Sunday, June 24, 2012

RIO+20 = 0

Humans have a psychological need to see the world as fair and just. Paradoxically, that's why we sometimes blame the victims.

The failure of the Rio+20 summit provides further proof that the nation-state system is cannot tackle global environmental threats. Rio+20 was clearly not about enabling countries and communities to do a better job of protecting environment and helping families to climb out of poverty. It was about using sustainable development pieties to target development projects create market-based "solutions". Advancing social and environmental justice in ways that Rio+20 sought to do actually meant perpetuating poverty for people in developing countries, and reducing living standards for people in wealthier countries.  Rio+20 was about equalising scarcity – except for ruling elites. The health and welfare, dreams and aspirations of the world's poor and their pursuit of justice and happiness were given only lip service and then brushed aside. The proceedings were controlled by bureaucrats who see humans primarily as consumers and polluters, rather than the creators of th world's wealth and the stewards of it common treasury.

“It’s a demonstration of political impotence, of system paralysis, and it makes me feel pessimistic about the system's ability to deliver," Laurence Tubiana, director of a French think-tank, the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), said.

 Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University "...we cannot rely on the politicians and the diplomats to get this job done.”

“The UN system has lost its way,” crippled by the format determined by the victors of World War II, he argued “For all its warts, it's what we have, and there is no alternative,”  said Steve Sawyer, a former Greenpeace campaigner who is now secretary general of a Brussels clean-energy lobby, the Global Wind Energy Council who then went on rather mystifyingly to hold out a futile hope that "the Chinas, Indias, Brazils, Germanys and Japans will take up some of the slack.”

Workers living in the still relatively wealthy nations now have to prepare for new assaults on their living standards. Impoverished people in poor nations now have to prepare for demands that they abandon their dreams for better lives.That is neither just nor sustainable.

In order to avoid psychological disintegration, humans have a fundamental need to see the world as at least somewhat fair and predictable. You might think that a strong belief in justice would increase our drive to demand better. But, paradoxically, viewing the world as a fair place can often lead us in the opposite direction. It elicits denial of hard-to-face realities and results in the blaming of victims for suffering that has clearly been inflicted on them. The just world hypothesis was developed in the 1960s by social psychologist Melvin Lerner. Fundamentally, it’s based on the idea that believing the world is fair offers a psychological sense of comfort and security. But witnessing extreme suffering or injustice, such as that described by Sandusky’s victims, threatens our feelings of safety and predictability. It upends our entire worldview and forces us to cope with the difficult reality of a confusing, amoral and chaotic universe. Therefore, it becomes easier psychologically to blame the victims. Accepting the truth would otherwise threaten onlookers’ entire psyche, not just their views about a particular event.

The world we want must begin with actually defining what sort of world we want. We can't rely only on the bureaucracies of governments to address the problems facing our planet. We must start doing it ourselves.

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