June 7, 2012
This week there have been many articles published about what has happened since the Earth Summit in 1992. These articles have outlined how successful the Earth Summit was and how far we have come in creating and following through with policy and recommendations. As one article states, ‘the 1992 meeting was hailed as one of the best attempts by the global community to change the course of human development to a model that would be equitable and sustainable. 178 countries, most represented by their heads of government, unanimously agreed to adopt Agenda 21, a blueprint for sustainable development for the world, heading into the 21st century’.1 So now what? What is the 2012 Earth Summit; Rio+20? I have had the pleasure of reading many similar articles this week and all have concluded interesting points about how far sustainable development has come over the past 20 years. I am going to share with you a bit of my personal perspective on the changes since 1992 and how we must move forward in the next 20 years.
I am 20 years old. I was born in 1992, the same year as the Earth Summit and only a few months before it took place. When I think back to my childhood and the way things used to be, even I am shocked at the changes that the earth, society and people have overcome in the past 20 years. Some changes, for the better! Others, for the worse. The overwhelming increase in population, the changes in societal norms, the shift to a global world, the empowerment of women and youth, the viral spread of social media, the increasing global temperatures, the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps, the transference from rural to urban, a change from outdoors to in and the exhaustive stream of constant information are all changes that have occurred or accelerated since 1992, just to name a few. So now, 20 years later, in a more fast-paced, globalized and industrialized world, can you imagine the changes in the next 20 years? It’s hard to think about! And yet, unless we think about it and put a lot of time and money into planning ahead, the next 20 years could look quite bleak! But for a mere student, regular folk like myself, how can we really make an impact?
It doesn’t take being on a delegate heading to Rio to make a difference. It doesn’t take the president of the United States or the head of the UN Environment Programme (although it would be damn helpful if these folks would care to make a difference as well). But what is does take is global-minded, passionate and caring people who are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to make a difference on a local scale. My interest and passion towards sustainable development, environment and polar issues began when I was about 13 years old! Can you imagine if I had been educated about these issues when I was 5? Or if I had heard someone like myself come and speak to my 3rd grade class about going to the Earth Summit as a 20 year old student. Education in my opinion is what is going to inspire, motivate, create and change the world. If we can educate, we can inspire and if we can inspire, we can motivate and if we can motivate we can create! And that my friend is what will truly change this world!
I am heading to Rio with high hopes and strong goals to make a difference on a international policy scale! I want world leaders to listen to what we have to say about the Polar Regions, take it to heart and incorporate it into their future planning. But whether or not this is realistic, I am dedicated to it and no matter the outcome this June, I am still going to strive for it each day after Rio. And more importantly, when I come home I will focus on educating and inspiring others to make a difference for a sustainable development cause because educated, passionate people can change the world!