The first thing you need to know about me, is that my bag got stolen yesterday. The second thing, is that I am an organiser and campaigner from the UK, that works on the issues of green jobs, youth unemployment, climate and sustainability.
You’d THINK these two facts were totally unrelated. And that would be understandable. But guys, I need to make sense of this madness, and that involves connecting some dots, which is what we climate campaigners like to do.
My bag contents included my laptop, digital camera, video camera, and phone (and my wallet and favourite lipstick – sob). All essentials for your consummate professional youth blogger at Rio+20! I was going to interview young activists, capture exciting moments, and write inspiring rhetoric. I had big dreams you guys. BIG DREAMS. Now, I am writing on a borrowed computer that I have to hand back in approximately 15 minutes, and hoping that I have enough money to eat for the next few weeks (new diet regime?).
Anyway, mulling over this experience in the police station last night, I had two clear thoughts.
- I wish my robbers a slow and painful death.
- That this incident was a clear example of social inequality at work, and one of the very reasons why I campaign for social and environmental justice.
Despite its booming economy, Brazil has one of the highest rates of inequality in the world. More than half the population lives below the minimum wage, which is crazy when you realise how expensive it is to live here (so far, it is has been more expensive to eat here than in London)! There are also massive discrepancies between what different races earn, with Whites and Asians earning twice as much as Blacks and those of mixed race, who in turn earn more than the indigenous population.
It’s not that surprising that someone took my stuff. Because if they sell it, all of it is probably equivalent to AT LEAST 6 months salary on minimum wage here.
So, how is this linked to climate change and sustainable development you ask? Well, if we continue to develop a global economy that is mainly dependent on fossil fuels and that over exploits our natural resources such as water, minerals, and fisheries, we are looking at a world where inequality is even worse. A world where conflicts erupt even more frequently, as the scramble for land and water intensifies. A world where it’s that much harder to live, because food and petrol prices rocket. A world where we become used to putting bars on our doors, living behind locked gates, and averting our eyes when we pass people in the street, because we’re afraid of what they might want or need from us.
That might be how many of us live already. But you know what? I don’t want to live like that! Or for my children to live like that either. Does anyone? The craziest thing to recognise in all of this, is that we have a choice to turn things around. Because sometimes, we can forget that fact. Rio+20 is an opportunity to start new conversations about getting things back on the right track. Conversations about providing our young people with decent, green employment; about measuring our global wealth along measures of ‘wellbeing’ rather than GDP; about building alliances between nations and cities who want to take a lead and show that other ways are possible.
If we make a choice to participate in these vital conversations, to read up and get involved, maybe we will meet a bright future instead of a bleak one. It is these conversations that I will be following during my time in Rio. Searching for and eking out the stories that show the potential of a new green economy, and then telling you all about it! I’m here to serve. (If you want little snippets of what I get up to, follow me on twitter @hannathomas).
Who knows. MAYBE fighting climate change and social injustice will mean less stolen bags! Right? I live in hope!
About the authorHanna Thomas
Green Jobs Director at The Otesha Project UK, leading the work of the East London Green Jobs Alliance. MSc Climate Change & Policy. Tracking the negotiations through a grassroots lens! Rio+20 Fellow.