Rio+20: 50,000 bees but where’s the honey

Aisling Irwin

Aisling Irwin
Consultant news editor, SciDev.Net

Today is a grey day in Rio de Janeiro.  Christ the Redeemer is swathed in cloud on his mountain and, closer to sea level, 50,000 people are engaging in an expensive sustainability jamboree that looks increasingly likely to turn to dust.

Christ the Redeemer on a clear day

This Wednesday, heads of state and government will begin the final, three-day phase of the Rio+20 (UN Conference on Sustainable Development) negotiations. Yesterday, leaks of the latest version of the text they will be negotiating show that, in many cases, the commitments are getting thinner and thinner.

The text does not express deep alarm at the abundant scientific evidence that many of Earth’s support systems are severely stretched.

It doesn’t make any funding commitments – let alone commitments to funding for international research, as lobbied for by the science and engineering communities.

It commits to little to tackle the enduring problem of technology transfer, one of three priorities of the African Union.

As for the priorities of the hundred or so science academies that issued a pre-Rio+20 declaration last week – calling for renewed emphasis on population and consumption —  these don’t seem to be getting much attention either.

We’ve been reporting for the last few months on science, technology and innovation issues relating to Rio+20 and developing countries. Last week our four-strong team – from India, Kenya and the United Kingdom reported on a rich, pre-Rio+20 science forum that demonstrated how research links up with some of the key ideas of the Rio+20 agenda — such as the Green Economy, and measurements of national success that go beyond GDP.

This week we are joined by journalists from Nepal, Philippines, Uruguay and Brazil who will be reporting on the new ideas, reports and debates. We’ve already been to the Corporate Sustainability Forum, the People’s Summit and the protests on Copacabana beach. On the menu this week is the latest on the broadband gap, how Colombia fares in the new International Wealth Index, space observations for development and what the Nobel Laureates have to say – and is anyone listening?

With 20,000 civil society delegates, thousands of journalists, over 500 side events and several substantial parallel meetings there’s a lot of buzz around the hive. Nevertheless, it looks increasingly likely that, come Friday, we’ll find that, inside the hive, there is no honey.

This blog post is part of our coverage of Rio+20: United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. To read news and analysis on Science at Rio+20 please visit our website.


One Response to Rio+20: 50,000 bees but where’s the honey

  1. […] are 50,000 bees and a lot of buzz, but where’s the honey asked fellow science journalist Aisling Irwin, consultant news editor at […]

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