If you are worried about erratic weather patterns, droughts, ice storms, floods, warming oceans and fish kills, you may be thinking we are a part of one world with effects across the globe, and be worried that we must do something to alleviate what scientists predict to be a looming catastrophe.
If you a convinced that scientists are wrong and recent climate, historic changes are part of a natural cycle across the Earth’s history or that international efforts to address global problems are a United Nations plot to steal America’s autonomy, you may be thinking that international efforts of sustainability or conservation are an assault on our economy. Whichever your view, you should be interested in the recent RIO+20 in Rio de Janeiro. Twenty years ago the 1992 Earth Summit, the largest gathering in history at the time to address the future of the planet, was convened among 172 nations. It began an international dialogue to rethink economic growth, advance issues of social equity, and ensure environmental protection in a blueprint that was adopted as Agenda 21. You may have heard of Agenda 21 recently in the local news, when “anti-U.N.” citizens swarmed a public meeting in Edmond. Although the meeting was focused on issues of local sustainability and modernizing energy efficiency policies for buildings and land use planning, protestors shouted that Edmond was selling out to the U.N. This skirmish was small-scale compared to the global movement for consensus on these broader issues, but it’s important to know that you’re best-served to inform your own opinions or you risk losing out over the shouting. Meanwhile, back to RIO+20. Discussions focused on two issues: how to build a green economy to achieve sustainable development and lift people out of poverty across the world and how to improve international coordination for sustainable development. These are huge objectives. More than 40,000 people from 191 U.N. member nations and 93 international governmental organizations participated in the conference. Our American delegation was led by our secretary of state. At the outcome of RIO+20, a consensus document was approved titled “The Future We Want,” with 283 outcome paragraphs setting out a common vision, including a commitment to sustainable development and to ensuring the promotion of an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations. “The Future We Want” stated its second objective as: “Eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.” Sounds like a worthy moral goal. But it may also seem like these struggles are far removed from us. But before we put down our morning paper, pick up our Guatemalan coffee, tighten our Chinese silk necktie manufactured cheaply in the Philippines and shipped on foreign-owned freighters burning diesel fuel made from Middle Eastern oil and jump into our European-built SUV and turn back to our “local lives,” know that the number of children living in poverty in Oklahoma rose by 9 percent over the last five years. This is one world. And our neighbor is in need. And so too are we, for a future that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable for the sake of people and the planet. It’s my hope that American ingenuity will accept the challenge and lead the world to this moral high ground instead of fighting any global idea because of paranoia and fear. Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.