Rio+20 taught us that we all need to lead | Finding Solutions | 2012 | Summer | Publications | David Suzuki Foundation
Photo: Rio+20 taught us that we all need to lead

I had great hopes for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. I was also proud of my daughter, Severn, who moved delegates to tears with a speech from her perspective as a 12-year-old. Now a mother of two, Severn returned this year for Rio+20, and I went with her to look after her new baby.

We both left disappointed. Despite the grand speeches and lofty intentions 20 years ago and again this year, our leaders have accomplished little since the first United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. If anything, we've been going backwards. Canada, especially, has gone from showing some leadership to being a laggard.

It's inevitable that political leaders would let us down; they see the world through political and economic lenses, with humans at the centre of the universe. But we can't shoehorn nature into our agenda. Without the clean air, water, soil, and biodiversity that nature provides, we can't stay healthy and survive.

We need to change the way we view the world and our place in it. If there was any hope from Rio+20, it came from the many youth, indigenous people, poor and disenfranchised, environmentalists, and social justice and peace activists who clamoured to be heard halfway across the city from Riocentro where official delegates met. Like many of us, they recognize that the biosphere is our home and that we must protect it and work for greater justice and equality.

Many of the politicians and bureaucrats from 150 nations appeared to be representing the interests of corporations rather than people. That may be a sad commentary on the state of the world, but it helps to serve notice to all of us that we can't leave our future to the politicians. That's why your voices are so important and why the work that so many organizations devoted to the environment, to social justice, to health, and to other critical issues is so necessary.

If our leaders are failing us, it's up to all of us to lead. Thanks to your support, we are doing all we can.

David Suzuki