The depiction of Earth as Blue Marble was devoid of humans and symbolized ecological transcendence; critical voices were highly suspicious of the accompanying representation of the "global 'We' that bore no traces of colonialism or capitalist exploitation", as David Rojas writes. Scholars also criticized that "such earthwatching risks enshrining Northern experts as 'ecocrats' (Arturo Escobar) who bear the responsibility of managing the planet." In Rio+20, these issues remained on the agenda, but in the (imagery of) antropocene, Earth indeed is now inhabited and populated.The antropocene video shows how in the past 250 years, the industrial revolution crept like a wildfire all over Earth,
a beautiful, irregular cascading network of lights—cities, roads, air and sea travel routes—progressively spreading across the globe as it illuminates Earth’s night. In the video’s last few seconds, the mass of the planet—continents, oceans and the atmosphere—gradually fade out. Nothing remains but a diaphanous sphere of anthropogenic lights floating in space.Rojas contrasts this imagery with a heated debate on a Rio+20 panel between Isabella Texeira, Brazil's Minister of the Environment, and two demonstrators who challenged the assumption of successful Brazilian environmental politics. It is worth watching this debate on the video at least for a moment, even when you are not fluent in Portuguese:
"Texeira, did not reply as an 'ecocrat' who would place herself above her critics - at Blue Marble height - (....). Rather, she submerged herself in the heat of of debate and (...) presented herself as a leader who was capable of working in an impossibly imperfect world where success was redefined as the capacity to endure failure."Rojas' senior informants, Brazilian NGO environmentalists who had worked closely with Texeira, had long left the attempt to protect "Nature" and an environmentalism which transcends nature, but lets untouched the difference between North and South, rich and poor:
My informants assumed that in a world fragmented along economic and geopolitical lines, some degree of environmental degradation was unavoidable. Moreover, they focused on two goals. First, delaying and managing severe environmental disruptions (an adaptation approach); second, building global markets on which competing stakeholders could come together and define the price they are willing to pay for preserving and destroying environmental services (a public-private-partnership and “green economy” approach).But even this strategy which embraces failure in order to avoid or delay the tipping point in deforestation; his informants
witnessed how climate change diplomacy had failed to produce any discernible patterns—only a continuing unraveling of our common worlds. As if, while trying to avoid the violence associated with ecological transcendence, we had reached the point at which iconoclasts frequently arrive: the sanctification of violence as a transcendental horizon.This snapshot from Rio+20 gives a disturbing picture of the dilemma environmentalism is facing today, and what is at stake on global climate negotiations. Maybe this is due to the slight shift of perspective from North to South which David Rojas presents here. It makes a difference.