Optimistic thoughts …!

In the latest of our blog entries looking forward to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, our competition runner up, James, who will be attending the Earth Summit in person thanks to sponsorship from Newcastle University‘s School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, reflects on his changing hopes and feelings for the summit with less than two weeks to go. Don’t forget, you can follow the progress of our competition winners through this site, but also through our Twitter and Facebook accounts.


Over the course of the past few weeks many people have asked me why I am going to Brazil.

Often I have given a fairly pessimistic response: ‘…going to a summit/conference about international development/sustainability, you might see it on the news, probably because nothing will have been agreed…’.

However, I now feel like I have gone full circle.  As I do not expect anything, I now view any small indication of progress as a success!  I was therefore buoyed by an article I read this morning [1] which reported that the leaders of all of the BRIC countries would be attending the conference.  It is a promising sign of commitment from the countries that matter most.

On a slightly different topic, the events of this weekend’s Diamond Jubilee have unexpectedly provided me with hope that we Britons have the appetite to live more sustainably in the future.

I am sure that some will think the complete opposite – perhaps seeing the celebration of the Queen’s ascension as representative of the system of capitalism and privilege that they think is the root cause of the environmental and social problems that we face.  However, I saw in it something else.  It has made me believe that as a nation, deep within ourselves, we are not defined by consumerism as I had previously feared.

Many people are nostalgic for a time (imagined or not) of street parties and community, a time of values such as hard-work and prudence that they believe the monarchy represents, a time before mass car use, disposable high street clothes, bankers’ bonuses and sovereign debt crises.

Many subconsciously relish ideas of frugality, of putting up with things and ‘making-do’ in the name of a necessary, noble cause. All we have to do is persuade the people of this country that tackling global inequality, poverty, climate change, and resource depletion are noble causes indeed.

At the very least, Rio+20 offers an opportunity to publicise that idea.

James Robinson
MEng Civil Engineering

1 thought on “Optimistic thoughts …!

  1. very nice and succinct post James. I too was happy when I saw that news about the BRIC country leaders. They have most at stake as well as the greatest opportunities.
    Given that DC is in Norway at the moment securing new supplies of oil and gas for the UK, one would fear he might get the wrong idea if he turned up in Rio anyway.

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