Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Looking for positives in Rio

With the Earth Summit turning into a predictable and worrying suck-up to big business and immoral governments I went in search of something positive in Rio. I'd already wandered around the People's Summit full of interesting NGOs and individuals. I'd seen and smelt and felt the sterility of the [beaches and pollution and filth and poverty and crime and noise]. I'd noticed the swanky hotels where conference delegates stayed while spouting off about sustainability and nature's rights, people's rights and the hijacked 'green economy'. 

Three times I had tried to go up the hill to see the famed Christ the Redeemer but the first two times he was hiding behind very low clouds. Third time lucky though. Yes, it's touristy and even Rio looks better from such a birds' eye view. But in reality, a statue and a hill named Sugarloaf (we already had one in Christchurch) and sterile beaches are of little interest and don't stir feelings of 'wow'. Other places less hostile to life can do the wow factor better. Sorry Rio but the picture postcard views are just a tourism ploy and your growing economy is at the expense of the 'little' people.

I didn't go out and get drunk and I only danced samba once in the privacy of our lodgings. I would have liked to see some quality cultural displays but didn't know how to find any and wouldn't have had the money for it anyway.

Things were further darkened for me by my unpleasant experience trying to met up with NZers, none of whom seemed to care a toss about my misfortunes like being ripped off by dishonest taxi driver and being kept in the dark about accreditation to meetings with them. The least they could have said was sorry about that. I got a bad case of flu which I took home with me along with flea and mosquito and ant bites.

So what positive experiences did I bring away with me? I spent a bit more quality time with some of my colleagues, I did see the statue and the panoramic views of the city, I got to become quite familiar with the metro, I lay on Ipanema Beach in the rain (weird), I watched a monkey in a tree and a hummingbird hovered for a split second right in front of me (magical), I saw cacao trees growing along the streets, I deepened working relationships with project members, I understood a little bit more about ecological economics, and I ate lots of fruit and salads so I didn't gain much weight.

I also confirmed to myself why I have little interest in visiting places where human rights are constantly violated, poverty soars and the environment literally stinks. Such places make me too upset, helpless and sad. I want to travel to be inspired and uplifted. Education takes many forms; some of them are depressing.I wondered what other places in Brazil might be like. I'd like to experience a non-touristy part of the Amazon but maybe that would be too depressing seeing the rampant raping of the environment going on and destruction of lifestyles and livelihoods.

A few days after I had left Rio the bodies of two activists from the People's Summit who battled for fishermen's rights to fish without the threats from Petrochemical companies were found in Guanabara Bay, not far from where I had stood on the beach. It seems you don't have the right to live unless you sacrifice everything to big business. And if you don't give in you sacrifice your life. Too ghastly, and I read that one activist is killed each day in our world. Brave people!


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