June 19, 2012
It has been 20 years since that first historic meeting in Rio that brought the international community together to tackle many of the environmental calamities facing the Earth. This really was the beginning of the term “sustainability” a word that has been trumpeted with just about every project around the world. What does sustainability really mean? Well the 1987 Brundtland report termed sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Looking back at what was agreed upon 20 years ago in Rio I would have to say that we have fell well short of fulfilling that need. Our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases saw carbon dioxide emissions actually increase by a massive 36 percent between 1992 and 2008. Between 1992 and 2010 the mean temperature of the Earth rose 0.4 degrees Celsius and this past decade was the hottest on record since 1880.
Yet I still find hope all around me – however it rarely comes from these grand meetings in places like Rio with world leaders but rather in small communities like Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador. It is places like this where you find community leaders willing to volunteer their time to work with their neighbors to reduce their environmental footprint by creating things like recycling programs and no idling policies. It is also where I see the future generation trying to fix our mistakes. The Save the Earth Club, in Rocky Harbour, made up of local elementary school youth has set out on a path to not only improve their little corner of the world but also help others less fortunate in countries thousands of miles away. Their actions may not be the big ones dreamed of back in 1992 in Rio but I have to think that all great movements truly happen from the ground up. If nothing else the uprisings occurring around the world in the last year and a half have shown us what a determined community of people can accomplish! So as my friend Carl Duivenvoorden likes to say when you change your corner of the world you change the world!