By Daniela Ramsauer, March 1, 2012
Discussions around the concept of Green Economy heighten as the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit in June draws near. Rio+20 is coming at critical time when multiple crises confronting the world requires more urgent responses than ever before. Chances of stepping off the development path that celebrates competition, destructive extraction and unsustainably high consumption patterns continue to dim.
It appears to some of us that the Green Economy concept is nothing more than a business concept where the Rio+20 conference will be more or less a Business Summit. We fear that discussions and resolutions will be about how to secure profit for corporations who will learn to speak the “green language” while commodifying nature and the natural services provided by the environment. It may indeed be said that the green economy will end up being nothing other than green capitalism and market environmentalism. Fears of possible attempt to subvert the achievements of the Earth Summit led some civil society activists and academia to meet and reflect of the process in January 2010. One of the key outcomes of that meeting was a set of minimum principles that we considered important to retain and reinforce at Rio+20.
But there are doubts that the Green Economy of the Rio+20 will turn out to be anything other than a platform for “greening the existing economy”. The other big outcome may be that it will provide the UN machinery an opportunity to produce a political document that would midwife a World Environment Organization.
Resource scarcity, renewable energy and energy efficiency, water, oceans, agriculture, and materials are among the policy issues to be negotiated at Rio+20. Response by some speculators range from how man-made substances can modify nature to how nature can be commodified. Someone has been quoted as seeking “charismatic” animals that would attract high monetary value!
Some international NGOs are already working with the chemical sector on ways to determine methodologies for putting values on “environmental services such as the natural filtration of water by woodland” . There are also talks of people investing in what they term “charismatic” animals as part of the new wave of speculatory endeavours. Market environmentalism cannot get more interesting than this! With current levels of inequalities and hierarchies, energy poverty and resource corruption, it will take creative and intensive mobilisations to bring about the disruption that would wake the world from slumber.
As we have already seen, measuring development with tools such as the GDP largely overlooks the quality of life of the people. This is why in the Nigerian context, the economy can be said to be booming whereas unemployment and poverty has not been higher in recent memory. We need to reflect on whether growth that means competition in a field of privatised commons is desirable over progress that is based on having all peoples living well and in solidarity. When we reflect on this, we must consider that living well connotes living in harmony with nature, defending the earth and understanding that our environment is our life. Ecological sustainability and social justice are thus key requirements for living well. Clearly, development is not just something done to build up statistics. It must be about the people and for the people and the planet. Not all physical development projects are desirous.Certain physical development projects, for example, can be destructive. Development without concerns and consent of the people is a recipe for insecurity, instability and disaster.
For example the fossil fuel front insists that their mode of energy production will remain dominant into the next decades. This sort of posture lends cover for massive environmental and human rights abuses in the oil fields of Nigeria. Daily we are confronted with oil spills that are hardly attended to. On December 20, 2011 there was a massive offshore oil spill from a Shell facility. A month later, an infernal gas rig fire erupted from another offshore location owned by Chevron. That fire is still raging on the Atlantic Ocean, decimating aquatic life forms including whales, dolphins and an assortment of other species that the people of Nigeria and indeed West Africa depend on as primary sources of protein. The world is silent over this incident that to some extent can be compared to what occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Gas associated with crude oil extraction continues to be flared or burnt across the oil fields of Nigeria. These release tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, aiding global warming, and poisoning the people and their environment. Fighting these and related social and environmental crimes and forging the paths to transformation for attainment of societies where justice reign absorb the bulk of our time at national and global levels as members of Friends of the Earth International family.