Rio+20: A day at Rio’s other summit – the People’s Conference

By Daniel Schweimler
RTCC in Rio

There’s a another conference happening in Rio de Janeiro – this one on the other side of the city and a two-hour traffic jam away from where the politicians are gathered.

The People’s Conference in the Aterro do Flamengo park brings together indigenous communities, environmentalists, religious groups and more and what they all have in common is that they’re losing or have already lost faith in our political leaders to deliver any kind of binding, meaningful agreement on reducing carbon gas emissions.

It used to be that they’d try to defy the tight security surrounding the official conference in a bid to be heard and try to influence the politicians as they entered the debating chambers. Not any more.

Brid Brennan from the Transnational Institute said: “People are getting angrier and more frustrated. If the politicians don’t act then we must do something and I think that’s what you’re seeing here.”

Indigenous families from deep inside Brazil’s Amazon jungle and high in the Peruvian Andes sell jewellery or join debates on their common problems, Brazilian government workers protest, with mouths taped and hands tied, that they’re not being allowed to speak out about their government’s environmental policies while spiritual leaders gather in huddles looking for joint solace.

They speak of bonds being formed, experiences are shared and solutions are analysed and adapted.

It’s a generally younger, much more colourful crowd. Performances warning of the dangers of polluting our waters are put on for the children.

But all the time there’s an awareness and a growing frustration that on the other side of Rio the delegates, who have flown in business class and are transported to the conference centre in chauffeur-driven cars, are allowing a crucial opportunity to ensure the future well-being of our planet to slip through their fingers.

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