The fate of the world’s sacred places is in all our hands

Feature Story - 17 June, 2012
This week, all eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro as global leaders try to chart a path for the future of our planet.

Polar Bear

But the gaze has an increasingly cynical edge, as the public grows weary of leaders failing to make the commitments needed. With political expectations low, it becomes increasingly important for people like you and organisations like Greenpeace to take action. The future of our planet depends on us all.

Rio+20: What can be expected?

The Rio+20 Summit began with a round of informal negotiations over the last week. These are designed to move talks forward so that decisions can be made on 20-22 June. The informal talks can say a lot about how the official negotiations will be played out. And unfortunately, the outlook isn’t hopeful. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon stated “even now there is more disagreement than agreement on the details of the so-called ''outcome document'' that will emerge”.

World superpowers like the US, rather than leading the discussions, are intent on protecting their interests. In the informal negotiations, the US moved to delete the right to food. According to their negotiators, it’s all right to be hungry, just not ‘extremely hungry.’ But if you’re consuming too much, that’s no problem. The US also opposes any mention of "unsustainable consumption and production patterns”  That’s deeply problematic because if each and every one of us used as many resources as the average American, we would need the equivalent of five planets.

Sadly, the US is far from alone in promoting selfish short-term nonsense. Back home, Coalition leader Tony Abbott has gone so far as to refuse a pair request in parliament in order to stop Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke from even attending Rio. Pairing involves opposing parties agreeing to pair up MPs to abstain from voting when one member is unable to vote. It seems the Opposition Leader isn’t keen on Tony Burke announcing the government’s marine park proposal on the world stage.

The biggest hope from RIO +20 is for the launch of a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement which would protect areas of high seas from overfishing. Steps like the recent announcement on marine parks around Australia are important. But it is only the tip of the iceberg. Less than 2% of the world’s oceans are protected. Over 60% of the oceans are like the wild west with little or no protection.

So what do we do?

While world leaders fiddle, actions taken by you and us become even more important. Quite simply, our future is too important to give up on. It’s time to stand up and take action. We can’t tackle everything, but over the next couple of weeks we plan to roll out some major pieces of work. You’ll be hearing from Greenpeace on marine reserves to protect the oceans, you’ll be hearing about stopping fossil fuel companies recklessly drilling in the Arctic and you’ll be hearing about the need to stop the Great Barrier Reef turning into a coal superhighway.

We need you to join us.

These are all part of one big story

As we deplete resources closer to home, big corporations are going further and deeper into parts of the world which have always been considered off-limits. The Great Barrier Reef and the Arctic are sacred places, valuable, beautiful and irreplaceable. But now they are becoming fair game.

Instead of taking common sense steps like using less destructive fishing methods, or removing billions of dollars of fossil fuel subsidies to kick start a clean energy revolution, timid politicians are giving powerful corporations free rein.

How on earth can we allow oil ships take advantage of melting ice in the Arctic, which is caused by climate change, to drill for more oil that contributes to climate change?

How can we consider a World Heritage Area suitable for coal industrial activity?

Allowing thousands of coal ships to slice through the Great Barrier Reef each year seems unthinkable. But both these plans are on the table right now and it’s up to us – the global community - to speak up before it’s too late.

RIO+20 needs to deliver

For that to happen men and women of goodwill have got to stand up and demand the protection of sacred places, end this insane hurrah of the coal boom and demand that politicians put humanity back at the centre of their decision making - not corporate greed. Join us on the journey.

You’ll be hearing a lot from Greenpeace over the next few weeks, for good reason, the fate of the world’s sacred places is in all our hands.