Monday, July 2, 2012

Raise a Little Hell

From a great blog by Lisa Curtis (edited here for brevity)

There are two ways to respond when you watch the world’s leaders attempt to solve the planet’s most pressing problems and fail:

You can despair or you can raise hell.

Here is a cool music video (image opposite) to illustrate the point.

After watching the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen collapse, many bright-eyed young people despaired, suffering through months of what can only be described as a “Hopenhagen” hangover. More recently, when the diplomats at the Rio+20 Earth Summit produced a policy document with all the weight of a fluffy pink cloud, we watched the cloud pass and decided to get down to business.

I attended Rio+20 as the communications coordinator for SustainUS, an entirely youth-run and volunteer-led nonprofit that helps U.S. youth sort through the alphabet soup of the United Nations and push for meaningful change at conferences like Rio+20. It was truly inspiring to be entrusted with the stories of young people across the globe.

On the second-to-last day of Rio+20, young people organized a “people’s plenary” to make our voices heard and then walked out of the conference center after symbolically ripping up the summit’s final “outcome document.”

Unlike many of the gray-haired negotiators, we can’t afford to let our system continue to fail.
We’re coming of age in a time of rising inequality, staggering rates of global unemployment severe declines in natural resources, and this fun little thing called climate change that even scientists funded by Big Oil can’t seem to deny.

 Many of my peers and I have come to see this doom and gloom as an incredible opportunity to change the way the world works.

In fact, while the final Earth Summit agreement contains some rainbows and sunshine about “recognizing the need for broader measures of progress,” the push for a new way of thinking about progress dominated discussions at many of the side events run by environmental and social justice groups.

Now, people young and old are beginning to push for a new framework for defining progress. The famous economist Jeffery Sachs gathered crowds at Rio when he gave speeches warning that by failing to account for the things that make us well-off and satisfied, our current metrics of progress will lead us over a cliff.

Though the negotiations might have failed to set ambitious targets for sustainable development, Rio+20 has given us a sense of our common cause and inspired all of us to work harder to put the correct systems into place to create the future we truly want. This time we’re not turning away in despair. We’re walking away determined to lead where our leaders could not.

A frequent blogger and social entrepreneur, Lisa Curtis is the community builder at Solar Mosaic and co-founder of Kuli Kuli, a nutrition-focused social enterprise. Previously, Lisa wrote political briefings for President Obama, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, and managed communications for an impact investment firm in India. Follow her on Twitter @LisaCurtis.

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