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On the Road to Rio: Legacy and Lateness PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Brunnen   
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 11:46

Pausing for reflection, Groupe Intellex listens to readers’ feedback.

global sustainabilityYour reaction to the Groupe Intellex leader on Sustainability: the end game for the next generation has been vocal and viral – if that’s the correct term for the continually spreading attention fuelled by the ‘you really must read this’ tendency.

The editorial’s popularity may have been gratifying but we shouldn’t pretend that this is down to some new-found fascination with environmental issues or heightened interest in the forthcoming UN Summit, Rio+20.  The reason is much more likely rooted in two other themes – legacies and lateness.

Regular readers of these columns will, of course, have clocked the use of the phrase ‘next generation’ outside of our normal context of digital access networks and Marit Hendrik’s NextGen productions.  Focusing on our futures has appealed to a far wider audience than the narrowly drawn community of network enthusiasts.

Approached in this way (especially with a concern for younger and more adventurous souls) issues of digital infrastructure investment have shifted off the ‘ho hum’ maybe-one-day wish list and onto the ‘must do now’ priority pin-board – and written it in big letters, though perhaps not yet in Western capitals!

In this context ‘Sustainability’ means that if we want things to carry on we must make some changes around here – a hint of paradoxity that highlights the gap between ‘hanging on’ and ‘facing up to reality’.

The other hook for readers, ‘lateness’, also touched a widespread concern.  Many comments expressed feelings of regret that we have wasted the opportunities, have frittered away the good times and are now paying the cost of those excesses.   Regret is rarely recommended – analysts and counselors prefer that we should work in a ‘guilt-free zone’ – but as a motivator it works if linked with real hope for redemption and better times ahead.  Served alone, austerity smacks of helplessness.

Whatever your hooks, legacy or lateness, they seem to have a stronger pull than any part of the UN’s mechanistic process with its certain but apparently inconsequential, delivery. Readers reckoned that success at Rio+20 was only a remote possibility.  The script-writing follows a pre-determined pattern.  As time goes on, the ‘developed’ world shrugs its shoulders and the ‘ho hum’ list grows longer.  Supplicants from impoverished places turn up for photo-calls so that folks back home know that they tried, but the big powers struggle to get out of bed - for surely they will need their sleep after the diplomatic parties.

‘Not much hope’

Our readers’ feedback sounded a note of weary cynicism – disenchantment with political leadership and low expectations.

From this pessimistic position the Rio+20 briefings have been prepared, no doubt with scientific sincerity, and the ‘draft’ outcomes have been circulated in good time for objectors to run red highlighters through anything that might offend friends.  Somewhere someone will be delegated to be a delegate and not put up with any nonsense.  Media accreditation will be allocated to ensure compliant coverage.  A surge of indifference will sweep the nations.  Ministers will turn over and snooze for another 20 years.

Until the next global crisis we can all indulge in yet another round of ‘if only’ regrets and be told that the problems are, you must understand, ‘so much more complex, these days.’

In Rio the growing irrelevance of governmental grandstanding will be wound on by two and a half extra notches but you, the reader, will still be troubled – by the legacy and by the lateness of the hour.

And you are not alone.


Readers of this editorial also followed the Groupe Intellex ‘Readying for Rio’ series summarised in our ‘full edition’.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 08:18

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