The philosopher Martin Buber wrote in his essay “I and Thou” that humanity is going through an extremely stressing moment, where it’s very difficult to find alternatives. According to Buber, despite these times or perhaps because of them, humankind will find hope. If Buber is right, then another world is actually possible.
In the context of Rio+20, we experienced once again the unilateral leading voices that set the path. Nevertheless, Rio+20 is a call to be more attentive to other perspectives, precisely to those coming from the margins. We’re able to find in those margins the most hopeful and germinal proposals of the Summit.
Today we wish to pay more attention to these perspectives coming from the margins, local experiences full of hope:
- The official document of this Summit was unanimously rejected by NGOs due to the poor achievements. This shows that the last word was not said on this matter. It looks like civil society is leaving behind a naive position and expresses its maturity when opposing the superficiality of the final agreement.
- From one meeting room to another at the NGOs’ pavilion, prophetic voices were heard – full of hope and proposing that only a change of paradigm is the way out of this crisis. Only marginalized groups of peasants and minorities, those who in fact keep more harmonic relations with the environment and follow communal practices, are the ones truly resilient. As Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator stated, the oppressed will liberate the oppressors, and along with them, the entire unjust structures of society. This was witnessed at the People’s Summit, and while obviously limited, this participative experience showed that much more democratic mechanisms are necessary to fulfill the global context.
- Bio systems are beyond national borders and they function as living entities that can’t be fragmented. Understanding this will help societies to see beyond particular interests, and to learn how to move forward from our dying paradigms.
- Some specific governments are leaving behind the traditional poverty measurement indices. They are using new indices that try to measure the sense of happiness, good living, meaningful existence, or other more subjective and significant perspectives. It would be interesting to combine these with the more conventional indices.
- Small countries presented the most crucial issues and challenging solutions. They may be seen as almost irrelevant for those defining the agendas. The notion of small and marginal as truly germinal was a determinant for Rio+20’s outcome and horizons. Small is beautiful, as the British economist EF Schumacher stated many decades ago.
- In responding to the apparent failure of Rio+20, what is emerging is that new perspectives and solutions will have to come from collective agendas, or these will never be implemented. National groups previously viewed as marginal in the UN, such as the G-77 and China bloc, are becoming more visible and influential, especially at a time when the current global crisis is affecting more those nations that are self-assumed as their unquestionable elites.
Undoubtedly we still have a long way to go until these emerging perspectives become solid and generate peaceful transitions. However, speaking about ecology implies the challenge to understand the relationships and rhythms in living systems. Let us keep our hopes up, especially the young people around the world who are discovering their critical role in changing the status quo. Their demands, and many more, should eventually lead us in developing the diversity of responses needed, some of which are presently coming from the margins.
Mauricio Lopez is with the World Christian Life Community and he may be reached through his email: mauricio(at)cvx-clc.net