This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

What Happened in Rio?

There was a huge build-up to the mid-June conference in Rio de Janeiro, hosted by the United Nations and billed as Rio+20 (20 years after the 1992 UN Conference that did, in fact, set a world agenda for trying to deal with global climate change). The UN says that Rio+20 "was the biggest UN conference ever and a major step forward in achieving a sustainable future – the future we want."

But the reality seems more like "What happens in Rio, stays in Rio." As nearly I can tell, no one was very happy with the outcome of the conference. As The Economist reports:
By the reckoning of WWF, a big green group, a preliminary version of the draft agreement included the word “encourage” 50 times and the phrase “we will” just five times; “support” appeared 99 times, but “must” only thrice. 
The Guardian was equally scathing:

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said it was a time to be optimistic. "A more prosperous future is within our reach, a future where all people benefit from sustainable development no matter who they are or where they live."
However, civil society groups and scientists were scathing about the outcome. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo called the summit a failure of epic proportions. "We didn't get the Future We Want in Rio, because we do not have the leaders we need. The leaders of the most powerful countries supported business as usual, shamefully putting private profit before people and the planet."
Rio+20 was intended as a follow up on the 1992 Earth Summit, which put in place landmark conventions on climate change and biodiversity, as well as commitments on poverty eradication and social justice. Since then, however, global emissions have risen by 48%, 300m hectares of forest have been cleared and the population has increased by 1.6bn people. Despite a reduction in poverty, one in six people are malnourished.
While the problems have grown, the ability of nations to deal with them has diminished because the EU is distracted by economic crisis, the US is diverted by a presidential election, and government power has declined relative to that of corporations and civil society.
There was little in the document about population per se, beyond noting that a growing population continues to put pressure on the earth's resources. Here's one of the few paragraphs in "The Future We Want" document that refers directly to population:
21. We are deeply concerned that one in five people on this planet, or over one billion people still live in extreme poverty, and that one in seven—or 14 percent—is undernourished, while public health challenges including pandemics and epidemics remain omnipresent threats. In this context, we note the ongoing discussions on human security in the United Nations General Assembly. We acknowledge that with the world’s population projected to exceed nine billion by 2050 with an estimated two thirds living in cities we need to increase our efforts to achieve sustainable development and in particular, the eradication of poverty and hunger and preventable diseases. [p. 4]
So, there is "concern," and there are "discussions" and "acknowledgement" but no real plan for action. 

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