RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – June was an exciting month in Rio, the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development was a major event that the city seemed to pull off in reasonably good order. Granted most of the activities and meetings took place in Barra da Tijuca, but there were plenty of concerns about transportation and security, fortunately unrealized.
Now that the dust has settled and the taillights have faded, the world has a 53-page “outcome document” of the future we want. It is almost as easy to praise the effort and results as to criticize the entire affair.
The ability for world leaders to acknowledge the danger and make an effort to sustain our existence is a encouraging. Yet the frustrating inability to look above short-term problems and nationalistic competition to take decisive joint-action is disappointing.
The Rio+20 Conference came literally on the exhaust fumes of the G-20 Summit. These “largest” twenty global economies account for eighty percent of global trade and ninety percent of GDP, and form an interesting picture of personalities.
The heads of the G-20 nations have been meeting biannually between 2008 and 2011 following the global financial crisis. Since November 2011, the G-20 Summits have been held just annually, this year hosted in Mexico.
Curiously the G-20 excludes some countries with larger economies for reasons too complicated to delve into here, the same way the G-8 does not include two of the actual eight largest GDP economies; China, 2nd, and Brazil, 6th (for now).
In general it seems the inconsistent inclusion to these groups speaks to issues of national interest, capitalism (or imperialism). Perhaps at a more base level; the human instinct of preservation and desire to accumulate more, and then the rest of the steps up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Here in Brazil the developing nation is planning to hold onto the 6th largest economy title with a bright future of black gold (oil that is). Not surprisingly the requests for money at the G-20 (mostly from G-8 countries) were vetted with plenty of horse-trading, and such is the context for the Rio+20.
For the city of Rio and Brazil, perhaps what Rio+20 represents most was success hosting the UN’s largest conference ever, and a nice warm-up for mega-events to come. Perhaps for Rio especially, a city long seen as a tourist destination, but tainted with images of crime.
Something curious in inter-Brazilian culture was a wave of advertising for the city of São Paulo. For decades SP has had plenty of its own allure, perhaps begrudging some beach-life, but not feeling like it was missing any attention.
I have yet to visit the SP, but after plenty of years in New York, there is not much another metropolis can do to draw me from the Cidade Maravilhosa. Even in July, the beginning of the slightly cooler winter in Rio, there is plenty to look forward to. Most students enjoy a three-week school break, and Festas Juninas (June through August) for example.