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Can’t wait, won’t wait

On World Earth Day, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental management (CIWEM) believes it essential that this year’s Rio + 20 Earth Summit must be as defining as its 1992 forebear, or more so.

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Without a dramatic change in stance from key global political players, prospects for a sustainable future are bleak as the environment sinks down the political agenda and the green movement struggles to provide solutions and leverage appropriate with the scale of the challenges faced by humanity.

After expectations for the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 were hugely inflated, only to broadly disappoint, commentators have warned that expectations of the landmark meeting should be tempered in order to avoid similar disappointment at the outcomes. Yet CIWEM believes that the need for action has never been more urgent. Without dramatic changes to governance and the priorities around which many societies throughout the world function – based on perpetual growth and consumption in a world of finite resources – climatic tipping points are likely to be reached, vital species populations crash and essential ecosystem services lost.

The role of the environment movement has never been more important, yet it is failing to sell the message sufficiently well to make decision makers prioritise the environment and its crucial role in a more sustainable future for humanity. In this context, it must pull out all the stops to convince leaders that action and outcomes from Rio must lead to marked change in how the global community responds to the environmental crisis.

CIWEM Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says:

“This year’s World Earth Day slogan is ‘the World won’t wait’. This couldn’t be more accurate. The world won’t wait for humanity to change. One thing we can be sure of is that life on Earth will continue in some form or other, with or without humankind. We have the opportunity to adapt our value systems and behaviour in order to prolong our stay on this planet but we are running out of time to do so. The recent evidence on the plight of bees and their importance to our agricultural systems worldwide is just one indicator that time is running out for us to moderate our impacts on the planet’s supporting services. The environmental movement has achieved great things in the past half-century, but the challenges we face are huge political mountains beyond the reach of individual campaigns. The big NGOs and others must rediscover the radicalism of their youth and engage more concertedly with the conjoined issues that make them uneasy, such as population and consumption growth.”

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