Travelling through Rio can be a nightmare. The People's Summit is in a beautiful setting, right by the ocean, with a lovely atmosphere. But the distance to the official conference at Rio Centre is excruciating — at least 1.5 hours. This set-up distances politicians from civil society — a sad situation in times when the collaboration between governments and civil society is so obviously a necessity for the implementation of change on the ground. Luckily, bridge builders from both sides venture out to visit and exchange.
The Gaia Home tent has become a buzzing meeting place of those who long to connect to solutions. Macaco Tamerice gave a presentation on Damanhur and GEN, focusing on core principles that make communities thrive. I spent the day yesterday in Gaia Home, drinking in the atmosphere of the People's Summit. Art, demonstrations, music, heated voices, many tribal peoples, proud and strong in their colourful attires. The diversity of life is vibrant here — in comparison with the rather clinical atmosphere in the official conference. It was a day of encounters. Gjohn George and Namita from GEN-India/the tribal villages in Orissa have arrived. The community of Terra Una is hosting the tent, making sure visitors feel welcome.
The high point of all the events I've visited so far: Women Leading the Way with a panel of Vandana Shiva, environmental activist and founder of Navdanya, a women's movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity; Marina Silva, who at the age of 36 became the youngest senator in the history of Brazil and Environmental Minister during President Lula's administration; Sheyla Juruna, indigenous leader from the Xingu Basin of the Brazilian Amazon.
Vandana Shiva's comment: “I am not depressed with the text because I did not come here for another text. I came here for solidarity. No text can capture the force of life.” Sheyla Juruna said: “Sustainability cannot grow out of a destructive approach.” The women agree that we are facing a crisis of civilisation.
As we talk to the people coming to Gaia Home to hear more about GEN, Transition Town, Gaia Education; as we meet the vibrant newly birthed networks of CASA (El Consejo de Asentamientos Sustentables de las Américas – GEN-Latin America); it certainly feels as if the sum total of the good intentions of the people is reaching a tipping point in human spirit. This is a multi-centred crisis, calling for multi-centred approaches to solutions. These are exciting times.
Today, Wednesday the 20th, the heads of state arrive, and on the ground, demonstrations are already taking place. Since the early hours helicopters are circling over Rio, dogs are barking, sirens are going off and there is tension in the air. In Rio itself, impoverished communities are being relocated to make space, not only for Rio+20, but also for the upcoming Football World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016. In practice, this means that inhabitants of small favelas are being forced to pack up, carted off in trucks and dropped 30 and more miles further out from the city centre. There is despair on many levels here.
Soon, we will go out to join the hopefully more artistic and peaceful part of the demonstrations. Given the sounds, I feel nervous — at the same time looking forward to gaining another taste of the Brazilian way of doing things with warmth and enthusiasm.