I have to confess that while I had the chance to be there in Rio this month, I passed it up for a whole of many reasons. I could have organized a side event, my colleague told me at group meeting after we had been notified that our institute got accreditation. Accreditation is good. Being in Rio is good. Indeed the expectations are so low that some of us are choosing to stay home and keep the nose to the grindstone.
So, why is it that I believe that keeping my nose to the grindstone is more effective than getting on a jet bound to Rio de Janeiro and have a few heated and a few less passionate discussions about what this earth needs now?
It is a fair question that the two beings in my heart answer with loud voices. The egoistical being just tries to avoid getting on jets bound anywhere with the possible exception of Japan although that choice is not obvious and I am not inclined to justify it either. The other more reasoned being contends that what the world needs is action, not talk. Don’t get me wrong. It is not that we do not need to talk, we do. What is not clear is who should be talking to whom. It could be that the right people are already talking to each other, however there is little evidence that anybody is listening.
What I see happening is people, the so-called world leaders, are interested in getting re-elected or saving face. Global climate change, poverty eradication, social sustainability, disaster prevention does not really seem to be on their agendas. Syria is a slaughter house and the world do not take action, watches idly and perhaps the UN Security Council’s president is disappointed about the continued violence. Still, nothing is happening. This always reminds me of a painting, could be from one of the Brueghel and I have vague memories of seeing it in the Musée d’Orsay, where in what at first glance looks like an idyllic scene, on closed inspection there are all sorts of less than idyllic scenes that include a dog shitting, a corpse… and so it goes or else I made this all up. But do not let me digress, the Security Council with its veto power members just does not help much in the case of such slaughters as the one going on in Syria now. The Russians are comfortable with their energy reserves that give them plenty of leverage to play the bully. The Chinese have bigger fish to fry than the suffering of Syrians and are preoccupied with claiming a few minuscule but strategically located islands is the Pacific, and of course the US is in election fever. Frankly, nobody cares beyond their own little domestic concerns and everybody is free riding. That the free ride is going to end up in hell, nobody really cares to think about.
Do not take my words to be the source of all wisdom, here is another take on this very issue by people who might know a lot better than I do. Back to Earth : Nature : Nature Publishing Group: “In 1992, Nature warned against thinking that a single summit could eradicate poverty and redistribute wealth while setting specific limits on greenhouse gases. The expectations for Rio+20 are so low that almost any agreement or affirmation would qualify as a success. The fact is that politicians know what needs to be done, and countries committed to doing it 20 years ago; what is missing is political leadership and solutions that are cheap, scalable and politically viable. For the second time, the world has a chance to craft a workable agenda, but the elusive key to success lies in finding a way to overturn the widespread reluctance to make the necessary investments in time, money and intellect to get the job done.” (Via. Nature)
Why am I so pessimistic?
Taking action is easy. In fact the world lives in an abundance of action. The only problem is that all those actions are not effective or properly reflected. Taking effective action requires that you know what effect you want to create. Here lies the problem. It is almost impossible to figure out ex ante what the consequences of action (policies, laws, rules) are going to be. This is one element of my thesis, and I will be expanding on this later.
Yes, if you do not understand, that means that you have started to think.