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New Environmental Policies Take Shape in Brazil


This is the fourth post I wrote in my capacity as UNEP’s blogger for World Environment Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I’ll be posting all 5 leading up to and throughout Rio+20.

Do you know what I think is the most significant word in “The Green Economy: Does it Include You?”


Inclusion is perhaps the most important goal the environment movement could pursue. To succeed, we must include everyone.

In part, this means that as environmentalists, we should put aside our tendency to compare our environmental records with others—to “screen for differences”, as Annie Leonard, creator of “The Story of Stuff”, has put it. I’ve made this point in one of my submissions to the UNEP Big Blog Off (which, incidentally, is the reason I’m here) and on my own blog as well.

Including everyone also means treating society’s many groups equitably.

Yesterday I flew to Brasília for the World Environment Day celebrations, held in the Brazilian Presidential Palace. I’ll confess: as Sônia Bone de Souza Silva Santos, Vice-Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon, finished her impassioned speech calling for the equal inclusion of aboriginals in environment talks, tears came to my eyes.

The Presidential Palace in Brazil

Early in the speech she congratulated President Dillma Rousseff for inaugurating the Commission of Truth last month, which will investigate human rights abuses committed during Brazil’s military rule. Sônia Bone said that anyone opposed to the Commission must also be opposed to indigenous rights.

She stated that the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon are not against growth—but they do demand an equal opportunity to discuss the sustainable development of Brazil’s natural resources. She pointed out that when the land is developed unsustainably, it is indigenous children that suffer most.

As she stepped away from the podium, Sônia Bone de Souza Silva Santos received a standing ovation.

Sônia Bone de Souza Silva, Vice-Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon

The Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira was so moved by Sônia Bone’s speech that she returned to the microphone for a second time, and announced new environmental policies she hadn’t mentioned before, the implementation of which will accompany Rio+20.

President Dillma Rousseff speaking at the event

Another powerful moment came later, as we witnessed President Rousseff sign into law a raft of new environmental measures, including the creation of two nature reserves and seven indigenous territories in the Amazon.

President Rousseff signing new environmental measures into law

One group that shares Brazilian indigenous peoples’ yearning for inclusion is Occupy Wall Street—the leaderless social movement that advocates economic equality and checking corporate power in politics.

In 2010, the Swiss Credit Institute estimated that the richest 0.5% of adults hold well over a third of the world’s wealth. And that disparity is increasing. In his book A Short History of Progress, Canadian historian Ronald Wright found that dramatic wealth inequality is often a precursor to civilizational collapse.

I believe economic equality is directly linked with sustainability, which I discussed in my first post in UNEP’s Big Blog Off. As well, disproportionate corporate influence on politics can be a profound hindrance of responsible environmental stewardship.

I think it’s accurate to say the Occupy movement shares several common goals with the environment movement.

We should strive to include each other.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Andrea permalink
    06/25/2012 10:20 AM

    What a lovely sentiment, Scott. Inclusion is absolutely necessary because big solutions to big problems requires a team effort, and the strongest team is one that makes use of everyone’s strengths. And we all have strengths. The more diverse the team, the stronger the team. The more inclusive the team, the more innovative the solutions. It’s a no-brainer!

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