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/ a m • b e~ n • t i /

cultivated reflections on sustainable development

volume 1 11/12 [global to local]


lisa [larsson] Becoming a wetland of international importance: an examination of Walvis Bay Ramsar Site . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 luke [kemp] Realpolitik and Reform at Rio+20? Exploring the pathways for change in the form and function of UNEP . . . . . . 16



ringleader overlord shamanic advisor

karina [bontes forward] luke [kemp] sophia [christoe]

editboss designboss designminion

elliott [child] guy [leech] violetta [bontes forward]

special thanks to

elizabeth [proctor] tom [stayner] julie [melrose] andrew [swanson] §

david [salt] will [mudford] teifi [caron]

australian cente for international development australian centre for international law anu environment collective anu postgraduate and research students association

tim [boston] ‘Sustainable Development’: Sustainable? Development? . . . . . . . .4 william [mudford] Connection between people, forming the creative alternatives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 ben [sims] From Conference to Coast: Bringing Rio+20 to the Pacific . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 elizabeth [boulton] Climate change—the Humanities are Missing in Action . . . . . 22

Regulars + home economics for sustainable development

[the dreaded twins] How to cook up a Pecha Kucha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Recipe for Disaster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

+ the law-abiding citizen: commentary

glen [wright] The Future of Environmental Law? Earth Jurisprudence, Wild Law and the Rights of Nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

volume 1 11/12 [global to local]

telegram from the brainsquad

Welcome to the first edition of Ambiente

We are in the midst of a time of great challenges for humankind, and digesting and reflecting on these challenges can be overwhelming for the individual. Ambiente is intended to be an expression of these reflections, in whatever form they take, creative, research, or opinion based - and with a touch of flair, of course. The inaugural theme, global to local, centres on how international problems, agreements, norms and ideas can be applied to local and domestic discourses, issues and projects. We invited fellow students to contribute also, and they have insightfully delivered. Tim Boston begins our journey by challenging the notion of “sustainable development� on the basis that it perpetuates an ultimately destructive western model of progress. Next, Lisa Larsson draws upon her own original research of a case study of the RAMSAR wetlands convention in Namibia to highlight that global treaties do impact local social-environmental systems, but often with unintended consequences. William Mudford suggests that the Latin American grass-roots movement

of La Via Campesina can be a model for sustainable collective identity and action that can influence the international arena. Ben Sims then provides a spirited defense of multilateralism from a Pacific Islands perspective. Luke Kemp brings the realm of international negotiations and institutions into the local eye by examining the politics behind reforming United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at Rio+20 and why the agency should become a link between global agreements and local action. Elizabeth Boulton concludes by highlighting how our own university community can bridge a global academic disconnect between the physical and social sciences to help address the international threat of climate change. Overall, we have proponents of both the bottom-up and the top-down approaches to international environmental problems. Our feature research pieces both detail the current problems of linking the global to the local (Lisa) and suggest political and institutional solutions (Luke). Recently the idea that the age of international environmental conferences

and treaties is over has entered academic and political discussions. We hope that this first edition will provide insight on these thoughts, and others on the complexities of sustainable development - after all, it is a debated term. Happy reading!

Signing off, Luke, Karina & Soph

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opinion tim [boston]

‘Sustainable Development’: Sustainable? Development?

ANU Environment Collective

There’s a long-standing contradiction within the term ‘Sustainable Development.’ Conceptually, it’s a marriage between two notions which sit very ill with one another. On the one hand, ‘development’ refers (however indirectly) to the post-WWII Rostovian picture of the West assisting the third world to follow us through those same ‘stages of growth’ which brought about ‘the age of High Mass Consumption’ which we presently enjoy. While many have attempted to reform this notion of ‘development’, and especially how we measure it (the Human Development Index is one example), it remains essentially wedded to a model of maximum GDP growth through openness to global trade and (inevitably) an emphasis on primary production (extractive industries, export monocrops) and low-cost labour for the production of goods to be consumed in the West (clothing and electronics). In short, countries are assessed as more ‘developed’ the greater their integration into the global capitalist system (measured as “GDP growth”) and the closer they come to their ultimate

far less ‘sustainable’ than the forms of social organisation historically practiced in the ‘undeveloped’ world (small-scale agriculture, local consumption, inability

“The first question we need to ask now is, is it at all possible for every part of the world to attain one day … the standard of living of, say, Denmark (and perhaps also similar political and cultural institutions)? The second question is, if it is not, is it possible for the present lopsided and highly inegalitarian world-system to persist, more or less as such? And the third question is, if it is not, what kinds of alternatives present themselves to all of us now?” —Immanuel Wallerstein, “After Developmentalism and Globalization” goal—the organisation of economic and social life around mass production and mass consumption. It’s no coincidence that the four ‘Asian Tigers’ (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan), poster-children for ‘development’ in the 20th century, today resemble New York (or that China’s 9% growth rate in CO2 emissions maps almost perfectly onto its 9% annual economic growth).1 Affixing the predicate ‘Sustainable’ to this classical concept of ‘Development’ has proved confusing and contradictory. Do we mean that by the time these poor countries are developed, they will also be sustainable? Ideally, yes. But recall that the telos or end goal of ‘development’ has always included, at least implicitly, economies and lifestyles resembling current Western ones. It goes without saying that Western lifestyles, founded as they are on the premise of endless growth and endlessly escalating consumption levels, are unsustainable. But more significantly, they’re actually

to transgress local environmental limits, etc.) Measured by the yardstick of sustainability alone—abstracting for a moment from other important aspects of human wellbeing—the West is the most chronically, disgustingly ‘underdeveloped’ part of the world. Worst of all, the world’s most rapidly ‘developing’ nations (China and India) are hurtling towards a form of life more or less exactly modeled on ours. What if we could replace ‘Sustainable Development’ with a new terminology, and a new metric, something like ‘Development toward Sustainability’? Here, the end goal would be a society in which the needs of the human population are sufficiently met, but grounded in ecological systems that will (‘all other things being equal’) continue into perpetuity. If we reconstructed the global ‘development’ league tables based on this metric, we’d realise that almost the entire world population is currently in the red – their society is

either failing to meet their needs (cf. ‘poverty’), or failing to guarantee that the needs of their descendants will be met (cf. ‘wealth’). We’d also realise that it’s not just the ‘third world’ that has a lot to learn and a lot of catching up to do. If there exists a world system which can meet the needs of every human on the planet, not just now, but one hundred years from now, it will look nothing at all like either Australia or Ghana look today. We need to open up the theoretical space for considerations of forms of life towards which we must all, mutually, ‘develop’ (while recalling that it’s only fair that the West foots the bill, given that it was colonial extraction that funded Europe’s first ‘development’). The notion of ‘Development’ qua industrialisation, even with the new prefix ‘Sustainable’, is contaminated with a worldview in which global free-market capitalism is only ever a solution to the challenges of human wellbeing, never a problem. The counterposed metric of ‘Development toward Sustainability’ reveals industrial capitalism as it may one day be remembered: a short-sighted and short-term solution, with unimaginably long-term deleterious effects.


1 Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, ‘Trends in global CO2 emissions; 2012 Report’, page 6.

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feature lisa [larsson] masters student, Stockholm University / ANU

Becoming a Wetland of International Importance: An examination of the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site

On the Namibian central coast lies the town of Walvis Bay, the economic engine of Namibia with the only natural deep-water harbour on the Namibian coast. The city of Walvis Bay contains the main port of the country with most of the national import and export of commodities going through the industrial harbour that focuses on cargo handling and fishery1. However, the deep-water harbour also forms part of a bay that continues into a maritime wetland that in 1995 was designated as an Internationally Important Wetland under the ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat’, also known as the Ramsar Convention. The convention is an international treaty concerning the conservation and wise use of wetlands, signed by 160 nations with 1910 designated Ramsar Sites worldwide in 20112. Tidal flooding and wind processes in one of the Kuiseb River’s old outlets have formed the marine wetland, which consists of mudflats continuously covered by tidewater, popular among birds for its nutritious shallow waters and exposed mudflats3. The wetland has previously covered a larger area; as the town grew it expanded southwards onto former mudflats4,5. This today forms the affluent area of Meersig, a neighbourhood of private housing, tourism operators and hotels who enjoy the beautiful view of the mouth of the lagoon and its numerous flamingos. I went to this beautiful place in late 2010 to write my bachelor’s thesis. I wished to explore how commons are produced and managed at a range of interacting scales, the political implications of biodiversity protection and how local governments and people embrace and use international conventions. Conservation in the form we tend to think of it today goes back to the late nineteenth century, and the concept of protected areas has with time expanded to include multiple kinds, from national parks to community-based management6. The increasing concern over global environmental problems has over the past 50 years resulted in a new

form of environmental protection—international treaties7. The Ramsar Convention, entering into force in 1975, is the first convention on biodiversity, and has since been joined by several others. As natural resources as well as environmental problems are increasingly considered global issues rather than local, the influence of international environmental institutions upon local areas, people and their resources, including protected areas, is growing8. I wanted to explore how the Convention fits within the global discourse on biodiversity and if, to what extent and with what implications, the Walvis Bay Wetland has transformed to become a ‘global’ rather than a ‘local’ common through its designation as a Ramsar Site. What does the Convention aim to protect, for whom and why, and what may be the result when a place becomes a Ramsar Site, for example concerning changes in resource use, valuation and power-relations? And how has the designation affected the utilization, management and stakeholders involved in the Site? A large part of the investigation was conducted through semi-structured interviews, giving me a wonderful opportunity to meet people from a diverse range of societal groups – from officers at the different involved governmental bodies and businessmen to local conservation lobbyists and tourism operators.

Historical overview

Until the late eighteenth century, the Wetland of Walvis Bay was used and inhabited by the indigenous Topnaar community for extraction of shellfish and other marine resources. The bay was known to the Portuguese from the sixteenth century, but it was not until 1793 that Dutch settlers took possession of Walvis Bay in the name of the Dutch crown9 and the Topnaar were excluded10. The authority was transferred to Great Britain in the early 19th century, and Walvis Bay became a contested strategic area between, on one side, the colonisers Germany and Great Britain, and on the other the Topnaar, a conflict that tragically led to many lost lives for the native population11. After the end of World War I, the administrational authority of what is today Namibia was given to South Africa, however Walvis Bay remained British territory. In 1977 the administration of Walvis Bay was transferred to the Cape Province, soon to be part of South Africa. Namibia gained independence in 1990 after years of struggle, but Walvis Bay was not reintegrated until 199412. The connection to South Africa has given the town an apartheid legacy, for example the neighbourhoods of the previous ‘black’ area of Kuisebmond and ‘white’ area of Meersig are, to a large extent, still segregated, and the utilization of the wetland today is still spatially and to some extent politically excluding of traditional users. volume 1 11/12 [global to local]

Exploring the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site

The most important reason for designating Walvis Bay Lagoon as a Ramsar Site was its high number of endangered bird species that use the Site as a rest, feeding or breeding area in the otherwise inhospitable arid region13. Walvis Bay Lagoon is annually used as habitat by between 70,000 and 100,000 birds during winter season, and up to 250,000 during spring and summer. It supports more than one percent of eighteen different kinds of waterfowl, sixty-five to seventy percent of chestnut-blanded plover, seventy percent of greater flamingos, sixty-five percent of lesser flamingos, and forty percent of black-headed grebers and it is an important breeding area for African black oystercatchers14. Beyond being a conservation area for biodiversity, the Site has other possibly conflicting functions. The economic activities of Walvis Bay have an important industrial sector (fisheries and salt refining is directly reliant on the ecosystem of the wetland) and a significant tourism industry utilizing the many birds, seals, dolphins and sometimes even whales that visit the lagoon. Due to this divergence in interests, the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site has a number of stakeholders who are negotiating the use, protection and development of the Site. One important arena for such negotiations is the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site Steering Committee which also highlights the different stakeholders that have influence over the wetland – the Municipality of Walvis Bay, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, local NGOs, the parastatal Namport that is operating the port, Walvis Bay Salt Refiners and a local association of anglers15. An example of on-going negotiation over development paths is the conflict between the government of Namibia wanting to make Walvis Bay the number one industry town in Namibia, and local powers wishing to transform the city into the number one tourism town16. Part of the reason why the meaning, implementation and future of the Walvis Bay Ramsar Site can be contested and renegotiated locally is that the convention can be difficult to legally enforce. Moreover, the power-relations in these negotiations are far from equal, and not fixed. This can most clearly be shown by the lack of presence and influence from the traditional users of the resources of the wetland, the Topnaar community.

the responsible agencies and weak legal enforcement mechanisms, has created weak implementation of management and regulations. The Ramsar Convention, although connected to the global discourse on biodiversity, is not necessarily very influential on the local Ramsar Site because of the weak legal enforcement. Nevertheless, earned Ramsar status provides an incentive to protect the Ramsar Site in a way suitable to the local context and stakeholders, and also an opportunity to embrace the status as something to be proud of, for local identity creation and possible tourism revenues. However, the designation as a Ramsar Site does affect the local Site through redistribution of power, the most prominent example being the expanded influence of the regional political authority and the growing strength of NGOs and members of the Ramsar Steering Committee at the cost of the local government and the Topnaar community.


1 Billaver, H. W. Ekobo, M. S. 2002. A Human Geography Atlas of Walvis Bay. Beyond the Reintegration. Macmillan Publishers: Gamsberg 2 RCW 2011, 2011-01-09 3 Billaver, H. W. Ekobo, M. S., op. cit. 4 Bridgeford 2010, pers.conv 5 Patterson 2010, pers.conv 6 Adams, W. M. 2009. Green Development. Environment and sustainability in a developing world. Routledge: Oxon 7 Congleton, R. D. 2001. Governing the Global Environmental Commons: The Political Economy of International Environmental Treaties and Institutions. In Eds. G. G. Schultze and H. W. Ursprung Globalization and the Environment. Oxford University Press: New York. 8 MacDonald, K. I. 2010, The Devil is in the (Bio) diversity: Private Sector “Engagement” and the

Restructuring of Biodiversity Conservation. Antipode 42(3): 513-550. 9 Billaver, H. W. Ekobo, M. S., op. cit. 10 Uushona, D. & Makuti, O. (eds) 2008. Biodiversity Report: Walvis Bay. Walvis Bay Council and ICLEI Africa Secretariat: Namibia 11 Barnard, P. 1998. Political history. In: P. Barnard (ed): Biological diversity in Namibia: a country study. Windhoek: Namibian National Biodiversity Task Force, pp. 29-32. 12 Billaver, H. W. Ekobo, M. S., op. cit. 13 Uushona, D. & Makuti, O. op. cit. 14 Bethune, S. (Ed) Shaw, D. Roberts. K. S. and the Wetland Working Group of Namibia. 2007. Wetlands of Namibia. John Meinert Printing, Windhoek, p.14. 15 Uushona 2010, personal conversation. 16 Gelderbloem 2010, personal conversation.


Walvis Bay, like many other sites of international and global importance, is at once a valuable ecological place and a contested political space. It is produced and managed at a range of interacting social and geographic scales, from global to local. My findings showed that management of the Site is complicated due to the complexity of these jurisdictions and scales. The authority of management is shared by a number of governmental bodies that, combined with a lack of communication between

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opinion william [mudford] world citizen

Connection between people, forming the creative alternatives

In the lead up to Rio+20 I wrote in the ANU Rio+20 blog about the failures of state parties in producing tangible ways to create a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable global system.1 The particular example focussed on in that piece was the Australian Government negotiating position with its deplorable focus on ‘Mining for Sustainable Development’. I would like to emphasise here in Ambiente that significant alternatives of global connection are developing. From Rio I have been exposed to the La Via Campesina peasant and family farming movement, 2 which has global solidarity and connection with an emphasis on building local strength. The Australian government, and people that live within this space, have the potential to be creating the food sovereignty that we need. Food sovereignty is a term developed by the La Via Campesina movement to describe the forms of deep local connection they have been creating around food systems, from the earth to the mouth. Food sovereignty is in direct opposition to the neoliberal capitalist global system that has divided farmers from the people that consume

the food that they produce, and turned food into a commodity traded on the world stock market. This neoliberal food system has been shown to be the cause of the world food crisis in 2008.3 Australia could have a direct positive impact domestically and on the world market if it switched its food production and distribution system to one based around food sovereignty, favouring locally produced biodiverse food over traded commodities and not pricing other producers out of their own localities. La Via Campesina has other forms of sustainable connections worth developing and pursuing more broadly than the peasant farmers of the world (to which La Via Campesina is focussed). La Via Campesina provides its member organisations and the people involved with a sense of being connected to a large group of people that collectively see the problems with the neoliberal mode of production. Through analogising from the requirement to reconnect with food we can see a broader parallel set of alternatives that consist of global connection with local collective solutions. volume 1 11/12 [global to local]

Central to the La Via Campesina movement to achieve structural change goals, such as food sovereignty, is the broad empowerment of a variety of groups that have been traditionally subjugated by the economic and political system, particularly women and peasant farmers. Women’s role within society is bolstered by La Via Campesina through significant direct affirmative action policies.4 There is a female and male appointed to each position that exists at the international, regional and member organisation levels of the movement.5 This ensures that women’s voices are directly heard across the movement, thereby empowering them to take direct action. Further, La Via Campesina being a peasant farming movement brings the voices of these peasants to the forefront of their international negotiations and actions,6 getting inside and shifting the debate to their advantage. By having such a variety of people and voices involved they have the collective power of people through which to combat the system that causes the multiple environmental, social and economic sustainability crises that the world is facing. The broad empowerment provides the political space through which previously subjugated groups can take the direct action to assert their control over land, production and distribution, which directly removes and prevents the further continuation of the unsustainable capitalist framework. It seems that I am not the only one connecting the need for food sovereignty within ‘developed’ places such

as Australia.7 We need to broaden the movement and ideas in a proactive manner. Such action may be inspired by La Via Campesina who, instead of waiting for change to happen, take direct action to change the crisis situations that cause their members grief. For example in Brazil a member of La Via Campesina, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), have been directly taking land from the absent landlords and appropriating it for food production by peasant farmers.8 This allows people access to land and the ability to grow the food that they and the rest of the local people need. After this is done, the local councils and political structures need to adapt to the changed political landscape acknowledging and including the variety of voices, or face being entirely superfluous or overthrown.9 This change helps to solidify the La Via Campesina model, preventing food access crises from developing. The international connections that have formed through La Via Campesina help to show members that the crises they are experiencing are not unique to their local area.10 The crises are global and caused by neoliberal economic policies. La Via Campesina member organisations come from Africa, South America, Europe, Asia and North America. The members have collective political positions but their methods have been adapted to the particular situations that they face in the area in which they each operate. Their sense of collective identity helps them to maintain

resistance in the face of counter attack by those interested in maintaining neoliberal capitalism. La Via Campesina’s collective purpose created through the formation of their identity as international helps them to spread the social structures that they propose through direct implementation of them around the world. This spreads their ideas and the places in the world using localised production and biodiverse farming thus preventing the interrelated capitalist crises of access to food and destruction of the environment. By drawing on the experiences of La Via Campesina, we may see an entirely different system developed on the global level and applied to the local areas which solidly connects people to their food and to fellow people across the world.


the State, and Electoral 181. Politics” Latin Ameri5 Maria Elena Martincan Perspectives 39(5), ez-Torres and Peter M 178-191; Leandro VerRosset (2010) “La Via gara-Camus (no date) Campesina: the birth and “The Experience Of evolution of a transnaThe Landless Workers tional social movement” Movement And The Lula The Journal of Peasant Government”, InterStudies 37(1) 149-175, Thesis http://sumarios. 165. org/sites/default /f iles/ 6 Desmarais, La Via pdfs/33461_4270.PDF Campesina, 197. Accessed 8 October 7 Nettie Wiebe (2010) 2012. “Nettie Wiebe speaks out: Why Australi- 9 Vergara-Camus, “The Politics of the MST”, an farmers and La Via 179. Campesina?” <onl ine>ht t p://foodsover- 10 This idea is expressed by a North American peaseignt ygloba l.blogspot. ant leader interviewed Accessed 18 Ocand quoted in Martintober 2012. ez-Torres and Rosset “La 8 Leandro Vergara-Camus Via Campesina: the birth (2009) “The Politics of and evolution”, 170. the MST: Autonomous Rural Communities,

research. 1 William Mudford (2012) ‘The Australian Govern- 3 Jan Douwe Van Der Ploeg (2010) ‘The Food ment Negotiating ProCrisis, Industrialized posal at Rio+20’ <online> Farming and the Impehttp://anurio20.blogspot. rial Regime’ Journal of Change, 10(1), ian-government-negoti98–106. ating.html Published 13 4 La Via Campesina “The June 2012. Via Campesina Gender 2 Federico Davila, a fellow Position Paper” in Anmember of the ANU nette Desmarais, La Via Rio+20 delegation, outCampesina: Globalizalined the organisation to tion and the Power of me while we were in Rio Peasants (London: Pluto which inspired my InterPress, 2007), 203-206; national Political EconDesmarais herself thoromy essay that I handed oughly outlines the role in for assessment this of women within the semester. The direction movement Desmarais, and arguments in this La Via Campesina, 161piece is largely based off what I found during that

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opinion ben [sims] pacific institute of public policy

From Conference to Coast: Bringing Rio+20 to the Pacific

I am currently working for the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP) by researching how the multilateral system interacts with Pacific island countries. This is an important topic as Pacific people are mostly agrarian, and don’t interact readily with state nor local governments, and most certainly not with international processes such as Rio+20. As a part of my current research, I went to the Cook Islands and Kiribati to interview officials. Each country I visited, and the policymakers I spoke with, shaped my perception of the Rio+20 process. I travelled to the Cook Islands to attend the Pacific Islands Forum, an annual regional meeting and another conference on the international crawl where I saw many familiar faces from Rio+20. While this year’s Forum had some important outcomes in the form of ocean governance, gender initiatives, and getting the region’s powers to sit together around a table, it had some similar problems to Rio+20. Both were high-level political fora where the stakeholders, whose issues are being discussed by political elite, were perversely underrepresented, and politicking is often put

before progress over concrete issues. But problems aside, high-level talks such as the Forum and Rio+20 remain important and indispensable to addressing out shared environmental and social issues. The bottom line is that regional and global issues need to be solved in a regional and global manner. That being said, no-one would dispute the need for more focused and inclusive fora. Following perceived failures at the Copenhagen climate change conference and now Rio+20, there has been much talk, academically and publically, about the irrelevance of environmental multilateralism vis-à-vis past progress at fora such as the first Earth Summit twenty years earlier in Rio. I dispute this and believe multilateralism will rise in relevance throughout this century. My experiences in both Brazil and the Cook Islands support this view. After the Forum I flew to the ultra-vulnerable atoll of South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. Initially, I thought my visit here would strengthen my views on climate change action. It did, but in a different way.

Kiribati has immense beauty like the rest of the Pacific, but is also juxtaposed with high levels of poverty, crumbling infrastructure, very limited sanitation and a population density in parts of South Tarawa higher than metropolitan Tokyo. Before I make my point I acknowledge that poverty and the environment are intimately intertwined, and one set of challenges should not usually be given prominence. However, I have come to think that in the short-term, when such a trade-off exists, poverty reduction should be the focus in the case of Kiribati rather than action on climate change. Where possible, of course, climate change adaption and development outcomes should be achieved in unison – this is known in development parlance as ‘climate proofing’ or ‘achieving co-benefits.’ In Kiribati, health, education and infrastructure are the key issues in the short term. And the best form of climate change adaption put forward in my opinion is education for migration in Kiribati, not building sea walls, a point that Kiribati President, Anote Tong, deserves credit for. Although, it must also be noted that Kiribati has a small population. So, what is possible here is different to other highly vulnerable states such as Bangladesh. This shows the importance of considering economic and social issues alongside environmental challenges - something which Rio+20 did quite well. There was a strong economic focus, including the presence of corporations at

Rio+20, and to a lesser extent, a focus on key social challenges like gender issues. Bringing together disparate states and institutions, and focusing on a range of interconnected issues, are the strengths of the UN. Many will disagree and would like to push the US and ExxonMobil out of the way, but obstructing countries and irresponsible corporations are not going to leave the room and will continue to be important global economic actors. More importantly, our reluctant friends are the cause of the problems that brought us to Rio in the first place, so having them in the system is as important as continuing to globally discuss global issues. The multilateral system is fractured, and the relationship to the local level is complex and poorly understood by both those inside and outside the system. But, multilateralism remains essential, particularly for solving international problems that require global governance, and thus requires our continued attention rather than contempt.

Ben Sims attended Rio+20 with the ANU delegation. The views expressed are his own and do not represent PiPP.

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feature luke [kemp] PhD candidate, Fenner School, ANU

Realpolitik and Reform at Rio+20? Exploring the pathways for change in the form and function of UNEP

The discourse on UNEP is not confined to the argument around a World Environment Organisation, but goes deeper to the very heart of what functions UNEP should perform. There has been a convergence around the need for a more coordinated form of international environmental policy7,8,9,10 as it is currently fragmented and lacks authority (there are hundreds of environmental treaties and numerous UN agencies with separate environmental agendas) and that UNEP should fulfil this role. On the other hand UNEP could address the growing problem of implementation. Robinson highlights that new environmental agreements and conventions rarely have a national agency analogous to the international entity leading to a weakness and gap in the national level policy-making and action11. This tension over function is most succinctly put in a question posed by Ivanova “should it [UNEP] serve as a brain or anchor institution in the UN system … Or should it shift towards a more operational role”12. My research attempts to answer Ivanova’s question by analysing the political barriers and opportunities in changing the form and mandate of UNEP and presenting possible future scenarios for change based on these factors. I gathered data through numerous semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders (such as negotiators and lobbyists) along with observation and tracking of negotiations at the Rio+20 conference.

Introduction: The Functions and Flaws of UNEP

In 1972 growing concern over emerging transboundary ecological problems resulted in a crucial international change: the birth of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the Stockholm Conference on Environment and Development. UNEP is the lead environmental programme which operates under the UN General Assembly with a role as a coordinator, catalyst, global advocate and environmental consciousness within the UN system1. UNEP has experienced mixed results at best, in fulfilling this mandate. This unsatisfactory track-record, along with an intensified academic and political debate on the need for a World Environment Organisation (WEO) led to a review of UNEP’s finances (currently only a measly $100 million per year), function and form at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The debate at Rio+20 over ‘upgrading UNEP’ was essentially a conflict over the need for a WEO, one in which the critics won out. Paragraph 88 of the Rio+20 Outcome Document provides no mention on the form of UNEP, essentially keeping it the same. The outcomes suggest that the critics of a WEO such as the United States, Canada and India convincingly trumped the proponents of the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU). The proponents have called for UNEP to be upgraded into a UN specialised agency akin to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or World Health Organisation (WHO), giving it greater power and authority to coordinate environmental bodies in the UN2,3 or even act as a counterweight to economic bodies such as the WTO4,5. Other have labelled this as ‘organisational tinkering’6 that is distracting from more pressing issues of international political will. To complicate matters, the form of an organisation should follow its function, and there are disagreements on this issue as well.



Political Barriers to Form Change

US Ratification—The US needs to have a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to ratify any international treaty. The oppositional nature of US politics and Republican distrust of environmental issues has created a blockade which has meant the US has not ratified a number of international treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol. A WEO would require a ratification process, meaning that unless there is a large shift in US politics, it would essentially not have the US as a member-state. One interviewee noted that “it’s a political barrier to an effective WEO - the US will either water down the text or not participate.” A Developing Problem—The vast majority of developing nations operate within a negotiation bloc known as the Group of 77 (G-77; as it originally had 77 members). Although most developing nations supported the idea of a WEO, the overall bloc opposed it since the group operates on consensus. A few countries misinterpreted the idea of a WEO as a powerful agency that would limit their development, which led to the entire coalition taking a position against a WEO. As one respondent lamented “The G-77

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continues to be this very regressive organisation, even though the entire AU supported the WEO concept”. However, many developing nations stressed the need for implementation, suggesting that this is a potential way forward. Europe’s double-edged sword—While the EU were the primary advocates for a WEO, their negotiating tactics were seen as rigid and sometimes counterproductive. One interviewee reflected on this when stating that “when there was opportunities to make a compromise they (the EU) were very narrow-minded”. Progress in reform may require the EU to both be a leader, but also more diplomatically deft. UNEP’s efficacy—Many negotiators and observers believed that UNEP did not undergo a change in form as it is currently seen as ineffective. Many nations simply refused to give a more powerful status to a poorly performing agency. One interviewee stated that “UNEP could evolve if it were a stronger entity”. A change to a WEO form might not fix this image problem, since as Charnovitz argues “UNEP’s credibility and legitimacy is derived from its effectiveness”13. If UNEP is to change its form, it may need to first enhance its internal performance and gain trust internationally.

Opportunities for Change: UNEP Scenarios

Three primary scenarios emerged from the data and my analysis. All three are depicted within the influence diagram below (Fig. 1).




Incremental Upgrade: This scenario would see UNEP changed into an organisation (not programme) under the UN before having a review mechanism transform it into a specialised agency. This would essentially follow the progress of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) which sets a precedent for this incremental upgrade. It also has similarities with Olsen and Elders’14 idea of a ‘phased upgrade’ which they believe would be more politically feasible. Ultimately it would rely upon a progressive change in US domestic politics, compromise tactics by the EU and persuasion of the G-77 bloc. Coalition of the Willing: It is likely that this scenario will ultimately end in the same specialised agency structure, but would leapfrog straight from the current state to a WEO. This would require a group of nations to either set up a WEO outside of the UN, which would eventually be merged (like the WTO) or occur through a majority vote (against the US) within the UN. One respondent put it quite succinctly in saying: “I think we should forget about the United States and hope for a coalition of Europe, Africa and the BRIC countries”. This would require persuasion of the BRIC states (Brazil, Russia, India and China) along with strong leadership from the aforementioned coalition. UNEP Unknown: This scenario depicts UNEP taking on a hybrid, networked structure, but not changing its legal form. One interviewee advocated for UNEP to become “more network organised, like a hubs and spokes model”. It would be an agency focused upon NGO engagement and the use of regional offices throughout the developing world to provide implementation and scientific expertise. In contrast to the two previous models, it would seek to primarily fill an operational role.

Conclusion: Brain or Body?

Figure 1: Influence diagram depicting scenarios for change within UNEP.

UNEP stands at a cross-road with a number of different futures possible. I believe that the UNEP Unknown model is the most feasible and appropriate future pathway. Such a networked form and function would capitalise upon UNEP’s current strengths and past successes: its regionalised structure; headquarters location in Nairobi; interaction with civil society; scientific expertise and commitment to capacity building15 and therefore improve its image and performance. It could alleviate UNEP’s financial struggles as agencies with operational roles tend to have much greater budgets than those with a normative mandate16. It would bypass the issue of US ratification and appeal to the implementation needs of developing

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The Conference Cupid

countries, while relying upon leadership from within UNEP itself and not depend upon a revitalised EU or AU. The outcomes of Rio+20 (implementation is mentioned as part of an expanded mandate) and current political dynamics suggest that this is already the path that UNEP may be heading towards. This is not to say that the world doesn’t need a WEO, but that perhaps it shouldn’t be based upon UNEP. In many ways UNEP has a more important role. It can act as a bridge between burgeoning world of international environmental law and implementation at the ground level. This would include providing expertise and advice to local and national governments in developing countries to help them meet their international commitments, funding and supervising sustainable development projects and even monitoring to aid with compliance of international conventions. In many ways addressing this implementation gap, bringing global level policy into tangible actions within nations, is even more vital than the need for global coordination and authority. UNEP should be the body and limbs, not the brain, of international environmental governance. It should be the chain, not the anchor, which links the distant world of global environmental multilateralism to that of local and regional action.


1 Engfeldt, L.G. 2002. Adequate, Stable and Predictable Funding of UNEP. Environmental Policy and Law, 32, 18-20. 2 Biermann, F. & Bauer, S. 2004. Does Effective International Environmental Governance Require a World Environment Organisation? The State of the Debate Prior to the Report of the High-Level Panel on Reforming the United Nations. Global Governance Working Paper. Amsterdam, Berlin, Oldenburg, Potsdam. 3 Kirton, J. 2001. Generating Effective Global Environmental Goverance: Canada’s 2002 Challenge. Governance: The Role of International Organisations”. Ottawa: Canadian Institute of International Affairs. 4 Charnovitz, S. 2002. A World Environment Organisation. Columbian Journal of Environmental Law, 27, 323-362. 5 Lodefalk, M. & Whalley, J. 2002. Reviewing Proposals for a World Environmental Organisation. The World Economy, 25, 601-617. 6 Najam, A. 2003. The Case Against a New International Environmental Organisation. Global Governance, 9, 367-384. 7 Hierlmeier, J. 2001-2002. UNEP: Retrospect

and Prospect- Options for Reforming the Global Environmental Governance Regime. The Georgetown International Environmental Law Review 14, 767-805. 8 Desai, B. H. 2006. UNEP: A Global Environmental Authority. Environmental Policy and Law, 36, 137-157. 9 Biermann, F., Davies, O. & Grijp, N. V. D. 2009. Environmental policy integration and the architecture of global environmental governance. International Environmental Agreements, 9, 351-369. 10 Esty, D. & Ivanova, M. 2001. Making International Environmental Efforts Work: The Case for a Global Environment Organisation. Open Meeting of the Global Environmental Change Research Community. Rio De Janeiro: Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy 11 Robinson, N. A. 2002-2003. Befogged Vision: International Environmental Governance a Decade after Rio. Environmental Law and Policy Review, 27, 299-364. 12 Ivanova, M. 2012. Institutional design and UNEP reform: historical insights on form, function and financing. International Affairs, 88,

565-584. 13 Charnovitz, S. 2012. Organisation of the Green Economy: What an International Green Economy Organisation Could Add. The Journal of Environment Development, 21, 44-47. 14 Olsen, S. H. & Elder, M. 2012. Upgrading the United Nations Environment Programme: A phased approach. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. 15 Tarasofsky, R. G. 2002. International Environmental Governance: Strengthening UNEP. International Environmental Governance Reform Project. Tokyo: United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. 16 Ivanova, M. op. cit.

International environmental conferences are a melting-pot of passionate, intelligent and often attractive individuals. The ‘Conference Cupid’ is here to help spread best available practice Pick-Up Lines (PULs) so that you may make the most of the ‘networking’ opportunities that present themselves at these conferences. You may even learn some jargon along the way! The PULs have been placed into two separate but equally important work streams; The Implementable are able to mitigate the ill-effects of conventional PULs and result in a slight chance of further conversation. The Slappable? Well, not so much… If you ever find yourself at an environmental conference, please feel free to try and implement one of these.


“Why have an ombudsman for future generations when we can just make some now?” Many nations, headed by the European Union, advocated the idea of a global ombudsman for future generations in order to safeguard and act as a voice in the UN system for youth and future generations. While the idea may have been stricken from the Rio+20 document, its legacy may live on through successful use of this line.


“How about some action on paragraph 69?” This one doesn’t need or deserve any further explanation…

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opinion liz [boulton] PhD candidate, Fenner School, ANU

Climate Change—the Humanities are Missing in Action I have a humanities background, and if I

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by two United Nation’s agencies: the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP). It assembles thousands of the best scientific minds from across the globe to produce peer reviewed reports on climate change. Governments, companies and communities rely upon these reports to guide all sorts of decision making, such as coastal development, solar investment and carbon trading regimes. The report writing and peer review process is notorious for, at times, lengthy debate and re-evaluation so as to achieve consensus on the exact wording of each statement. Given the vast number of clever brains involved in producing these reports, I am both astounded and saddened that in the recent report, ‘Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation,’ I found the following statement on page 469:

‘ knowledge about how to create and enable leadership remains elusive.’

may be frank, this ‘scientific’ conclusion unfortunately demonstrates great ignorance of disciplines such as history, politics, literature, and business management and even sciences such as psychology. People have been studying leadership for centuries! There are shelves of books on Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela and Alexander the Great. Businesses and militaries have comprehensive ‘whole of career’ leadership development programs. ‘Masters of Business Administration’ courses almost all typically include one subject on leadership. Potentially, it is true, there may be limited ‘scientific’ papers on leadership, but does this mean the knowledge domain doesn’t exist? If there is a huge body of knowledge on a subject within the humanities sector, does it automatically get excluded? If so, why? Is it not valued as legitimate knowledge? Are scientific methodologies appropriate for studying leadership anyhow? I am sure you could represent leadership traits on a bar graph, but is this the best way to understand leadership? This strange story does not stop there. Market testing has recently found that a large percentage of the population do not understand the basics of climate science. Accordingly, scientists, (predominantly social scientists) have also started investigating the issue of science communication, becoming excited about discovering the ‘metaphor’ as a great way to explain

difficult and new ideas. Yawn. How to break this to them nicely? This is hardly fresh un-trodden snow; in the days of Ancient Greece, Aesop was writing fables. Again, the depositary for the best knowledge on how to write clear sentences and communicate effectively lies within the humanities: specifically disciplines such as literature and journalism. In other humanities subjects, such as history, philosophy and politics, students learn to understand areas of greyness, to express complex ideas clearly and to have well-structured and convincing arguments. You must commend the scientists for at least trying to solve the science communication and leadership deficit. However, in a world where science provides our collective ‘early warning’ and the community remains confused by wellfunded and effective climate skeptic misinformation campaigns, one must ask: why not employ those with existing expertise in language, leadership and engagement? A great climate scientist will have an aptitude for physics and mathematics, followed by significant study in this area and decades of scientific work experience; similarly, there are people who have an aptitude in communication and leadership, who have also refined this through study and work experience. Why not draw upon their expertise to solve the problem rather than have the science community start from ground zero? The IPCC do not need to start a new research program; all they need to do is pop their head over the fence and ask the humanities sector to contribute. To humanities students: I understand the joy of studying Walt Whitman’s poetry; there are moments of insight and

understanding where you feel as though a diamond has exploded in your brain. A solid grounding in the works of brilliant writers (and thinkers) such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy and George Elliot helps students develop critical thinking skills, plus a sharp understanding of how language is used. This is all wonderful and valuable, I know. However, at this time in history, the planet is under siege from a range of dangerous climatic and environmental changes. Perhaps we could divert your attention for a moment from the delights of 16th century French renaissance literature to the current global problem. Our scientific friends are trying, but really not succeeding to communicate the magnitude and complexity of the issue. We need more expert story-tellers; creative film-makers; lawyers who can structure a convincing argument; someone who can create a cohesive narrative that resonates with the broader population. Humanities folks: we need you! And Scientists: we need you to be open to working with experts from the humanities. Translating global level IPCC science to concrete, coordinated and appropriate ‘local’ responses is a task so large and so big that we need the best of the best involved. That means, the best scientists doing the science; the best communicators explaining it to the population and decision makers; the best leaders and ‘people’ people in leadership and public engagement positions. A solution could be easier than we all think - if we simply got the right people onto the right jobs. We do not have time to start from scratch.

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regular home economics for sustainability

How to Cook Up a Pecha Kucha

the dreaded twins

Pecha Kuchas were devised in Tokyo in February 20 03 as an eve nt for young designers to meet, netwo rk, and show their work in public. Drawing its name fro m the Japanese term for the sound of “chit chat”, it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds, for 6 minutes an d 40 seconds total. It’s a format that ma kes presentations concise and keeps thi ngs moving at a rapid pace. —from pecha-kucha .org This recipe is perfect to make a complex concept such as ‘sustainable development’ easily dig estible for large audiences. It is als o a delicious alternative to the Recip e for Disaster (p. 25). Serves 1-100 peop le.


1 idea, preferably larger tha n life 1 heaped cup of passion 1 tbs inspiration 1 desire to spread ide a near and far 1 computer with Po werpoint 1 ser ve of flair, wit an d humour 1 dash of confidence Attentive audience, to ser ve.

Recipe for Disaster

This recipe cannot be cooked up on your own. It must be a team effort.


1. In a large bowl, mix pasdesire and inspiration sion, far. and to spread idea near 2. Ingest half of mixture, and let the le flavours develop for a shor t whi r. pute com the on t before sitting in fron 20 over ly 3. Spread the idea even slides, and sprinkle on reserved passion, inspiration and desire mixture on top. Make sure you reach to all

corners. 4. Set timer on slides for 20 seconds each, practice once a day for 2 days prior to serv ing. 5. Season with flair, wit, and humour

to taste. of 6. Just before serv ing, add dash confidence. 7. Serve fresh in a pub, café, lect ure e’s theatre, auditorium or best mat loungeroom.

In February 2013 there is an opportu-

nity for students to put this recipe into practice and present a pecha kucha to an international audience! The Society for Human Ecology is holding an online

student workshop (and international

conference) on the 4th of February, with workshop basecamp at the ANU. Pecha Kuchas should be themed around

Sustaining People, Sustaining Places; the

central idea being that actions taken to promote sustainability also have benefits

for the wellbeing of people. Go to for more info.


1 economic system based on unli- mited growth ~200 economies based on fossil fuels Multiple gutless politicians Many money-hungry private corporations A good few shakes of short sightedness 1 finite planet 7 billion people (and counting)


1. Take economic system, fossil fuel based economies, gutless politicians and private corporations, and put into an industrial blender on constant growth speed setting, for approx 67 years. 2. Pour mixture into approx 200 nation state-shaped reinforced moulds. You may have a few moulds too many; these have already been filled with alternative mixtures. This recipe is not concerned with those mixtures, though by its very nature it may try to contaminate (see Chef ’s note below). Put a few good shakes of short sightedness over your moulds. 3. Leave in the dark for some time to set, and make sure the mixture does not get exposed to any planetary boundaries, revolutionary politicians and/or citizens. 4. Take planet, and strategica lly place

your moulds across it. Sprinkle with people. 5. Preheat your climate change oven to at least 2 degree Celsius, with a 450ppm atmospheric concentration of CO2. 6. Pop your planet into the oven. Leave to bake, and turn on the television; you don’t need to set a timer for this recipe. You’ll know its ready when the shit hits the fan.

Depending on the cooks, this recipe may result in political, social and/or environmental holocaust. Chef ’s note: Make sure your mixture is not cross contaminated by alternative mixtures. If contamination occurs, you may notice a social revolution fermenting at the edges of your dish.

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regular the law abiding citizen

The Future of Environmental Law? Earth Jurisprudence, Wild Law and the Rights of Nature

glen [wright], Law PhD, ANU Our society, like many that have collapsed, is currently living beyond its ecological means.1 Environmental degradation, unsustainable resource use and climate change are being driven by our insatiable desire for growth, putting the very ecosystems we rely on for our continued existence at great risk.2 Yet international negotiation processes that can address this situation continue to move at a glacial pace. At Copenhagen in 2009, 3 young people wandered around wearing t-shirts saying, ‘You have been negotiating all my life. You can’t tell me that you need more time.’4 Outside the venue, many thousands of people gathered in protest: their rally cry was ‘system change, not climate change.’5 Such calls for a paradigm shift in the way we interact with our environment have grown stronger. This ‘bleak outlook calls for bold thinking and determined action’,6 and the UN High Level Panel on Global Sustainability says: ‘We need to change dramatically, beginning with how we think about our relationship to each other, to future generations, and to the eco-systems that support us.’ 7

Our problems cannot be fixed by the same frameworks and perspectives that caused them. International legal efforts to fix environmental issues focus ‘not on the root causes of environmental exploitation—but ‘market fixes’ to the same corporate-led economic model and ‘endless-more’ value system that have driven us to the cliff’s edge.’8 In response, radical ideas have developed regarding how we should regulate human behaviour.9 Earth Jurisprudence (EJ), or Wild Law, is an emerging legal theory that draws on theories of law, jurisprudence and governance, as well as spirituality, politics, sociology and ancient wisdom, to offer a path toward a sustainable future. EJ argues that the core failure of modern human governance systems is that they regulate human behaviour based on the fallacy that we are separate from nature and can operate outside the boundaries imposed by natural systems. Instead, the EJ approach is to set our laws within these boundaries; what author Cormac Cullinan calls the ‘Great Jurisprudence.’ The Great Jurisprudence ‘is what it is’; the nature of the world, the ‘fundamental laws and principles of the universe,’10 the principles of ecology. The Earth is a self-regulating system that has

existed, developed and flourished for millennia, and provides us with environmental boundaries and rules within which to set human laws. The Earth system is the primary source of law which sets human law in a context wider than humanity. EJ entails recognition that:11 »» all beings play a role in the interconnected and interdependent Earth system, and as such all subjects of the Earth system have an inherent right to play their role; »» rights stem from the nature of the universe, from the nature of existence itself, rather than from human legal systems; »» human conduct must be restrained to prevent impinging on the roles of other beings; and »» human governance arrangements should be based on what is best for the whole Earth system. These ideas seem initially unintuitive, given our anthropocentrism, our ‘autism in relation to nature’ and our ‘cultural amnesia vis-à-vis tens of thousands of years of our tribal histories.’12 However an ecocentric approach to governance is intuitive to many indigenous cultures in the world, and Bolivia and Ecuador have moved to implement the EJ approach to environmental law with strong indigenous support.13 While such a huge shift in perception and regulation may seem insurmountable, there are already signs that citizens of the world are ready for such a change. In 2008, 30,000 people from 100 countries met in Bolivia for the World People’s Conference on Climate

Change and the Rights of Mother Earth and adopted the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. This is an exciting start, but the environmental challenges we face and the shift needed in our perspective will require us to do everything possible, and the impossible. In the context of an ailing planet and a failing system of human governance EJ could well be an idea whose time has come.


1 Diamond, J., Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking Press, New York 2005). 2 See UN Environment Program, Global Environment Outlook (4th edn, UNEP 2007) and IPCC, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report (IPCC 2007). 3 UN Climate Change Conference (7-18 December, Denmark 2009). 4 Ripper, V., ‘Facing the ghosts of Copenhagen in Cancun: The climate talks in Mexico are haunted by past failures’ Now Magazine (Toronto, 10 December 2010). 5 See ‘100,000 march for System Change not climate change in Copenhagen with mass arrests’ Indymedia (13 December 2009), <http:// w w w. i n d y m e d i a . o r g / p t / 2 0 0 9 / 1 2 / 9 3 2 3 8 7. shtml>, accessed 19/10/2011. 6 Moncel, R. et al., ‘Building the Climate Change

Regime: Survey and Analysis of Approaches’ (WRI and UNEP 2011). 7 UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A future worth choosing (2012) 3. 8 Galeano, E. et al, ‘Does Nature Have Rights? Transforming Grassroots Organizing to Protect People and the Planet’ (The Council of Canadians 2011) 1. 9 Radical in the true sense, i.e. getting to the root of the problem. 10 Cullinan, C., Wild law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice (2nd edn, Chelsea Green Publishing, Vermont 2011) 78. 11, 12 ibid 13 Mellino, C., ‘Bolivia and Ecuador Grant Equal Rights to Nature: Is “Wild Law” a Climate Solution?’ Climate Progress (21/11/2011).

volume 1 11/12 [global to local]


Once upon a time, a dedicated group of students from different disciplines went on a journey far, far away (Brazil) to hear lots of people (the UN) talk about the future we want and try to solve the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s problems, in the form of a conference (Rio+20).


Ambiente is the lovechild of this affair, a professionally wayward whim in paper (and soon cyber) form.


Ambiente is a publication for the abundance of students working on the cutting edge of sustainable development research, whose efforts and ideas often go unheard of outside of academic circles. Although a student-driven publication, Ambiente invites readership of a wider audience, and is designed to be a space for sharing and learning.


We welcome contributions from all walks of life, primarily students, but really, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re all continually learning, right? Research-based, opinion, and not least, creative, show us your colours so they can be shared. To contribute to Ambiente, please email us at

/ a m • b e~ n • t i / noun (Portuguese) environment, climate, surroundings Brazil, land of the Amazon and the samba, has a relationship with landmark moments in environmental history. Both the 1992 Earth Summit and its recent 20-year anniversary, Rio+20, were held in Rio de Janeiro. As with the infamous ‘sustainable development’ term, the Brazilian Portuguese word ‘ambiente’ denotes not just the natural environment, but deals with a wider conception of a holistic (social, economic and ecological) environment within which we must all live.


Cultivated reflections on sustainable development

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