Preface: This song was written in the space of 24 hours during the pre-conference negotiations after the PrepComm. Both logistically and substantively, negotiations were very much bogged down, creating a palpable air of frustration and hopelessness at RioCentro. These words were an attempt to channel and capture that negative emotion. Now, at the end of the summit itself, with the widespread disappointment in the final outcome document, these words once again express the disappointment that many participants feel.
N.B. an annotated version may eventually be available.
Cover Image (C) United Artist Records.
“How we let her future die”
[Adapted from Don McLean's "American Pie" by Tse Yang Lim]
Long, long time ago,
I can still remember
When Rio used to make me smile
And I knew…
The final outcome document, “The Future We Want,” was finalized yesterday on the eve of a series of high-level plenary sessions and roundtables, where more than 130 heads of state and government will be meeting to share perspectives. The final negotiation text is pared down to 49 pages (from over 200 pages at its heaviest) and 283 paragraphs. So how does the Outcome Document (OD) measure up? We – four students from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies – weigh in.
It seems that we are not alone in thinking that games are a great way of understanding environmental problems. While I was perusing the various country pavilions located across the street from Riocentro, I discovered an interesting game in Japan’s impressive pavilion. This game is more simplistic than the Settlers of a Green Future game we launched on June 19, but attempts to demonstrate the interconnectivity of ecosystems, as well as flora and fauna. Even though they had no English version, I was able to follow along and get the point of the game: removing any block from the ‘ecosystem’ could cause it to collapse.
The high-level summit negotiations began today, featuring speeches from over 130 heads of state and government. As a result, the RioCentro – our home for the last week – became extremely hectic, with extra security boosted and limited access to Pavilion 5, where the high-level summit is currently taking place.
I found it quite hard to explain to my wife why a single sentence (successfully inserted in the text by the way!) will cause under-fed, caffeinated and fatigued FESers at the Rio+20 conference. On the way to Rio I thought on how best to explain the roadmap of having an idea and keeping it on the final declaration, so my shot at this was to use something familiar to her, the salsa garden we planted this spring.
It is easy to visualize the life cycle of a salsa garden; all you need is tomatoes, cilantro, onions and peppers. For explanation purposes I’ll only address three stages needed to grow your own salsa. First, going to the supermarket to buy the works; second, planting the seeds in the right pot…
Shortly after I landed in Rio de Janeiro, I participated in a side event hosted by the Armenia government on “Sustainable Development Indices – possible options” at the 2012 Rio Earth Summit. In a previous post I mentioned the importance of metrics and indicators to help track progress toward the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of clearly defined objectives that were originally proposed by Colombia and are meant to get governments to pay attention to poverty eradication and environmental sustainability.
Can games help us understand the complexity of environmental negotiations? We – José Medinamora (MEM ’13), Soojin Kim (MEM ’12), and myself – have adapted the popular game, The Settlers of Catan, to explore this very question. Our game – Settlers of a Green Future – introduces the trade-offs between individual goals and the greater good. Using real-world sustainable development policy and action proposals that are being discussed here at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, this game helps participants understand the diversity and range of options available that can help nations achieve a green future.
As 20 students of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies arrive in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, they will join over 50,000 delegates and more than 130 heads of state and government that will participate in what is already being deemed as the “largest U.N. conference” ever.
Historically, F&ES has a long tradition of participating in international environmental conferences as a way of bringing to life the challenge of developing institutions and treaties to deal with pressing environmental issues. Twenty years ago, the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992 was a landmark event in that sustainable development came to the fore of the political agenda.
On May 29th, U.N. General Secretary Ban ki Moon gave an encouraging speech in the context of the last set of Informal-Informals that took place before Rio+20. He reminded the world how Rio+20 is a once in a generation opportunity and how it is the beginning of a new process to change paradigms for a dynamic, fair, and sustainable development. Secretary General called all countries to put all their efforts on working on a concise outcome document that can meet the Planet’s expectations because this time work is a shared responsibility and a shared opportunity.
He presented his perspective on what the outcome of the conference should be:
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This process might be one of the most important deliverables if they manage to integrate the three
International political negotiations are very much about power. Rio+20 is no different, but besides political power, it’s very much about electrical power as well. Electrical power is proving to be one of the major challenges of the conference. No, I don’t mean energy issues – actual electrical power.
The host country Brazil committed, in the spirit of sustainability, to holding a paperless conference. A laudable decision, certainly, and with negotiators poring over pages and pages of documents from multiple sources, using electronic documents may actually be easier. There’s just one problem – the organisers neglected to provide enough electric power outlets in the conference rooms, and with negotiations running to over twelve hours some days, laptops and even tablets quickly run out of juice.
The result has been…