2 market.

However, the thinking of the capitalist logic goes beyond. According to Victor Alvarez, Venezuelan economist, "With the 'green economy', it is expected to give a new direction to the financial investment towards the 'natural capital', but in essence it is a new way to revive and expand the speculative markets for environmental services that have been opened with the carbon certificates". In other words, the green economy means the commercialization of the nature, hoping to contribute to a less wastage with this process.

The second issue was the role of the United Nations and, in particular the UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program that was expected to be transformed into a UN agency as well as the FAO or UNESCO.

The final document "The future we want", which recognizes the seriousness of the environmental situation, does not include any collective commitment, was taken part of it as an argument of the crisis that affects particularly the rich countries. The typical "consensus" of these assemblies, was the organization of a group of 30 experts to study the requirements of a "sustainable development" and to submit a report for 2014. Moreover, UNEP did not receive the status of United Nations agency, but has seen its tasks and its resources increased. o­n behalf of 1000 environmental organizations, the spokesman of the "civil society" in the UN General Assembly, called for the removal of the phrase "with full participation of civil society", to express his deep disappointment.

From Rio 1972, the situation became considerably worse: large losses of biodiversity, soil and water pollution, natural disasters, food insecurity, rising prices, millions of human victims. The official speeches acknowledged the fact, even when several of them expressed a technological optimism quite unrealistic. The southern countries (the group of 77-now more than 120 - + China) expressed the need for an immediate action, and were very demanded against industrialized countries which are the biggest polluters of the ecosystems. They asked for the creation of a Global Fund of 30 billion dollars for the protection of the planet. This proposal was rejected.

But there is an abysmal distance between the speeches and the States practices. In the heart of capitalism countries, the strength of the "market" and the lobbies power, lead to the commercialization of the nature called "green capitalism". In regards to the logic of the market, solutions for the financial crisis make the problem worse. It is the same with the market friendly solutions of the ecological destruction. The coal stock of London, for example, leads o­n speculation and goes up and down depending o­n the market interests, without taking into account the numerous abuses committed.

Emerging countries follow the same development model that forces to ignore the external realities. China and Vietnam have growing plans deeply destructive for the ecosystems. Their CO2 emissions are increasing strongly, even if they are far from the proportional emission level made by the Triad countries (United States, Europe, Japan). They feel that they can not act differently from the way Triad countries do to develop the productive forces and they also think that a green stage will follow. The problem is that the planets damage is not calculated in proportions, but in real terms.

Brazil, the host of the conference, played main role to gain a minimal consensus in order to avoid an international public failure, and insisted much o­n the collective responsibility of nations. But at the same time, Brazil prepared a forestry law in its Parliament, profitable for landowners and agricultural national and international companies. This forestry law will have negative effects o­n the Amazon rainforest. Soy bean monocultures continue to penetrate aggressively the Amazon rainforest; the monocultures also include the sugarcane to produce ethanol, despite the consequences: extension of the agricultural frontier, soils destruction, unhealthy working conditions for workers; eucalyptus plantations multiplied in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Minais Gerais; over 1000 new dams for hydroelectricity will be built in areas of high biodiversity and indigenous populations. According to the newspaper Fato do Brasil, the country is the largest consumer of pesticides, with 20% of all agricultural poisons of the planet. In 2012, the state approved a program to support the automobile industry due to the crisis. All this reveals the almost inexistent relation between words and events.

Southern countries, with a very radical discourse in regards to nature, also have contradictions. Bolivia, who hosted the 2010 Summit o­n climate and introduced in an amazing way the theme of pacha-mamas defense, was also very active in Rio. But at the same time, its government promotes the construction of the road through TIPNIS (Isiboro Secures National Park, a high biodiversity area) which cause the reactions of the Amazonian Indians, and neglects its responsibility in the stewardship of the few places that the planet has to breath. Ecuador, head of the non extraction of oil from the Yasuni park proposal, is continuing the development of mining exploitation projects, monoculture palm and sugarcane for agro-fuels, that brings serious and irreversible ecological consequences.

Similar examples could be given in every continent. As a matter of fact, governments are guided by short-term logics. It is very difficult to defend short or long term projects, especially when they have to respond to immediate demands and elections are held every four years. It is what the vice-president of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linares, indicated in a study of the stresses of a revolutionary project. This indicates the essential role of social movements, which can think in long term, as long as they do not get lost in electoral processes, without losing their political responsibility.

In the Summit, there were a lot of alarming reports of the real situations. At the same time, they revealed the commitment of thousands of movements and organizations in various fields of the ecosystems defense. The worlds concern about the planet is also showed widely. Obviously a lot of information and actions were local, often without interactions among themselves. In this regard, they were generally acceptable with the system because of their small size andthe lack of economic and political impact. Others had a national or international important dimension, but very segmented in their perspective. This could be perfectly work o­n favor of their coexistence with the hegemony of the market at the macro economic level.

The breakthrough made in Rio was the awareness of the level of the problem. Not o­nly movements such as the Indians of the Americas, but most current environmental movements, revealed that the root of this ecological disorder was the logic of the capitalism. In fact, the analysis of the several cases showed how the exploitation of the nature, as a resource to feed the gain and finally the accumulation of capital, was in contradiction with the land as the source of the whole life. The Mexican Declaration of the Peoples' Summit has been presented against the G20, saying that the cause is "the excessive desire of gain, essence of capitalism, which in recent decades has became speculator, wild, predator and undemocratic." The opposition against a "green economy" based solely o­n the logic of the market, was general. Furthermore, a means of communication has created for the permanent liaison between the environmental movements, including those of workers, peasants, women, and indigenous people to organize joint actions. It is the beginning of a buildup forces to act globally.

A concrete example is the water problem. There was a store called Blue at the site of the Conference, where several conferences and seminars were organized during a week about the subject. Dozens of experts worldwide were there. There were movies and technical reports, dealing with all aspects of the contemporary water problem.

Oceans were part of the topics discussed. These are more important than the jungles to balance planet´s heat. The United Nations Convention o­n the Seas Law (UNCLOS) concerns the high seas, or 64% of the ocean, but it's more about the regulation of their exploitation than the responsibility of their care. A major power like the United States is opposed against more regulations. The pollution sweeps the shipping and discharge of waste, particularly the plastics. The destruction of coral is hyper. The plankton, source of food for many living species, disappears in several parts of the oceans. The intensive fishing depletes fish resources and the whales are in danger of extinction.

The atmospheric warming affects the oceans o­n their ability to absorb the C02, and causes the rise of the seas. This latter o­ne is also causing problems in certain coastal areas, especially for the big cities. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Latin America and the Caribbean will be the highly affected areas in the next 40 years, with a predictable rise of 2, which means agricultural losses of 30 to 52 billion dollars annually. The continent should invest 2% of its GDP to reduce the C02 emissions, that is to say 110 billion dollars a year.

Fresh water is also in danger, so in the widespread use of chemicals in agriculture as in its urban consummation. When more than two billion people in the world have no access to sanitary conditions, and when about 4,000 children die every day because of water-related diseases and hygiene, the water privatization still goes o­n, as a dogma of the market economy, o­n behalf of the large and international corporations of production or drink distribution. These corporations produce in adverse conditions for the environment, and privatization means higher prices and exclusion of the poorest.

The construction of large dams to produce hydro-electricity causes massive destruction of the ecosystems. A World Bank report was quoted, saying that, during the developing century of this type of energy source, between 40 and 80 million people were displaced (there is no data o­n that, o­nly o­n the kWh produced). There are a considerable number of o­ngoing projects, despite the negative experiences of the past years. This is the case in India and Brazil.

The drought spread out in specific areas, such as the Sahel or central Asia. No less than 200 million climatic migrants are expected by the second half of this current century, if the process continues as today. The social and political consequences of the lack of water could be serious; it could even cause wars.

Summing up, it is not just any problem, but a central issue for the future of the planet and human being. The responsibility is collective and the solutions are urgent. The great challenge for the planet is the need to produce a new paradigm of human development o­n it. The capitalism is destroying its own self-existence base and therefore its historical cycle has ended. It can still cause even more serious damage. Partial solutions proposed, as the mass production of agro-fuels, privatization essential elements of the life, such as water or seeds, generalized commercialization of nature to introduce the market law to regulate the supply and the demand, will not be enough to restore the balance between the land and the human beings.

There is a new paradigm or main orientation, which is the search for Common Good of the humanity or Good Living. These imply a relationship with the land based o­n respect, giving privilege to the use value over the exchange value, without any private ownership of natural resources, neither the surplus labor, and establishing democratic processes, not o­nly in politics but in all its institutions (including economic), social relations (including gender) and promoting the multiculturalism.

 

* Francois Houtart, Dr. in sociology and Catholic priest, Personal Representative of the UN General Assembly Chairman in the Stiglitz Commission o­n the World Financial and Monetary Crisis (20082009), Professor Emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. GHA Highest Honorary Title: WORLD HARMONY CREATOR: http://peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=513

20/08/12


Translation in English was made by Professor Justo Bolekia Boleka, GHA-Africa CEO, Spain/Ghana o­n September 06, 2012


Publication:

In Spanish: www.peacefromharmony.org/?cat=es_c&key=104

In English: www.peacefromharmony.org/?cat=en_c&key=530

In Russian: www.peacefromharmony.org/?cat=ru_c&key=564

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Dr. Leo Semashkos comment.

 

The ABC of Harmony against the Collapse of Ecological Integrity

 

The main advantage of a report by Professor Houtart of Rio +20 Conference is, in fact, a statement of its failure due to absence of a positive global solution of the most important environmental challenge of "survival of the planet and, therefore, the humanity." In the situation of absence of such a decision, the same result will await RIO+40 and RIO+60, etc. with a statement of constant deterioration, if humanity will live to them. Houtart sees Rio+20 achievement in o­ne, long-obvious fact that the source of steadily expanding destruction of nature is the logic of capitalism, the logic of maximizing economic profit and the accumulation of material wealth. More broadly it is the logic of industrialism, i.e. industrial civilization as a whole in the unity of its capitalist and socialist forms. Author gives the vivid examples of environmental destruction not o­nly in the wild capitalism, but also in socialist China. This civilization will not save from ecological collapse even her new form as the "green economy" based solely o­n the market logic. Self-destructive essence of industrialism, destroying its natural basis, even under the guise of "green economy", was realized in the Conference, which showed total opposition to it. The author concludes that industrialism / capitalism "is destroying its own self-existence base and therefore its historical cycle has ended."

What does this mean? This means that the end total ignorance of industrialism in harmony, generating his inability to live in harmony of nations and religions, and the next of it inability of mankind to live in harmony with nature. Total ignorance prepared the same total apocalypse and collapse of the ecological integrity of humanity. At the Rio+20 it appeared in ignorance of exit from it and in inability to think and act together in o­ne direction of harmonious cooperation and coexistence of all its peoples in a whole, and with nature. This was reflected in the contradictions between rich and poor countries, in the discrepancy between words and actions of states, in dispersion and fragmentation of the environmental movements and organizations.

What is the positive conclusion of the author? It is to realize a general need of mankind: "The great challenge for the planet is the need to produce a new paradigm of human development o­n it." The author recognizes by this paradigm, the idea of ​​the Common Good, which he interpreted in his respective brochure (http://www.peacefromharmony.org/file/6173/FROM_COMMON_GOODS_TO_THE_COMMON_GOOD.pdf) as global harmony. Therefore we can say that the o­nly salvation of humanity and its gradual exit from the social and ecological collapse - it is the ABC of Harmony, total harmonious education in and a general commitment of all nations and people to the conscious construction of social harmony at all levels, from the individual to the global, in all areas, including the harmony of the social spheres and society with the spheres of nature o­n the basis of the ABC of Harmony. A philosophy professor from the United States Glen Martin identified the ABC of Harmony as just such a "new planetary paradigm" for human development (p. 296). Humanity has not today other similar universal and reasonable tool to get rid of a total collapse of the ecological integrity, able to overcome it and constructive out of it.

The cause of environmental collapse lies in the collapse of the social integrity of mankind, in a total failure of local civilizations, world religions, nation states and endless corporate organizations to consciously unite in a common saving building of a harmonious civilization based the ABC of Harmony. This is prevented by o­nly o­ne thing - total ignorance of humanity in it. Therefore, it may just save o­ne - a harmonious total education in it. The whole problem now is to start this process that produced important - created the ABC of Harmony and educational projects in different fields and areas.

Who, where and how will begin this historic process now? That is the crucial question of life and death of humanity today. o­nly solution of this problem will allow him to start the system out of the total collapse of integrity, which is possible o­nly through a conscious global harmony and enlightened harmonious civilization.

Obviously, the GHA, who created the ABC of Harmony and projects of its application in various fields to address various global problems should consider a new project: "Harmony of Humanity with Nature through the ABC of Harmony and Harmonious Ecological Education." o­nly such a project can unite different countries, states, and environmental movements in search of a harmonious existence of mankind with nature and to overcome environmental disharmony of industrialism in the joint construction of a harmonious civilization and harmonious scientific worldview based o­n the ABC of Harmony. I invite environmentalists of the GHA and other organizations to discuss the idea of ​​such a project and offer its original version to the Earth Day in March-April 2013, which brings together various events in the spring, dedicated to the nature.

12/12/12

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