Monday, 18 June 2012

Another side of Rio+20

After spending days shut inside window-less rooms in high-rise hotels during meetings, it was time to check out the People's Summit, located in a park area not too far from our house. The day was warm - they all are - up to 30 degrees now in the middle of winter. There was nothing peaceful about this excursion. The air throbbed with the chomphchomphchomph of military police helicopters overhead, usually three at once.

I was thrilled to discover that a large area was devoted to indigenous wares and the proprietors of the displays were utterly intriguing. I had never seen an Amazonian in person. There were many variations on body markings and headdresses but everything was so colourful and the feathers...the feathers. These people were the real Macoy.

I enquired as to the cost of a modest feather headdress; it was the equivalent of $200 euros so I had to pass on that. Instead I consoled myself with some feather earrings. There were plenty of necklaces, bows and arrows, blowpipes and ceremonial maracas. I was disappointed not to see any music and dance items. There were just political messages and selling.

Around the other side there were very few natives but a lot of political messages about the endangered Amazon, groups from Uruguay and Argentina joined in. Greenpeace was there, of course. Corporates had hijacked the green concepts.

I had my first taste of the famous Acai drink made from red Amadonian berries. It's a bit weird in taste to start with but after the first couple of sips it slides down quite easily. Acai is supposed to be chock-full of vitamins and other anti-oxidents.

There are a great many issues being aired in Rio at this time. One of them was lack of opportunities and racisms. A Brazilian businessman had turned himself into a standing billboard and invited others to support his messages so I thought, why not. Good for him. Many like him are giving up their free or work time to try to make a statement or even a small difference. So, for a few minutes there I was too.
The media were having the time of their lives filming the colourful spokespersons. A number of interviews were going on and as I walked back home I came across one of our project members from Ecuador speaking to camera on our street.

One of the most amusing sights I found was the metro full of native Brazilians in Amazonian dress queuing for the trains. I'm sure most Rio residents would have found that interesting too because there were SO many of these visitors. Everyone seemed to be making the most of Rio + 20 to be seen and heard-a good thing, I think. It reminded us that it's possible to live more sustainably and more connected with the planet without having to eke out a living in the jungle if we don't choose to. The important thing is to ensure we have a choice.

What I didn't like was seeing some of the Amazonians standing around smoking cigarettes and drinking out of cans. It seemed incongruous and took something away from the dignity of their culture.Some modern practices are certainly a step in the wrong direction.

I made two visits to the people's summit. I didn't benefit as much as others would because I don't speak Portugese and there were few efforts made at the event to produce any materials or presentations in English. The lack of attention to the use of English or French (both official UN languages) at such an international event was a great weakness everywhere, from the presentations, to the restaurant staff, to the hotel staff and taxi-drivers. It my opinion it was a missed opportunity for Brazil.


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