Last but not least, I end up in Rio de Janeiro, the end destination of the journey, in which I questioned how cities worldwide are working on sustainability. A quest which puts lots of question marks and provided a variety of answers; a journey which caused joy for the geniality of some, and sadness for the severity of the situation others and eventually of the planet as such.
The Brazilian capital has a lot of interesting milestones regarding environmental awareness and sustainable city development.
In 1992 this was the place to hold the first United Nations’ conference that shook the global environmental awareness and made many local and national governments put environmental policies in place.
Twenty years later, during the Olympics and the World Football Championship, the local and national government put a lot of effort in developing the city; however, for the foreign athletes and tourists, rather than for its own citizens. Fences were built to hide the favelas and other elements demonstrating that the city’s sustainability was far below its own statements; repeating Michael Jackson’s refrain ‘They don’t really care about us’.
Economic vs. Ecologic Interests
Anno 2018 we’re at another turning point in history, the winning presidential candidate means a loss for the environment. By declaring the rainforest as an ecological meaningless resource, and an economic new domain to exploit, the planet might face another challenge.
Nevertheless, the Brazilian president is not the only one putting off global environmental interests and putting national economic interests first. Further North, Washington faces the same dilemma, with Trump’s withdrawal of the Paris Agreement.
Even though both countries speak out loud what they are up to, many others are putting economic interests above ecological interests as well. Here is where often cities come in and try to bridge both domains, like the states and cities in the USA pursuing environmental goals despites Trump’s withdrawal. Or the German cities taking the national politics to court to enforce diesel bans in their city.
The Day of Tomorrow
So, one day, I visit the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio, to have a look at the day after tomorrow, which hopefully remains but a wicked movie. A part of the museum is dedicated to the Anthropocene, the period of history in which human beings are decisive for the outlook of the Planet Earth. It is about high rates of urbanisation, congested streets, polluted air, and a rising global temperature, which causes flood, starvation, migration and death.
Walking in this part of the museum is like walking in the apocalypse, page by page, the story becomes darker.
A month later on a climate conference these pages become stories of flesh and bones told by the participants, not in a far future, but at this moment, everywhere in the world. Sometimes I wished to wake up out of a bad dream, but this is it. Here we are. Nevertheless, the good thing I learned is that there is a possibility still. ‘There is hope left,’ told the scientist, who’s working on climate change for decades now. ‘However, It won’t be easy.’