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The President of the Bolivian National State starts with a passionate speech criticizing the conference to abuse the environment to serve the goals of all players. He says that the resolution wants weak states with weak institutions. He makes a number of examples of how Bolivia is different in how it assures a harmonious life of all people and the planet. He says that Bolivia has passed a law two days ago that foresees the assurance of the well-being of Mother Earth, its restoration of health if needed. He demands other developing countries also re-privatize its own resources. Before he became president, water and electricity was privatized in Bolivia, now they have recuperated most of their own resources. He concludes by clarifying that for him, “green economy” is a new form of colonialism!
The President of Ecuador follows just as passionately highlighting the difference of CO2 emission between the 20% poorest vs. the 20% richest countries: for every ton of CO2 emission of the poorest countries, the richest countries use 83 tons! He criticizes the mechanism for the Kyoto protocol pointing out important loopholes such as the fact that governments were not compensated for maintaining forests, but paying for reforestation if forests have been cut down and sold and need to be reconstructed. He demands a compensation for not exploiting the 14 billion dollar equivalent underground oil reserves and therefore not causing CO2 emissions by leaving the resources in the ground. Ecuador has demanded that every nations recognizes the rights of mother Earth, that nature is not an object but a subject! He is frustrated that this suggestion was rejected. He concludes by saying that the root of the problem is in Europe and the U.S. where money rules nature. And that it is a big tragedy that the problems we face is not a technical one – we can safe the planet and all live well – but a political one. He reminds his fellow statesman of the girl from New Zealand who spoke yesterday asking that rather than saving their face, they save the planet. He highlights that 80% of the countries that have just attended the G20 summit in Mexico are not attending the Rio+20 conferences and don’t even care enough about our planet to come and save their face!
As I stand in the long line before for the security check it hits me: the moment has finally come and nothing but a 12 hour flight separates me from actually being in Rio! 12 hours is a long time and I wonder if we can really justify the negative environmental impact we cause with our travels to go to a sustainability conference. I ask my travel companion if he chose the carbon offset option that was offered when we registered for the conference. He tries to remember. Well, I didn’t offset and suddenly feel kind of guilty about it. My president, who is also coming to Rio, chose to pay for the $40 carbon offset charge. I remember how surprised I was and how stupid I felt. Part of the reason why I declined the charge was my insecurity about how my institution would feel if I chose to incur such a voluntary expense. While the environment is personally important to me, I was not sure I could actually impose this sensitivity on my work. My colleague sheepishly admits that he also did not choose to offset. We wonder why!? If we, two environmentally conscious, comfortably employed academics specialized in Responsibility and Sustainability wont do the carbon offset, who will? When booking Easyjet, we have a choice to pay more for the offset, so far I never clicked on the option. Making a “donation” which is how offsetting carbon feels like right now is contrary to the spirit I am in when booking a low-cost airfare. My money-saving mode prevents me from doing what is right.
When we dig deeper, we identify another disruptive emotion that perverts us: when paying an indecently low amount for a flight (Easyjet and co.) we somehow refuse to donate money without knowing what is going to happen to it. My colleague ventures that there are questions like “where is the money going?” and “will it be used in a sensible way?” suddenly come up. Not that such questions aren’t justified, but would we ask them before making a carbon-offset contribution while we don’t ask them for other expenditures. Not really consistent! I, for one, don’t consistently ask where some of the clothes I buy are made and under what conditions.
We further explore, what would change if we could choose where our money ended up?If, for example, we could select between investments to ensure biodiversity, reforestation, revamping production in the Northern hemisphere or social enterprises in emerging countries. What bothers me in particular is the idea that such donations at least partially end up in contributing to expand our already out-of-hand consumption pattern. I don’t want to support new innovations of even more stuff that I don’t need, even if it has a significantly improved carbon-footprint compared to the previous year’s gadgets I already didn’t really need. I realize that I don’t really know what projects can get funding from these offsets. I should read up on this on “my climate”. While it is critical to significantly reduce our footprint, we can’t fool ourselves by believing that investing in green growth will get us there. We in the wealthy West or North must fundamentally rethink how we want to live, what is important to our quality of life and as a result how we want to spend our personal resources (time, energy, money, and share of mind and heart) to live well and within the limits of our planet.
I recognize very humbly that I have a long way to go before I will be the kind of role model I would like to be. But, let us start talking about what we can do in every aspect of our life’s. And now that I am en route to Rio, my determination to make the best out of it increases by the hour. Two year’s ago we promised the U.N. a scandal and today we are ready to deliver it. Back in November 2010, I made that promise to the U.N. division in charge of the business sector (UNGC), namely to help save the RIO+20 conference with a significant, important contribution. With a scandal. What I had meant with it was that we would work on a radically new vision of how management education would contribute in all possible ways to a world worth living in. Already in 2010, it was rumoured that the 20th anniversary of the original Rio Earth Summit may well become another Copenhagen. A large scale disappointment. It became apparent that governments would not be able to agree on the kind of break-through agreements needed to assure the future of our planet. The private sector and namely business would have to make the difference.
Get an understanding of the key elements of a radically new vision for business schools and management educations by the driving forces and stakeholders involved in project 50+20 (www.50plus20.org).
We are many things: children, parents, neighbours, lovers, students and teachers, employees, employers or both, citizens, experts in some domains and novices in others, consumers, stakeholders, care takers and care givers. As human beings, we are the most advanced race on earth.
We owe this distinction to the frontal lobe of our brain, the Neo Cortex. It represents the centre for reflection, analysis and perspective. It is our most potent weapon to overcome and tame the reptilian brain located right next to the brain stem: this deeply en-rooted “fight or flight” instinct that has enabled our ancestors to survive and prevail. Yet, no other species has destroyed our planet more than we have. Our ancestors have brought all large animal species to extinction in a few 10’000 of years; we have transformed fertile land into desserts, and rivers, lakes and oceans into bio-hazards. Today, we use more resources than our planet can regenerate and despite the fact that we know this, we are unable to turn around the trend. The reptilian brain causes more harm than good and reactions triggered by conscious and unconscious fears often bear consequences that limit not only the well-being and happiness of a person, but may well endanger the well-being of communities, nations and the world. Connecting ourselves with our full potential, overcoming the reptilian instinct with more careful consideration and reflection, thus raising not only our awareness but our consciousness, is critical to fully explore the magnificent potential of our species and to preserve the world as our home.
The journey of developing the full potential of a human being is a personal as well as a collective adventure. It starts with a personal choice, a desire to look inside, to connect to what drives and motivates us. It requires us to dig deep down to render subconscious reaction conscious, to reflect to what degree what we feel, think and do are triggers of deeply instilled automated fear-based mechanisms. The path requires courage, patience, persistence, humility and compassion – first and foremost with ourselves. Increasingly, this path will lead us to become more reflected, conscious and truly human beings, able to treat others with this same compassion, patience and humility. At some point, when we are able to truly embrace that we are part of one – all of us, humans, plants, animals, all living beings on earth – when we feel this in every cell of our body, we have the potential to become truly enlightened leaders. This journey is what leadership training needs to put in motion and while no training can guarantee such an outcome, it is this end goal that represents the core of a truly relevant management education of the future.
 Tim Flannery: “Here on Earth” (2010)
 In 1969, the Cuyahoga River (Ohio, USA) was polluted with chemical toxics to such an extent that it took fire. This represented a turn-around moment for the environmental movement.