by Kennedy Graham
Section 1. Our Common Vision
UN documents are creatures unto themselves. They represent the insight and will of the international community of states – the highest expression of political legitimacy humankind has yet evolved.
It is a large international community. There are 193 of us – up from a ‘manageable’, if less legitimate, 51 at the founding of the (political) Common Era, some 67 years back.
Now, 193 is a tough number by which to speak clearly and with which to get things done. So forgive us, here in Rio, if we struggle a bit.
The emerging draft that will, Inshallah, become the ‘UN Declaration on Sustainable Development’, is suffering from, how might we say, global indigestion.
This is because the hopes and fears of the global community of peoples are not being expressed with the melody and clarity of a bellbird.
It is stuck in the UN’s throat because there are so many discordant notes vying to emerge. They are not reconciled at regional level in any formal or effective way. So it is the Tower of Babel.
So the Global-Dysfunction Principle applies – if in doubt, strike it out, and we all gather together, feathers resplendent and discordant of tone, singing from the lowest branch of global thought and action.
One of the nine Major Groups, the NGO community, has requested that the phrase, “with the full participation of civil society”, be deleted from the first sentence of paragraph 1.
For the rest of the 283, it is dip-speak.* See what nuggets of insight and resolve we can glean in the UN Declaration designed to save humanity, 2012 in the Year of Our Lord (Common Era).
There are 13 paragraphs of a Common Vision. In paragraph 2, leaders declare that ‘eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today’.
Actually, the greatest challenge facing the world today is the Ecological Crisis as we enter the Anthropocene, already transecting three of the nine biophysical planetary boundaries. More specifically, the 50% ecological overshoot by 7 billion humans, rising to 9 b. by 2050, with an increase of 50% demand in food, and about 30% in water and 30% in energy.
And that is based on our current global consumption pattern (at 2.7 hectares per person) which already overshoots by 50% (beyond Earth-share’s 1.8 ha.). If everyone attains the North American lifestyle of today (6 to 7 ha), the sustainable population on planet Earth is 2.1 billion. Yet we are heading for 9.
These pressures are exacerbated, if not rendered overwhelming, by the current global (not regional) financial instability that is the product of the failed growth economic paradigm of the past thirty years.
So poverty eradication is a priority normative goal. But it cannot be achieved by ignoring what is the greatest global challenge facing the world today. In fact, we deceive the 5 billion poor in pretending we’ll get there without acknowledging the nature, and magnitude, of the challenge.
We shall achieve poverty eradication by transforming our values (redistributing the current production output) and our institutions (with strengthened legitimate global powers).
And our methods as well. Yet among the 23,913 words in the Document of All Time, there is not one about Ecological Economics. That is because the global North remains wedded to the traditional neo-classical macro-economic paradigm in the name of lifting all boats, and because that paradigm is being emulated, in unquestioned fashion, by the global South, seeking to be lifted.
Only twice does the word ‘ecological’ appear at all (paragraph 111, on sustainable agriculture; 197, on biodiversity). For the rest, it’s open slather.
Peace in our time.
May the bellbird sing,
Her song of paradise,
May those beneath,
They with ears to hear,
Follow her song.
*For those who have been wondering, ‘dip-speak’ is ‘diplomatic jargon’.