RIO+20, The Cry of Birds

By June Gorman and Barbara Benish (bios at end of article)

When the Child Cries in want, do you not hear it?

When even trees gasp of air, do you not sense it?

When the last bird screeches on its flight down into the ocean, do you not see it?

When the Earth itself shudders in frustration of human denial, do you not know it?

When human hearts of a shared humanity break silently alone, do you not feel it?

June 20, 2012 5:58 am Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 17 hours before the Winter Solstice here, the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere –

Early morning, it’s hot/humid here and yet…pleasant against the skin.  We are in our small, shared apartment on Avenue Atlantique directly across from Cocacabana beach.   Tonight is the Solstice 11:08pm utc, the Summer Solstice at 4:08pm Ca, 7:08pm New York, the Winter Solstice at 8:08pm here in Rio.  It is June’s 6th day of the Rio +20 Conference, Barb’s 3rd, Joshua’s 8th. State Delegations have been here for 10, Head of Delegations arrive today.

There are 3 more days to get a meaningful agreement, few here remain truly hopeful.  Something will be signed, but little will be actually said and done.  And yet…..

It is a unprecedented gathering of humanity, trying.  An unusually high number of civic (non-governmental groups — NGOs) are participating at higher levels, in actual document-determining language in the Plenary sessions than ever before.  Youth is more clearly represented.  Women are vocal.  But the leaders, mostly unwilling to answer, are notably absent.

The US itself will send today a “substitute” Head of Delegation, not President Obama but Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, with EPA adminstrator Lisa Jackson, as second in lieu.  It’s election season, trying to save the planet does not look good to Republicans and apparently their tirades against “Agenda 21″ (the original document outcome of Rio twenty years ago, far stronger in language, far stronger in hope) are more feared than the actual planet decline. Myopicness of the worst kind, for humanity.  For us.

It is hard to remain hopeful; it is hard in the beautiful, soft against skin sun and air here, to remain sad.  The multi-colored faces of the fellow passionately concerned compatriots share smiles brighter than the sun itself.  We sit in rooms frustrated, yet learning and teaching each other on scales unprecedented.  It is in some ways one huge Transformative Education Forum. One could literally learn until one dropped, about: oceans pollutions and plastics, land deforestation, water rights, agriculturally sustainable practices, solar renewable energy models, “Investing in Natural Capital in Africa, Asia and Latin America”, Climate Change and Ocean acidification, “the Nagoya Protocol as part of  a Green Economy”, “Gender Mainstreaming and the Economics of Sustainability”, and the favorite phrase of all, the new “Green Economy” and of course, most important to many of us, “Education for Sustainable Development”.  For me, that has been the most exciting.

As for all the rest, it is both far too much and not near enough.  There is so much to learn, so much to do to avert real ecological disaster.  Leadership is needed  but what is most clear is that it will not come from our “leaders” — the real message of Rio + 20 — we must all become leaders now. Or follow them off this cliff of unsustainability.

We will (June, Barb, Joshua and others) send more soon.  We will send actual snapshots.  But on this hot morning entering into a new season wherever on this fragile planet you are —

Snapshots of note:  Severin Suzuki follow up to her world-resounding speech given at Rio of 20 years ago, when she was only 12.  Now at 32, still impassioned, a little less idealistic, an adult knowing the pleadings of a 12 year old are good press, but still not heeded for the truth they convey.  June and Barb and Jana (cohort from the Czech Republic) jumping in the early am ocean checking first to see if the pollution is low and there are the regular lap swimmers who check everyday in the paper to see.  Coming out of the ocean for cold coconut milk freed by the slam of the machete. Rising at a panel discussion, as from the audience the King and Queen of Sweden exit, while a 19 year old from rural china blogs on her laptop, unnoticing, seated.  Colors of all kinds in beautiful flowing batik clothing, a full-length headdress of feathers on a noble head. Long, long, long bus rides to and from RioCentro, a full hour and a half each way to meet and learn about a local politician from Chad, a solar expert from the Netherlands, a state delegation member from Uganda, a young girl from the Brazilian Amazonia region with a name of “SueEllen” because her mother loved the program “Dallas”.  Youth from all over Korea, Argentina, France, Japan, Denmark — June in a Youth Hostel for the first 4 days, sharing 6 bunk beds, making sure all learned each other’s “stories”.

It is a world gathered, but many sense — for a storm.  It will take a world moving to avert it.

(One of the panels June attended:  www.wideningcircle.org/keyIdeas/GCM.htm )

We will send more soon with promised pictures.  But one good blog in case you are interested, there are many, by the NGO Civicus: blogs.civicus.org/civicus/2012/

It’s morning in Rio but now, the day is cloudy.

by June Gorman,  co-founder, Transformative Education Form; former Education Chair, UNA-USA Council of Chapters & Divisions Steering Committee; Board Project Director for Outreach, International Model United Nations Association ; Steering Committee, (UNESCO/Global Compact) K-12 Sector for Sustainability Education and Barbara Benish, Director ArtDialogue, Center for Sustainable Creativity, Advisor UN SafePlanet Campaign and Chair of the Committee for Rio + 20, Transformative Education Forum (TEF – tef.nps.edu)

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