The documentation seems the same as 20 years back.
But there is an underlying, subliminal change. It is more mellifluous than it was in ’92. It is as if the UN has contracted in a PR firm from across the road in mid-town Manhattan. It’s all about framing, now.
So our style evolves, ahead of our thought and behaviour. Call it the Style of the Impresario. It’s ‘gently as she goes’ for Rio+20.
Hence, we do not describe, in our global policy documents, not even in our background documents, the specific nature or magnitude of the problem we are facing. Won’t do to frighten the children.
Nor are we to review, in detail or with candour, the failure of the past two decades to get to grips with the three drivers of planetary degradation – population growth, skewed consumption patterns and technology predation. We do not acknowledge, in any detail, their triple consequence – resource depletion, climate change and biodiversity loss.
In our third Earth Summit, back now in Rio, we are going to do more than our share of cheerful whistling this coming week. What we are going to do here, children, is Look to the Future. We shall all Pull Together. We shall Get Through This.
Granted we must not concede to despair and nihilism. The Ecological Revolution will only succeed if we set our sights on the end-goal, and show a bit of guts. But the goal will be eluded, the Revolution will not commence, unless we acknowledge the sheer s*** we are in. We actually do not to be frightened first. The last lot would never have taken to the shelters if they had not heard the Luftwaffe and sounded the siren.
The draft UN declaration, misleadingly titled The Future We Want, started life as a co-chairs’ ‘zero draft’ of 10 January. It ran to 128 paragraphs.
It has grown to nearly 250 as we head into the Conference, unwittingly exhibiting an obesity problem – an embarrassing syndrome of what we are seeking to overcome. Life imitating diplomacy.
The extra bulge is partly due to the proposals by some, blocked by the ensuing objections of others. I shall explore some of these intriguing exchanges in future blogs.
The title is misleading because it implies a matter of normative choice. That is the beginning of the whistling. Our future is not a normative choice – it is an imperative. It is not ‘the future we want’. With business-as-usual characterising the twenty years since we identified the future we want, it has become the Future We Must Avoid.
Until we get that sorted, until we identify, with candour and courage, the future we are condemning our children to, we shall not avoid the future we must avoid in our falsely-cheerful determination to focus on the future we want.
A word to delegates. Listen to Handel’s Messiah, Mahler’s 8th. And then get stuck in.