This week, the world is being treated to the biggest left-wing "socio-political monster truck rally" the United Nations has ever staged: the Rio+20 -- U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, which has attracted about 50,000 people. This rowdy bash is spiced by the vague, elastic and numerous definitions of "sustainable development," resulting in endless, pointless arguments.
Twenty years ago, the original 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro generated Agenda 21, a hideous document enshrining the term "sustainable development," plus the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, plus the framework for the later Kyoto Protocol, plus 300 tons of trash in the streets. For this year's event, the city is hosting heads of state, government leaders, environmental organization executives, business leaders, social activists, artists and professional struggle-junkies, with the U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Craig Rucker, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and gadfly master at biting the Left, took a CFACT crew to Brazil to cover this anti-capitalist circus. He didn't just stick to the obvious but also hustled his team 210 miles north to the Chicago-size city of Belo Horizonte, where the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives was holding its World Congress -- a good place for some candid shop talk with the greenies.
With their credentials swinging around their necks, CFACT sat in on outrageous shenanigans. Rucker said, "We got some great video of American local government officials telling Americans and the rest of the developed world to cut back on consumption to preindustrial living conditions and do without -- by day -- but by night these 'leaders' changed stripes and kicked up their heels at lavish parties with rich food, a runway fashion show and champagne by the gallon."
One Australian ICLEI member bluntly told Rucker that "we don't use the term 'climate change' anymore. It's 'sustainable development.' " ICLEI members deliberately use new terminology to misdirect opponents from discredited global warming rhetoric and gain acceptance for their efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases.
Hans Karsten, environmental officer for Copenhagen, Denmark, revealed his city's intent to have zero carbon emissions by 2025, with half the residents riding to work by bicycle. (Perhaps Rio+20 conferees should immediately forsake air travel and return home by kayak, the bicycle of the sea.)
Meanwhile, at the Rio plenary session, CFACT's Josh Nadal reports that "the 0.7 percent tax on [gross national product] to give to a United Nations trust fund remains as a stated goal. That's the one we analyzed would cost an American family of four around $1,300 per year."
The conference's outcome document is titled "The Future We Want." Some Big Green groups hated it for being "watered down" -- particularly Greenpeace. That group went so far as to go on "war footing" (whatever that means), planning "waves of civil disobedience."
The entire Rio+20 conference was directed toward the conclusion that affluent states must cut back on living standards and end development of natural resources. That's sustainable development for you.
Steven Lyazi, a young friend of mine in Uganda, is a daily witness to just such a spartan human existence in his country. He wrote me recently: "Mr. Ron, Our roads are not favorable to people and my dream is to have a well developed transport links and stabilized medication for all people for a good survival. Some people, especially the ignorant ones, hate development."
Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.