Sitting in the food court at Rio Centro – the hub of Rio+20 – grabbing a quick bite to eat, taking some time to process my thoughts.
The last few days have been great. I must say a special thanks to the Planet Earth Institute for funding this trip for me – it has been an invaluable experience to be here and participate in the conference.
This morning I attended a YMCA event on empowering youth under the belief that no one has a greater vested interest in the future than the youth of today who actually have to live the tomorrows. Among others, they called for all nations to reconsider the MDGs in relation to poverty reduction; the international goal should not be simply to reduce poverty by 50% but to completely eradicate it.
They started their presentation with a video and soundtrack to the words of “We can’t back down. Don’t walk away” – words that will hopefully be the resounding echo in every nation post Rio+20.
The recurring themes I’ve noticed keep cropping up over the last few days have been the imminent and critical issue of climate change, the need to empower and educate women and the role of a green economy in sustainable development.
These are things the international community must remember are urgent issues, affecting people across the world right now – even as we, in Rio, debate them. They are not concepts nor are they issues that can wait for years to be addressed.
Concrete steps must be taken – and soon.
Today, there is still a world of suffering and injustice which prevents billions of people from living a dignified life; 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty; 1 billion are hungry; 900 million don’t have access to clean water. Climate change is on the rise, rainforests are being destroyed and profit is being prioritised over people all over the world.
“We can’t back down. Don’t walk away”
These issues need our attention; and paying attention will cost us. The world has come a long way in the twenty years since the world’s Heads of States first met in Rio. The ideals and goals set out two decades ago may not have all been met, but globalisation has ensured that the world’s problems have now become not only our leader’s problems but our problems.
We, the public, are now much more aware of a world that is unfit for human habitation. The internet – especially – has stripped away our shield of ignorance, so that although one may choose to ignore the problem “you can never again say that you did not know” (Wilberforce 1789).
Rio+20 is critical to the future of our world. Enough for all forever. If this is the future we want, the reality is that each one of us needs to step up and play our part. Their problem is our problem – and we can’t just simply walk away.