Cattle ranches carve into the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
As world leaders, officials, NGOs, businesses, and experts gather in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Summit on Sustainable Development, or more well known as Rio+20, it might be useful to look at the landmark Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which helped propel environmental concerns around the world. The most noteworthy speech during that meeting was made by a twelve year old Canadian girl, Severn Suzuki.
However the global environmental situation has not improved since 1992, but worsened. A recent report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) found that the world has made significant progress on only 4 of 90 environmental issues. Some problems, such as coral reef health and wetlands, have actually deteriorated. While many major issues, like climate change and biodiversity loss, have seen little to no progress.
The UN is pushing Rio+20 as another chance to move forward on increasing environmental protections, reducing global poverty, and transforming economies to take nature and human well-being into account.