Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A Global Call: Eco Warriors, Arise!

Ahead of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, a call for a paradigm shift

Vandana Shiva

In June 2012, movements and leaders will meet in Rio for Rio+20, two decades after the Earth Summit was organised in 1992 to address urgent ecological challenges such as species extinction, biodiversity erosion and climate change. The Earth Summit gave us two very significant international environmental laws: the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change. It also gave us the Rio principles, including the Precautionary Principle and the Polluter Pays Principle.

The world has changed radically since 1992, and sadly, not for the better. Ecological sustainability has been systematically sacrificed for a particular model of the economy, which is itself in crisis. 1995 created a tectonic shift in what values guide our decisions, and who makes the decisions. Rio was based on values of ecological sustainability, social justice and economic equity - across countries and within countries. It was shaped by ecological movements, ecological science and sovereign governments. The establishment of WTO, and the paradigm of global corporate rule, inaccurately called "free trade" (more accurately described as corporate globalisation) changed the values and the structures of governance and decision making.

Conservation of the Earth's resources, and equitable sharing was replaced by greed and the grabbing and privatisation of resources. Sustainable economies and societies were replaced by non-sustainable production systems, and a relentless drive to spread the virus of consumerism. Decision making moved into the hands of global corporations, both directly and indirectly. It is therefore not surprising that when we meet at Rio+ 20, the ecological crisis is deeper than what it was at the time of the Earth Summit, and the will and capacity of governments is weaker.

"Instead of polluters paying and being regulated at the national and international level to stop pollution, the biggest atmospheric polluters who have contributed most to climate change are now laying the rules on how to deal with climate change."

While the corporations wrote the rules of WTO and global free trade, they have also subverted the environmental rules which were supposed to regulate their commercial activities to ensure sustainability. They have mutated environmental laws which are supposed to regulate commerce into laws for commercialising and commodifying the earth's resources and ecological functions.

Profiting from pollution

They have subverted the Climate Treaty and the Biodiversity Convention. Instead of polluters paying and being regulated at the national and international level to stop pollution, the biggest atmospheric polluters who have contributed most to climate change are now laying the rules on how to deal with climate change. The biotechnology industry which has caused genetic pollution by releasing genetically engineered organisms into the environment is making the rules on how to manage biodiversity and how to govern Biosafety. The attempt to introduce BRAI, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India, is one example.

The original objective of the Climate Treaty was to put in place legally binding emission reduction targets for the historic polluters, who in the pre-globalisation period were concentrated in the rich industrial North. The treaty was destroyed at the Climate summit in Copenhagen, by an attempt to replace it with a non binding Copenhagen Accord. The Kyoto Protocol introduced emissions trading, which in effect meant the polluter got paid, not punished. The big industrial polluters were first paid by allowing them to get private rights to our atmospheric commons. They then got paid by profiting from carbon trading.

Profits increased and emissions increased. Climate chaos is worse today than it was in 1992. And the polluters look for new avenues to make money and grab resources. Now they want to commodify the ecological functions and services that nature provides. This will be the big Climate debate in Rio+20.

"None of us are immune to the crisis, or the response to it. None of us are bystanders. we are all immersed in the processes that are either threatening the planet and our own future or finding creative ways to shape a sustainable and just future."

The original objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity was the conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable and equitable use. This objective has been subverted and is being increasingly replaced by objectives of trade in genetic resources, profits and privatisation. The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing restricts access only to global players, ignoring the access of local communities. It treats as utilisation only utilisation for research and commerce - ignoring the survival needs of local communities. It is in fact legalised Biopiracy, because it enables the transfer of genetic wealth from local communities to global corporations, it undermines the biodiversity economies and cultures which have conserved biodiversity, and are necessary for conserving it for the future.

'We know we can change it'

In both the Climate Treaty and the Biodiversity convention, trade and commerce is replacing conservation and the commons. Rights of Corporations is replacing the Rights of Nature and People.

And this change in values, from conserving and sharing to exploiting and privatising, is justified in the name of economic progress and economic growth. Yet the economic paradigm for which the Earth and Society are being pillaged and destroyed, is itself in deep crisis. Look at the farmers suicides and hunger and malnutrition crisis in India. Look at the protests in Greece, Spain or the Occupy movement of the 99% in the US.

As the Spanish indignados said:

"We fail to understand why we should have to pay the costs of the crisis, while its instigators continue to post record profits. We're sick and tired of one injustice after another. We want human dignity back again.



This isn't the kind of world we want to live in, and it's we who have to decide what world we do want. We know we can change it, and we're having a great time going about it."

A paradigm shift is desperately needed. And it will not come those who have created the crisis, and who are looking for new ways to extend the life of the Greed economy by commodifying and privatising all life on earth. They will come to Rio+20 to paint the Greed Economy Green, and call it the Green Economy. And they will have powerful governments on their side.

Movements for ecological sustainability, social justice and deep democracy will come to Rio+20 with another paradigm, one centred on the Rights of Mother Earth, the rights of future generations, of women, indigenous communities and farmers.

It is this epic contest between a destructive and dying outmoded paradigm and a life enhancing emergent paradigm that will be the most significant aspect of Rio+20. The outcome of this contest will determine the future of humanity. It will not enter the negotiations, which can only be the lowest common denominator in the current context of corporate influence. But it will provide the energy for the People's Summit, and many government initiatives at Rio Centro. This contest will continue beyond Rio, in every country, in every village and town, every farm and workplace, every home and street.

None of us are immune to the crisis, or the response to it. None of us are bystanders. We are all immersed in processes that are either threatening the planet and our own future, or finding creative ways to shape a sustainable and just future. Every day is an earth summit in our lives. And each of us is negotiating our collective fate on the earth.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·


In 10 Key US Senate Races, Here's How Top Candidates Responded to Roe Ruling

While Republicans unanimously welcomed the Supreme Court's rollback of half a century of reproductive rights, one Democrat said "it's just wrong that my granddaughter will have fewer freedoms than my grandmother did."

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Says End Filibuster to Combat 'Outrageous' Supreme Court Assault on Abortion Rights

"If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right-wing judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster, codify Roe v. Wade, and make abortion legal and safe," said the Vermont senator.

Jake Johnson ·


Patients in Trigger-Ban States Immediately Denied Abortion Care in Post-Roe US

Some people scheduled to receive abortions were turned away within minutes of the right-wing Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo