Green Planet (Planeta Verde)/Jurists’ Conference, held at the Rio Supreme Court on the 16th and 17th
On June 16th, Bakary Kante of UNEP exalted the role played by the environment on sustainable development, arguing that the environment is not just one of three pillars because neither economy nor society can exist without the environment. In fact, the environment is the foundation of sustainable development.
On June 17th, Elvino Bonn Gass, a Brazilian Congressman, made an interesting remark regarding the interrelation of environment, economy and society. According to the economic ideology of the Brazilian dictatorship during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the country must first grow economically before distributing the wealth created. This kind of thinking made Brazil one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. Currently, there is a common thinking that the country should grow and distribute wealth at the same time. According to Deputy Gass, environmental protection should benefit from the same basic idea: countries must grow protecting the environment (not grow and protect the environment afterwards), otherwise environmental protection will never occur. Therefore, the idea proposed in certain countries’ statements that it is not possible to protect the environment during an economic crisis is a great mistake.
Finally, it is not possible to end this report without referring to John Bonine’s lecture (from Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide), on June 16th. He approached the subject of the right to relevant information on environmental matters by analyzing freedom of expression laws in different countries, demonstrating that most of them do not provide citizens with effective tools to access information which governments or companies are not willing to give. He also showed the wide discrepancy between the number of environmental lawyers that work for companies and those working for citizens, demonstrating that the problem is not only the lack of information, but also a deficient access to justice. He called for a minute’s silence for the victims of lack of access to information on environmental matters, and left us with a very inspirational phrase by Alberto Kattan, environmental lawyer in Argentina during the dictatorship: “Once you open your eyes in this world, it is a commitment.” There is no turning back. I wish the Chiefs of Government that are negotiating in Riocentro during the following days would reflect on this citation.