Event Review: Do You Have To Be Rich To Be Green? Rio+20 Preparatory Event

16 November 2011

Location: Great North Museum: Hancock
Time/Date: 16th November 2011, 14:00 - 17:00

Date: 16 November 2011
Venue: Great North Museum: Hancock
Open to: all
Number of people in attendance: 70
Lead organiser: Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability

Twenty years on from the first Earth Summit held in Rio, the Earth Summit 2012 will return to its place of origin. Participants in preparatory events held across the globe will discuss the topics to be debated during Rio+20 and, following this, world leaders will come together in Rio to determine future direction for our efforts to achieve global sustainability.

The Planet Earth Institute (PEI) will play a major role in the organisation of several of these preparatory events and their close links with Newcastle University have inspired Rio +20-themed events to be held at the university.

Mirroring the format of the official process leading up to the 2012 earth summit, we have been holding our own version of the Earth Summit, comprising three half-day preparatory events in November 2011, each around a different theme linked to Rio+20, culminating in a two-day symposium in December 2011, at which representatives of the Planet Earth Institute will be present.

The outcomes and ideas from these events will be taken to Rio+20 by the PEI, giving participants a unique opportunity to have their voices heard as part of the global sustainability debate.

An audience of c. 70 people attended this second preparatory event to debate issues around the theme of Green Economy and Poverty Eradication.

In advance of the event we asked participants to consider a series of questions around the topic and to formulate their own ideas and opinions:

Is there such a thing as fair capitalism? Corporate social responsibility: is it just greenwash or genuine commitment? What responsibility lies with consumers? What responsibility lies with shareholders? Is truly sustainable development possible without contributions from the private sector?

These questions were also uploaded in a blog posting for participants to comment on, if they so wished.

At the event itself, participants were divided into tables of ten and given free reign to write their ideas on the tablecloths and were then moved around into different groups to react to comments written by other participants. Towards the end of the afternoon, each table was asked to identify a couple of issues, or 'grand challenges' that they felt most strongly about.

These issues were then pinned up around the walls of the room and participants were asked to 'vote with their feet', moving to the single challenge they felt most inspired by. Less popular choices were taken down and those choosing them asked to re-vote until we arrived at the three most popular choices, which were:

  1. Societal Change (developed world and developing world)
    Motivation for change vs pull of emotional ties to existing lifestyles
  2. International Cooperation
    Better regulation, better equality on standard of living, need to repatriate unsustainable activities and practices
  3. Economy:
    Is our economy too financially-based? What about ecosystems, culture and society? What value should be put on non-financial resources?

Another blog posting with these issues and the other, less popular issues identified at the event, was then uploaded for participants and other interested parties to comment on.

These four issues will now be taken forward, along with issues identified at the other preparatory events, to form the basis of the main symposium in December 2011.

Enough, For All, Forever

This event was part of a series of activities taking place throughout 2011 to celebrate Newcastle University’s world-leading work on sustainability. For more information, see www.ncl.ac.uk/sustainability

Published: 21st November 2011