Kim reports from #Rio20
Last night I received the following update from Kim Smith who has been at the Rio+20 events this past week:
Each day at Rio+20 brings volumes of new information about the state of our planet, the actions of civil society, and the conflicts between the governments. It is hard to reconcile my feelings between the contrasts of meeting so many amazing people who give me hope for the future and learning about the growing devastation of ecosystems and wondering, truly, if we will be able to respond fast enough. Not only do our governments have to lead a coherent and collaborative effort to create systems that facilitate major changes quickly, but our media must give accurate and solution-based information in order to educate, empower, and engage our citizens in actions to make a difference. There really is no other option and there is no time to wait. It is unfortunate that the US, Canada, Russia, and Venezuela are obstructing much of the progress.
I truly believe that higher education must be a leader in these efforts but we will not be effective unless we have a systems-based approach where our political, economic and social institutions work closely in collaboration with education across all ages and in much more applied and practical ways. The Higher Education Sustainability Initiative, launched by UNESCO and led by UN Asst Secretary Elizabeth Thompson, is a start, as it raises the recognition of higher education’s contributions to sustainable development efforts.
More of the issues themselves have been addressed by the non-profits. From struggling ocean ecosystems ("our blue heart") and mountain top removal to the extinction of indigenous cultures and the status of farmers, NGOs are leading the actions at the People's Summit, a huge civil society event coinciding with the Rio Summit. In the last few days, I have been fortunate to hear Vandana Shiva, Marina Silva, a woman from La Via Campesina, Sylvia Earle, Ted Turner, a team from the TARA ocean research project, and Ban Ki-Moon himself. They are all calling for global change.
This culminated yesterday in a huge march, with 1000s of NGO activists, students, and professors protesting in the streets. So intense, with countless signs, costumes, and voices. I feel blessed to have happened upon the education protests in Cinelandia. According to some students from another Brasilian state, the students and professors are really struggling with funding and resources, given World Bank structural loan adjustments. While we all make calls for sustainable education, many people are frustrated that the mission is not backed up with resource support.
I have been on the search for Hillary Clinton, who arrived yesterday. I hope to hand her information on our education efforts, but I cannot promise I will be able to connect with her. All of the world leaders are followed closely by security. They have actually given students and workers several days off in Rio to simply lighten the load on the transportation systems in town. The cavalcades for the delegates are particularly disruptive, with huge police escorts.
Despite all if the traffic, I cannot speak more highly of the kindness and hospitality of the Cariocas (Rio residents). I rarely have no trouble finding a place, as Brasilians will often go out of their way to help you and some even walk you to your destination.
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