Sustaining Rio+20

By Luisa Cristini, PhD. University of Hawaii at Manoa.

In a month, on 20-22 June 2012, the countries of the United Nations (UN) will gather at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the Conference on Sustainable Development. The conference is a historic opportunity to define a safer, cleaner, greener and more prosperous future for all the people living the Planet. The meeting is taking place 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio as well, where the member states first adopted a development agenda (Agenda 21) to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.

Indeed, economic development, social development and environmental protection are the three pillars upon which long-term global sustainable development can be built. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the possibility of future generations to meet their own needs.

Two main themes will be discussed by the thousands of participants from governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private sector:

(a)    a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, i.e., how can we build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty;

(b)   the institutional framework of sustainable development, i.e., how to improve the international coordination of sustainable development.

In the context of theme (a), sustainable development emphasizes strong economic performance as well as intragenerational and intergenerational equity, that is, equity among people of the same generation and of different generations. Sustainable development rests on integration and a balanced consideration of social, economic and environmental goals and objectives in both public and private decision-making. The concept of green economy focuses primarily on the intersection between environment and economy.

The discussion around theme (b) aims at fostering coherence of implementation, initiatives and partnerships among the nations towards global sustainable development. Progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 and in the implementation of the commitments will be examined.

Seven priority areas have been identified as in need of particular attention and will be considered in the meeting:

(1)   Jobs. Economic action and social policies to create gainful employment are critical for social cohesion and stability. It’s also crucial that work is geared to the needs of the natural environment. “Green jobs” are positions in agriculture, industry, services and administration that contribute to preserving or restoring the quality of the environment.

(2)   Energy. Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. Sustainable energy is needed for strengthening economies, protecting ecosystems and achieving equity.

(3)   Cities. Many challenges exist to maintaining cities in a way that continues to create jobs and prosperity while not straining land and resources. Common city challenges include congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure.

(4)   Food. Agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centered rural development and protecting the environment. But right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on.

(5)   Water. Due to bad economics or poor infrastructure, every year millions of people, most of them children, die from diseases associated with inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Water scarcity, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation negatively impact food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities for poor families across the world. Drought afflicts some of the world’s poorest countries, worsening hunger and malnutrition.

(6)   Oceans. The oceans drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Careful management of this essential global resource in order to decrease human-induced pressures on the marine ecosystem is a key feature of a sustainable future.

(7)   Disasters. Disasters caused by earthquakes, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and more can have devastating impacts on people, environments and economies. But resilience, i.e., the ability of people and places to withstand these impacts and recover quickly, remains possible. Resilience depends on the choices we make relating to how we grow our food, where and how we build our homes, how our financial system works, what we teach in schools and more.

During Rio+20, participants are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the examples of success seen over the last 20 years. A more sustainable future is possible and is in our hands.


Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development:

The Tourist

Guest Post by Denine Severino Taylor

What is it about nature that brings a woman to her senses?

I can sense the slowing of my heartbeat as I near the entrance to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. This is my place: a place where I come to breathe and let a little bit of the air out of my life. My body begins to relax as I tromp past the main entrance and toward Green Heron Trail and around Green Heron Pond. No watch to check, no meeting to attend, no Chai Tea Latte to buy. No place to be except right here, right now.

The scheduler in my head keeps reciting the to-do list for the day, but I reject it. Instead, I inhale sharply and breathe out all the shoulds, need-tos and gotta-dos that are standing between me and a quiet mind.  At first, I am almost disoriented with having nowhere else to be and wonder if I am woman enough to handle the stress of a day that is not measured in words-per-minute productivity. Of just being in the world with no tactile result at the end of a simple walk in the woods. Am I always this driven without realizing it?

The lens of my Nikon helps me capture a digital moment, and then the moment moves on. As I walk along the path to the west, even the birds stay right where they are. They know this is their place and I am simply an interloper. They needn’t bother about me. Just to prove it, they sidle up the branch and toward my lens, just daring me to come into their world. I look up and enjoy the show while I breathe in the muddy-fresh air that is redolent with eau de wet leaves and life force. When was the last time I spent 25 minutes standing still and watching a bird?

I am here alone, with only the sound of the snow crunching under my Uggs and the sound of life. Occasionally I meet another explorer on the path and we smile but don’t say a word. Like a tourist in a Renaissance cathedral, we are there to admire and appreciate, but leave no evidence of our visit. For me, it’s a time to look at the sky and remember that there is a sky; a time to marvel at the trees and remember that trees exist; and a day to remember that there are birds in the world and an entire ecosystem that has nothing to do with parking spaces, deadlines or post-it notes. Best of all, the intoxicating effect of the air, the sky, the trees and nature’s call produce an insight and a nagging question that Internet connectivity and a full-time job cannot answer:  why don’t I do this more often?


Denine Severino Taylor is a writer and photographer in Minneapolis, MN. She is fortunate to work for a large corporation in a LEED Certified Building (Gold) in Minnetonka, MN and is a committed recycler. You can visit her daily blog at

Decide to have a positive day

By Judy Hooymeier

Our inner critic is the internal voice of negative judgmental self talk. It is the nagging feeling, the inner voice that makes us critical of ourselves and others.

We learn to be critical of ourselves as we learn to march to the drummer of others wants and needs, we learn to be critical of others when they do not conform to what we want or expect.

The inner critic speaks loudly in judgment of ourselves and others. It is a voice that yearns to castigate. It is the voice of enslavement to our egos and to the wants of others.

Sometimes our inner critic will leave us with feelings of self doubt; sometimes it will allow us to feel negative and critical of others. When we listen to our inner critic, we listen to negativity that separates us from our best self and others.

Our best personal and professional selves come from a place of self love and acceptance. When we can truly love and accept ourselves we can also see those in our world as collaborators on our path of personal learning. Love is a path which brings us closer to the seed of creation and to a place where we can grow, learn and to share joy with others.

We are all partners on a human journey, and the greatest challenge in our roadmap to personal and professional success is to cleave to our humanity, to the values of sharing and caring that make us brothers and sisters on the road of life.

Take a day this week to stomp out the voice of your inner critic; to free yourself from self imposed negativity and judgment.

Silence all criticism and negativity for 24 hours. Concentrate only on the good in yourself and in others that you meet and interact with. Give the inner critic a day off, and in so doing spend a day with your highest, greatest and best self.