Rio de Janeiro

Rio +20 Earth Summit: Slouching Toward Pointlessness

Reason's Science Correspondent sends his sixth and final dispatch from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.

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Rio de Janeiro—At the RioCentro officials from 193 countries, including more than 100 are heads of state or government, are taking the podium in the plenary session to read their 15-minute statements in favor of sustainable development. Some illustrious participants are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe, Raul Castro from Cuba. On the coast road from Copacabana to the RioCentro, someone has hung a large banner reading in English, "Ahmadinejad go home."

So what did Cuban President Raul Castro have to say? To his credit, he did decry the vast amount of money being spent on the military around the world. Oddly he did not mention the U.S., which accounts for more than 40 percent of global arms expenditures. But, of course, communism bears no responsibility for the poverty of the Cuban people. "Poverty spreads, hunger and malnutrition become greater and inequality increases, all of these aggravated in past few decades as a result of neoliberalism," Castro asserted. Wrong. He did however, conclude, "Cuba hopes that common sense and human intelligence will prevail over irrationality and barbarism." Yes, let's do hope so.

The U.S. is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Rio +20 to add her two cents to the discussion of sustainable development on Friday.

Thursday was a dreary day and a weary dispirited calm has descended on the RioCentro Conference Center. Even the frantic chirping from the environmentalist choir of doom was muted. The most that the activists could muster was a hand signal training session as they sat in a RioCentro courtyard using an Occupy Wall Street style bullhorn in which a chorus repeats the words of a speaker. An earnest woman explained that wiggling one's hands downward ("down twinkling" I believe she called it) signified disapproval of what someone might be saying. This brought to mind a more emphatic and traditional hand gesture signifying disapproval that a young Carioca woman flipped our bus loaded with conference delegates as we passed by earlier in the day.

Since not much news was being made at the conference, I wandered over to what amounts to a trade show at the Athlete's Park next door to the RioCentro. Every Brazilian state had a pavilion touting their sustainability and their eagerness to attract new businesses. Some signaled sustainability through the design of their exhibition pavilions, e.g., Rio de Janeiro's was constructed of wooden shipping pallets. The Italian pavilion confirmed the cliché that Italians know how to design. The bamboo outer walls of that country's striking cubic pavilion were covered with sleek black solar panels from Enel. Bamboo and solar cells together just practically shout sustainability. On the other hand bamboo seemed to be more or less slapped onto the tent that housed the United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) pavilion, proving the cliché that bureaucrats lack imagination.

At the UNEP pavilion I did pick up a copy of a Monica and Friends children's book entitled, Caring for Our Planet. It basically repeats the standard litany of doom:

Huge problems: Climate Change

Pollution, Deforestation

Endangered Animals

And Super Population

What can kids do to care for our planet? Ride bikes, take shorter showers, plant a tree, eat fruits and vegetables, cut back on meat, and of course, reduce, recycle, and reuse. It ends:

You can keep this book nearby

You can read it many times

You can always memorize

It's easy. It's all in rhymes!

All that you learn as a child

Remains forever. It's true!

We can make a difference too,

And the World will say:—"Thank you."

The environmentalists who sponsored the publication clearly believe the maxim attributed to the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, who reportedly said, "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man." I do worry that the Jesuits and the environmentalists may be right.

The UNEP pavilion also featured an exhibit of a handmade wind turbine that looked like a contraption out of Mad Max. Basically, making the turbine involves a hub cap, some copper wire, and wooden wind mill blades. The exhibit explained that one could build "a cheap and efficient electric generator that can produce up to 48 volts and charge batteries to supply more than 15 households with light." It was actually quite clever, but I am not sure what the project is suggesting about humanity's sustainable future. While looking at the wind mill I sat down on one of the cardboard stools made available for guests. I am 6 feet and 5 inches tall and weigh 200 pounds. While I sat on the stool it began to crumple.

The Rio +20 Earth Summit slouches to its close on Friday.

Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey is the author of Liberation Biology (Prometheus).

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  1. I vote next year’s summit take place at the Hilton at the Huntsville International Airport in Alabama.

    1. Better yet, the Northwest Mississippi State Fair Pavilion in Corinth, Mississippi!

      1. The Putnam County fairground in Ottawa, Ohio!

        1. The Eastern Carolina Agricultural Fairgrounds in Florence, SC or the State Fairgrounds in Columbia, SC, preferably in July-August.

          1. Fresno county fairgrounds in Fresno…
            your right, that would be a crime against humanity…

  2. All that you learn as a child

    Remains forever. It’s true!

    “Progressive” philosophy, in a nutshell.

    1. Especially when kids pledge allegiance to their school superintendents.

  3. “The U.S. is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Rio +20 to add her two cents to the discussion of sustainable development on Friday.”

    Can we presume she got there on her bike?

    1. Broomstick.

      1. But is it ‘carbon-neutral’?

        1. It flies by the power of fear, trying to flee from the non-made up face of the Hildebeast.

  4. I get the feeling that Ron really wanted a staycation this week. Great stuff.

  5. Ruining their furniture.

    Nice!

    =-)

    1. Ron Bailey and that stool are like Aslan and the Stone Table.

    2. Furniture crumpling oversized people like Ron are the result of too good of a diet. When were all malnourished again the planet will be so much more sustainable. Just ask any frail waifish teenaged vegan.

  6. Let’s see have a big meeting on a vague term and invite people form everywhere with their own competing interests and you really expect something to “get done”?It’s one reason I have little use for anything Mr, Bailey writes.Add the monthly temp. updates on a 4 billion year old planet and I see very little worth any serious thought.

    1. ^?
      Sorta blaming the messenger, aren’t you?

    2. Shorter mybarber: GRUMBLE GRUMBLE GRUMBLE – GET OFF MY LAWN!!

    3. I’m just going to come out and say it Barber, you’re fucking moron.

      1. Seconded.

        1. great arguments,think of them yourselve’s?Look,I have no use for a U.N. gathering of of government types trying to ‘solve’ the worlds problems.What’s needed is property rights,free trade and a end to high tarriffs and subsidies in western countries .Hell,look at the cost oof sugar in the U.S,caused by government that forces companies to use corn sweetner.These type’s are all from the ‘silent spring,population bomb percautionary principle crowd’.That and porer countries with their hands out.Always about more laws and regulation.Never free markets.You can call names all you want and make yourself a fool.I could care less.

        2. great arguments,think of them yourselve’s?Look,I have no use for a U.N. gathering of of government types trying to ‘solve’ the worlds problems.What’s needed is property rights,free trade and a end to high tarriffs and subsidies in western countries .Hell,look at the cost oof sugar in the U.S,caused by government that forces companies to use corn sweetner.These type’s are all from the ‘silent spring,population bomb percautionary principle crowd’.That and porer countries with their hands out.Always about more laws and regulation.Never free markets.You can call names all you want and make yourself a fool.I could care less.

          1. Whoosh!

            1. Ump, was that strike three?

              1. Maybe even strike four.

    4. I see very little worth any serious thought.

      You may be very interested in American Thinker magazine’s piece on the Science of Ignorance, then

      http://www.americanthinker.com…..rance.html

      [rubs monocle on cravat]

      Before you go, I wonder: is that stick up your ass uncomfortable?

  7. Bom dia, amigos.

    Ignatius Loyola, who reportedly said, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” I do worry that the Jesuits and the environmentalists may be right

    Yeah, but the child in the days of Ignatius didn’t have one of those interwebs.

    Ron, if you haven’t, you should spend an evening at Rio Scenarium. I’m not really a club type of person, but that place rocks. And good for you, if you are 6’5″, everyone on the dance floor won’t be taller than you. I swear that people in Rio are the tallest people I’ve ever seen on average. I am 5’9″ and it seems like 99% of the people there, men and women, are taller than me.

    1. “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

      Those catholics! Never stop with the kiddies, do they?

  8. Thursday was a dreary day and a weary dispirited calm has descended on the RioCentro Conference Center. Even the frantic chirping from the environmentalist choir of doom was muted.

    Two words would fix this – Drum Circles

  9. Why don’t we plant trees in the U.S.?

    It would create jobs and produce a valuable crop in 20-30 years.

    The government already wastes billions to trillions, why not take $100 billion of welfare/unemployment recipients and pay then to plant trees?

    1. We do plant trees. Here in MD, there isn’t anywhere to plant any more damn trees, anywhere there is not a building or parking lot, there is a fucking tree. In the midwest, most of the land is taken up by crops. Where are we going to plant all of these trees?

      I am sure some states have areas where we could. But overall, I would bet that there are more trees today in the US than there were 40 years ago. Sure seems that way to me. And I would bet that most of those additional trees were planted by private land owners, with no help from the government.

      1. How about planting trees on the farm land the government pays to be fallow?

        There are lots of fruit trees, like apples, that would grow well on a fallow corn field in the mid-west and produce a crop.

        A tree in Nebraska or Montana takes up as much CO2 as a fucking tree in MD. Detroit, for instance, is a city that has about 1/2 of its property abandoned; it could use some a fucking trees.

        1. I encourage you to set up a foundation funded by private donations for this worthy cause.

          Oh, wait:

          http://www.arborday.org/

        2. “A tree in Nebraska or Montana”

          There’s a reason forests exit in some places and not others. Probably not many trees are gonna live in NE.

          1. “A tree in Nebraska or Montana”

            I believe those are called telephone poles.

  10. Planting trees makes people feel good. But when land is fallow, weeds grow faster and make things more natural quicker. Later, the trees come in on their own and push out the weeds. The whole process takes decades.

  11. Even the frantic chirping from the environmentalist choir of doom was muted. The most that the activists could muster was a hand signal training session as they sat in a RioCentro courtyard using an Occupy Wall Street style bullhorn in which a chorus repeats the words of a speaker. An earnest woman explained that wiggling one’s hands downward (“down twinkling” I believe she called it) signified disapproval of what someone might be saying. This brought to http://www.maillotfr.com/maill…..c-3_9.html mind a more emphatic and traditional hand gesture signifying disapproval that a young Carioca woman flipped our bus loaded with conference delegates as we passed by earlier in the day.

  12. Sustainable living is growing in popularity every day, with good reason. In simple terms, “sustainable living” refers to living a life where you take advantage of as few resources as possible and remain comfortable while doing so. This type of lifestyle benefits future generations tremendously. Why? These individuals will generally have to deal with a lesser amount of environmental damage, overall.

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