'How we let her future die' - a Rio+20 song

‘How we let her future die’ – a Rio+20 song

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 if we acted fast
That we could make development last
And maybe we’d be happy for a while (a long, long while)
But RioCentro made me shiver
With every statement they delivered
Bad news on the outcome
A backward step, and then some
I can’t remember if I cried
As our hopes and dreams were tossed aside
But something hurt me deep inside
When Rio +20 died.


Bye, sus-tainable development bye,
You brought hope but we couldn’t cope
And so we didn’t really try
I don’t know how I’ll look a child in the eye
And tell her how we let her future die,
[And tell her] how we let her future die.
Did you read the zero draft
And do you believe that we can craft
A statement of The Future We Want
Nineteen going two hundred and four
Brackets and red lines, more and more
Different versions, each with their own slant
So I knew as we gathered in Brazil
We’d need a lot more political will
As facilitators confessed
That they could make no progress
And as negotiators ran amok
And negotiations got totally stuck
I knew we were out of luck
When Rio +20 died.

I started singing…


It was twenty long years ago
At the last Earth Summit here in Rio
That sustainable development came to be
When our leaders gathered and agreed
To give us all the Future We Need
And a voice that comes from you and me
But now that voice is being opposed
And meeting doors are being closed
Transparency is spurned
No answers are returned
Out the door our hopes were tossed
As nations counted up the cost
And we mourned for the chances lost
When Rio +20 died.

We were singing…


(Forgive me if you don’t speak UN-ese)
Figuring an ecosystem’s worth
Poverty, energy, education,
Cities, water and the oceans,
These are problems we must solve to save the earth
The spirit in the rooms was good
We tried to solve all that we could
We wanted to advance,
Oh! but we never got the chance
For MoIs one side appealed
The other side refused to yield
And so the summit’s fate was sealed
And Rio +20 died.

It was singing…


And there we were all in one place
A generation of disgrace
With no time left to start again
So come on Mr President, you sound good
But you don’t act as a president should
With the courage to do the right thing/ in the end
And as I watched them on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
The world could not agree
On sustainability
The talks dragged on into the night
With no successful end in sight
All were wrong and none were right
When Rio +20 died.

They were singing…


I met a girl who asked for news
I tried to mutter some excuse
But I just didn’t know what to say
As the bus ride back went on and on
With the summit over, come and gone
And we all knew that we’d thrown our chance away
The outcome declaration weak
The future now extremely bleak
And not a word was spoken
Our spirits were all broken
The negotiators all burned out
And earth’s survival now in doubt
But we know that it came about
When Rio +20 died.

And so we’re singing…

[Chorus x 2]