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Rio+20: Earth Summit 2012

Rev. Neddy Astudillo
Reports from the People’s Summit at Rio+20!
June 27, 2012: Final Report

RIO+20 or -20?

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ended, but the dominant feeling among the more than 60,000 community and religious leaders gathered at the People’s Summit (the grassroots event at Rio+20), is that hope for the future of the earth can not rest on the role of governments alone.

While some progress has been made in the last 20 years, “the outcome document of (UN) Rio+20 does not reflect the urgency of threats to life on earth as presented by the scientific community.” said Guillermo Kerber, the World Council of Churches program Executive in the area of Care for Creation and Climate Justice. “It fails to update previous commitments of the international community, especially those in the Rio 1992 Conventions regarding biodiversity, desertification and climate change. There are no new, concrete commitments for the future.… The international community, having been unable to reach a consensus, opted for the lowest common denominator, avoiding any controversial issues. As a result, the earth loses, and the poor and vulnerable lose.”

Leaders from other world religions expressed concern that our credibility as bearers of the image of the Divine is at stake in a world where we allow so many to live in misery, in a habitat devastated by the pursuit of short-term self-interest.

In spite of all this, religious leaders continue to believe that we, together, have an important role to play in protecting and healing the earth, in the building of a world where all can live with dignity. Working together while each religion continues the mission of lifting up their own message for creation care is the only way we can forge inclusive solutions at this crucial time, they said.  “We do not have another twenty years to lose” was the common sentiment expressed at different settings.

Via Campesina Farmers, women’s groups, indigenous peoples and youth present at the People’s Summit all committed to continue their work in defense of Mother Earth and the rights of the least within the Earth. A description of the good life was lifted up as an ethical option by Liberation Theologian Leonardo Boff. It involves a mindful way of living: knowing how to eat, what to drink, what to wear, where to live, working as self-realization, loving and being loved, knowing how to listen (with the whole body), how to speak (to create and not destroy), how to dream new possibilities, how to give and receive, how to celebrate our spiritualities in a way that connects us with everyone and everything else, God’s creation.

Eco-theologian Ivone Gebara ended her presentation by saying to a group of Christian youth: “Reality will always be different than what I dreamed of, but when I participate, and do my part, it will always have an element that I dreamed of.” Everyone left ready to dream, and do likewise!

For more information:

Final report of the WCC

Inter-religious statement

The People’s Summit

June 20, 2012
Eco-Justice is Creation Care

Several young and older Christian religious leaders have shared in the last few days that many churches have difficulty joining the Eco-Justice work for finding it too political. Church leaders may be convinced about the need for eco-justice work (that is: going to the roots of environmental problems, while healing the earth and improving people’s lives in a sustainable manner), but how to translate this information and what to do about it as church remains a challenge at each context.  

I personally began my environmental work concerned with the unnecessary killing of dolphins by the industrial tuna and shark fisheries in Venezuela. When I began to study the issue more closely, I realized there was no way of saving dolphins without defending the rights of traditional fishing communities at the same time; changing Venezuelan fishing laws to protect them; and stopping the purchase of old fishing fleets from other countries that had already prohibited the killing of dolphins.

Eco-Justice work is complicated, and in many countries today is even dangerous. It touches and challenges many aspects of social life and special interests. But it is necessary,if we want to seriously and faithfully care for God’s creation in its totality.

Starting today and for the next two days, presidents and ministerial delegations will gather at Riocentro (the official setting for Rio+20), to agree on a final document that will define how each country will continue working for sustainable development. The document is called “The Future We Want”. But as expected, NGOs at Riocentro also shared their discontent with the document as it stands, and also more than 60.000 other people whom today rallied at two separate locations throughout Rio.

The message to government officials was:  You cannot have a document titled ‘the future we want’ without any mention of planetary boundaries, tipping points, or the Earth’s carrying capacity”.  Instead, NGOs began to collect signatures against a document that is more about “The Future We Don’t Want.”

For a fast an easy way to understand sustainability, watch: http://www.anped.org/

June 17, 2012
“A natureza é sagrada"
During a candlelight vigil at the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice, representatives of different world religions joined to pray for the leaders of the nations gathered at Rio+20. They prayed for justice for all people and the earth; for the right to water; the right to sufficient and healthy food; rights for traditional and indigenous communities, to live with freedom and their cultures to be respected; and for environmental justice.
Together, religious leaders also wanted to promote a culture of nonviolence and solidarity among world religions. “We only have one earth” – they said – “The earth is our home”. “We can work together for the healing power of nature”. “Let us stay together and see the world as one. God will lead us on our way.”
The Vigil included a Dedication to Mother Earth that read:
We are humans made of four elements: Fire, Water, Earth and Air…
Our soul represents the fire element;
Our blood the water element;
Our bones the earth element;
Our breathing the air element.
Our planet Earth has the same elements that we have…
The fire, that comes from the Earth’s center,
The water, represented by the seas and the rivers,
The earth with its forests, and the air that surrounds it…
We are all connected!
Considering this equality we ask for “Light”
For representatives from countries around the world,
to understand we need a “New World View”,
In which all human beings are valued as they deserve,
As well as life in its different aspects.
Do the leaders understand that the fate of all humanity has to be decided now?
The Earth will go on existing, but we won’t.
Remember, every leader: the Earth is our home! …
The Vigil ended with the blessing of sunflower seeds, by all religious leaders, and their sharing of these seeds with everyone in the crowds.

In Christ,

Rev. Neddy Astudillo

From Parroquia San José, Beloit, Wisconsin


June 11, 2012
Greetings from the Road to Rio+20!

In just a few more days, I will be joining the World Council of Churches delegation and thousands of other participants from around the world ready to witness the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20

I was there 20 years ago, at the Peoples’ Summit, together with other curious Sociology students and our Social Ecology professor. We slept on floors at people’s homes. It was an empowering and spiritual experience: witnessing first hand a shared worldwide concern for the Earth. It didn’t matter what language you spoke or from what culture you came.
At the time, I had very little knowledge as to what my own Christian tradition had to say about caring for Creation. No one was talking about it in the church where I was active. It was our Sociology professor who introduced us to the theme, and it lit a fire in my heart that kept me awake at night. I was ready to give my life for it, if necessary.
Now, twenty years later, I have the opportunity to return, as an ordained pastor and eco-theologian, and share what I now know with the youth who are part of the delegation of the World Student Christian Federation.During the days at Rio+20, I will be sharing with you news and information gathered at the “Religions for Rights” section of the Peoples’ Summit and the sessions organized by the World Council of Churches. I hope this information will be helpful to your own commitment for Creation care.

I am grateful for the opportunity that Lutherans for Restoring Creation is giving me, and request your prayers for my journey, the thousands assembled, and the outcomes of Rio+20. Please, feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions about my reports from Rio+20 and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.

In the meantime, you can read more about UNCSD and about the Earth Summit/People’s Summit.

In Christ,

Rev. Neddy Astudillo

From Parroquia San José, Beloit, Wisconsin