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Rio 20: A Defining Choice

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Next week, 20 years after the 1992 UN Rio Earth Summit, representatives of the world's governments will gather again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to frame a global response to the Earth's environmental crisis. Debates leading up to Rio+20 are focusing attention on a foundational choice between two divergent paths to the human future. The Money Path

For money path advocates, money is the defining measure of value. Profit and growth in financial assets are the bottom line measures by which they assess the performance of both the firm and the economy. They value natural wealth by the price it will fetch in the market and look to global financial markets as the preferred mechanism to organize our human relationships with one another and nature.

They propose that the best way to save nature is to price her assets and sell them to wealthy global investors to hold and manage as their private property. Privatization, commodification, monopolization, and financialization, they assure us, will drive up prices and thus create an incentive to provide for their proper care to maximize a perpetual flow of earnings. The Life Path

For life path advocates, Earth is our living Mother, sacred and beyond price. Her health and vitality are essential to our well-being and are therefore a priority bottom line measure of economic performance. In return for Earth's gifts, we have a sacred obligation to future generations to protect and restore to full health the wondrous generative systems by which she replenishes her air, water, fertile soils, fish, forests, and grasslands, and maintains the stable climate on which our health and well-being depend.