Twenty years ago, Government officials from 178 countries and between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals from governments, non-governmental organizations, and the media participated the first UN Conference for Environmental Development in Rio de Janeiro to discuss solutions for global problems such as poverty, war, and the growing gap between industrialized and developing countries.
Among this crowd were Hazel Henderson, founder of Ethical Markets Media, and Thais Corral, one of the leaders of women’s participation at the Earth Summit in 1992.
“The original conference was the beginning of the environmental movement,” said Corral at her office in Rio de Janeiro where she runs Rede de Desenvolvimento Humano (REDEH) and Communication, Education and Information on Gender (CEMINA). “It turned out most people were concerned about poverty. Social justice is related to the environment – you have to see them together in a systems thinking perspective. This was end of cold War in 89 so this was really bold and they decided to go for something really different by creating platform of sustainability made up of the 3 sectors – private, public and NGos.”
Brazil is now becoming a leader in the international sustainability movement, although Corral says “Brazil is very enthusiastic, but not so great at implementation. Changing policy was the model 20 years ago and now it’s more about concrete change. In 20 years, you may not change a country but you may change a neighborhood.”
Some of Corral’s concrete projects include coordinating the Adapta Sertão Project which received a SEED Award in 2008 for its innovative contribution in sustainable development. Adapta Sertao is internationally referenced as a valuable model in creating adaptive strategies to climate change conditions in semi-arid regions of the world.
Recently she founded the Center for Innovation and Sustainability Vista Alegre, that focuses on strategies to build resilient communities in peri-urban settings. Corral is hosting the Resilient Cities Action Lab the week before Rio + 20 at the retreat center, located about 45 minutes from the airport.