I just returned from the public release of the Worldwatch Institute's State of the World 2012 report. This year's volume, entitled "Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity," argues that we need to pursue "environmental governance" rather than "corporate globalization." It also points to the not-so-surprising statistic that the wealthiest 1% of citizens own 40% of global assets, while the poorest 50% own only 15% of global assets. Using the current housing crisis and Occupy Wall Street as analogies, Worldwatch argued that we have to preclude "foreclosure of the planet" and need an Occupy Earth movement. In defining sustainable prosperity, the authors presented six basic themes and goals: (1) meet basic needs globally; (2) acknowledge everyone's dignity; (3) assure lives of satisfaction and happiness; (4) institute de-growth in over-consuming countries; (5) facilitate green growth in developing countries; and (6) create ecological space for people in poor countries.
One of the most moving moments of the event was the replay of Severn Susuki's presentation at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where she spoke on behalf of ECO, the Environmental Children's Organization, and warned that "you adults must change your ways." Severn, at the time a 13-year-old from Canada (and the daughter of Canadian environmentalist David Susuki), also spoke live before the audience from her home in western Canada and announced that she would attend and speak at the upcoming Rio+20 conference in June, once again on behalf of youth (although she is now a 32-year-old mother of two children). She said that she had previously been very discouraged at the lack of progress in global environmental protection and cleanup, calling the Rio+10 summit the "Rio-minus-ten summit," but would go to Rio to argue for three primary goals: (1) measuring what matters (e.g. global warming); (2) getting prices right on carbon; and (3) instituting fair trade. In the end, she urged all to "speak truth to power," and to overcome the human tendency to seek prosperity and profit without any connection to consequences. We all need to heed Severn's wise words.