Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The One Big One: Was the Rio+20 Conference a success, a failure, or something in between? Ten serious questions follow, then ten more (perhaps) less serious:
1 ) Assuming you regard Rio+20 as a failure, do you believe the title of Gabriel Garcia Marques’s novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” is relevant?

The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.
The Curmudgeon, also known as Michael Royster.

2 ) Should the UN ever again mount a mega-million dollar multinational meeting like this?
3 ) Was the motto “The Future We Want” a very bad choice, because it implies putting off till tomorrow what ought to be done today?
4 ) Why did the Times, the NYTimes, the LA Times, and all the Posts and other “important” media outside Brazil simply ignore this conference?
5 ) Why don’t many people like the phrase “green economy”?
6 ) (With a preamble): Fifty years ago, Economics 101 courses taught the dilemma known as “guns vs. butter” — whether ‘twas better to spend on armaments or on food production. Is it fair to say that nowadays, the dilemma seems to be “trees vs. butter” — whether ‘tis better to chop a tree and plant food, or hug the tree and preserve nature?
7 ) (Another preamble): In the Great Depression, FDR began public works projects designed to kick-start a stalled economy; many of these projects (e.g. immense power-generating dams like Hoover) are now condemned as anti-environmental. In a world where economies are falling like dominos, is Brazil right to give priority to public works projects designed to kick-start a stalled economy (e.g. immense power-generating dams like Belo Monte) even if they are condemned as anti-environmental?
8 ) Why haven’t all those sincere people who attended the Earth Summit twenty years ago been able to develop sufficient political power to do something since then?
9 ) Is there a way, during the coming decade(s), to overcome the political/economic fault lines between: (a) the “developed” powers, a/k/a colonialists; (b) the “emerging” powers, a/k/a BRICS; and (c) the “poorest” a/k/a powerless countries?
10 ) Can “civil society” do at least some of the things governments are unwilling or unable to do to preserve the future environment?

But enough sobriety!:
1 ) Why is putting a Chinese bureaucrat in charge of the Conference not quite the same as putting a fox in charge of guarding the henhouse?
2 ) What reason do you ascribe to Hillary Clinton staying in Rio for only 17 hours and thrice that at the G20 in Mexico?
3 ) The defrocked Leonardo Boff preached that the Abyss is nigh if we continue capitalists; does he (or you) believe that socialism (e.g. Soviet Union, China) is a more environmental friendly system?
4 ) Should we slaughter all the cattle in the world to cut down on CO2 caused by their flatulence, and if so, whose herds should we start with?
5 ) How much did the Brazilian National Industrial Council and behemoth banks like Bradesco spend proclaiming (mendaciously) how green they are?
6 ) Greenpeace has a ship called the Rainbow Warrior; does that strike you as more or less strange than calling the Colt 45 a “Peacemaker”?
7 ) Why do women march topless to protest a lack of women’s rights in a country governed by a woman, who has greatly increased the number of women in positions of power?
8 ) Should the Governor and the Mayor be impeached for decreeing that civil servants ought not work during Rio+20?
9 ) Does anyone know a better English equivalent for the phrase “ponto facultativo” than “playing hooky authorized”?
10 ) Before you went down to the Vic Muniz Aterro project to contribute garbage/trash/rubbish to the “art work”, shouldn’t you have read “Les Mains Sales” by J-P Sartre?


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Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)

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