The upcoming Rio+20 summit should be the environmental equivalent of Tahrir Square, mobilizing support for addressing the world’s environmental problems, former Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva told AFP.
“I hope that Rio+20 will become the Tahrir Square of the global environmental crisis and that international public opinion will be able to tell leaders that they cannot brush off the science,” Silva was quoted as saying by AFP. “They cannot lower expectations in the face of a crisis worsening every day.”
Silva said the Brazilian government has set a bad example ahead of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development by putting forth a weakened version of the country’s Forest Code. Environmentalists fear the new law could reverse Brazil’s progress in reducing Amazon deforestation to the lowest level recorded in more than 30 years.
A final decision on the Forest Code revision is expected after Rio+20.
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“This sends a bad signal on the eve of the Rio+20 when Brazil could have been an example,” Silva said. “If on the eve of the Rio+20 we practically eliminate the law that protects forests, we change the law that defines the boundaries of indigenous lands and we withdraw the capacity of a federal agency responsible for combating illicit deforestation… imagine what will happen.”
Tahrir Square was the site of a pro-democracy uprising that eventually toppled Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Brazilian authorities are bracing for demonstrations around the UN summit and a parallel “people’s summit” held in the southern part of the city. Up to 15,000 security personnel will be deployed by the military.
Silva captured 19 percent of the vote as a Green party candidate during Brazil’s 2010 presidential election, forcing a run off between Dilma Rousseff, the eventual winner, and José Serra. Silva grew up in poverty in the Amazon state of Acre and was illiterate until the age of 16. She became an activist on behalf of rainforest rubber tappers and eventually rose to senator and Minister of Environment under President Lula, until she resigned in 2008 over plans for new infrastructure projects in the Amazon.