If this is the Future we Want, we Need Stronger Actions

Ben Vanpeperstraete and Olimar Maisonet-Guzman on behalf of the UN-CSD Major Group of Children and Youth.

Although the first version of the Zero Draft tries to capture a diversity of views from Members States and civil society, it falls short in the proposal of solutions and a plan of action for the sustainability challenges that we face. The document diagnoses existing problems, rather than putting forward concrete solutions for overcoming them. For example, most of the language for the governance section proposes either to continue with the current governance structure, or select from a series of conservative reforms.

Although the Zero Draft seeks to address the multiple challenges of energy, water, food and other critical issues, the Framework for Action still fails to propose integrated solutions. By addressing each sector individually, we will not facilitate the transition to a green economy. With equal importance, Member States should guarantee that young people are key players in the green economy, by providing them the necessary education and specialized training.

The Major Group of Children and Youth has called for the upgrade of UNEP because the current design is unable to deliver results and supervise sustainability initiatives. The Draft-Zero expresses the need for implementing this change, however the language should be strengthened to emphasise the need for a specialised UN agency that goes beyond a requirement for universal membership.

The problem is encountered once again when discussing the establishment of an Ombudsperson for Future Generations. This language proposes only the consideration of the idea, rather than the development of a roadmap to achieve the creation of the office. Will it be left to future generations to establish this ombudsperson?

Another aspect that is not embedded in the governance section is related to stakeholder participation. Although the document recognises the importance of including Major Groups in the deliberation process, it fails to mention how the proposed structure will help improve their participation. Additionally, the document does not consider the possibility that some groups may not be captured in the current Major Group design, and therefore further study is needed on how to upgrade the structure to facilitate their participation.

We understand that this is only a first draft. Normally, one starts with an ambitious text which decreases in ambition during the process. However, starting with a fairly weak text and building it to a stronger text is rather new to us, and we are eager to see how this develops.

Ben Vanpeperstraete and Olimar Maisonet-Guzman work on behalf of the UN-CSD Major Group of Children and Youth. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for live updates on the Rio+20 Preparatory Process.


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2 Responses to If this is the Future we Want, we Need Stronger Actions

  1. Scientists like Sir John Sulston and the Royal Society’s People and the Planet Working Group have good work to do that is best accomplished by being uncompromisingly honest in the reporting of their research as well as by being unambiguously objective and forthcoming in reporting their findings with regard to the research of others. When honesty and effectiveness are viewed in opposition to one another, honesty must prevail over effectiveness in science. Finding a balance between them is not sufficient. Sacrificing honesty in order to maintain professional effectiveness is inadequate.
    With regard to the science of human population dynamics, intellectual honesty appears not to have prevailed over professional effectiveness. That convenient rationalizations in support of effectiveness have been deployed by too many experts who have refused to be fully honest and open about such a vital matter of concern, seem somehow not right. Science is not compatible either with less than the ‘whole truth’, according the lights and best available empirical data we possess, or with the collective avoidance by professionals of research regarding what could be real. Science is an expression of truth, is it not? There can be no room for compromise between honesty and effectiveness where science is concerned.
    It appears that we have a lot work to do…..fast. Endless growth of the immense ‘artificial reality’ will end either as a function of intelligent human thought, the best available science and morally courageous action or else the colossal artificial reality (aka economic colossus, aka global political economy) will somehow expand until it implodes because an endlessly growing, gigantic global economy in a finite world like the one we inhabit cannot be sustained much longer on a planet of the size, composition and frangible ecology of Earth. To put this situation in another way, if we keep up our reckless overconsuming, relentless overproducing and unbridled overpopulation activities, then a point in human history will be reached when some unimaginable sort of cataclysm can be expected to occur. Allow me to deploy words from A. Schweitzer. We need a new ethics based upon “reverence for life”. To revere an ethical system based upon idea that ‘greed is good’, the idea we see governing and dominating so much human activity on our watch, needs to be appropriately criminalized rather than ubiquitously legitimized, socially sanctioned and made lawful.
    If faith in the goodness of science is ever lost, then I fear the future of children everywhere, life as we know it, and Earth as a fit place for habitation by coming generations, that we think we are preserving and protecting in our time, could be ruined utterly. Somehow the honesty of science must come to prevail over professional effectiveness and the pernicious silence of too many of ‘the brightest and the best’ on one hand and the specious, intellectually dishonest, deceitful, cascading, ideologically-driven chatter of clever ‘talking heads’, overly educated sycophants or other minions in the mainstream media who selfishly serve the primary interests of self dealing masters of the universe among us on the other.
    There is nothing ever insignificant to be gained from science and nothing trivial about truth. This is especially so with regard to science that indicates: human population numbers are a function of food availability (not, definitely not, the other way around) and human population dynamics is essentially similar to the population dynamics of other species. From my perspective, the science tells us something vital about ourselves, our distinctly human creatureliness and our ‘placement’ as the top ranking creature among the living beings on Earth. For all the miraculous and occasionally unique attributes of the human species, the research shows us that the human species is not, definitely not, most adequately or accurately placed “a little lower than angels” in the order of living things. Although such an attractively elevated and self-aggrandizing position for the human species sets human beings apart from other species, this view appears to be a widely shared, consensually validated and culturally-prescribed illusion. Rather human beings are assuredly situated within all that is living on Earth. Homo sapiens is an organism that is an integral part of the natural world, not apart from it. We see science once again ‘cutting’ from under us ‘the pedestal’ upon which we believe stand as we oversee, steward and dominate life on Earth.

  2. Please ask someone at the PUP conference to comment on the ‘global predicament’ posed humanity on our watch by the unbridled growth worldwide of distinctly human overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities we can see overspreading the surface of Earth. What Andy Revkin describes as “humanity’s growth spurt” appears to minimize, even trivialize, a grave situation that is becoming harder and harder to acknowledge, address and overcome because human global overgrowth activities are overwhelming the finite physical resources and frangible ecology of the celestial orb we call our planetary home. The colossal presence of humankind on Earth in our time is much more formidable and fearsome than some sort of adolescent growth spurt. To describe the explosion of absolute global population numbers in such terms is jejeune and represents a subtle form of denial of what primarily threatens future human well being and environmental health.

    Thank you,

    Steve Salmony

    Steven Earl Salmony

    Chapel Hill, NC

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