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Post Mortem: Grist’s angry-humor review of the Rio+20 Earth Summit

It was billed as one of the world’s most important — and biggest– meetings, the UN Earth Summit aka Rio+20.

There was plenty of international media attention leading up to and during this three-day meeting of some 45,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The confab was devoted to finding consensus solutions to problems like climate change, increasing population pressure on natural resources, economic inequity and other issues subsumed under the kitchen-sink categorization of ‘sustainable development.

As you may have heard, which NPR and others reported last week, the meeting was pretty much a dud.

In short, Rio+20 adhered to a new axiom I believe I have invented (and so trademark) which I dub the Law of Confabs: A meeting’s chance of accomplishing anything is inversely proportional to its importance. 

Arguably, the point of Rio+20 was to deal with the biggest threats we face on the planet. You’ve probably either read all about Rio or successfully ignored it (with help from the lackluster coverage by most American media). But if you remain interested, I think this story today from the Grist provides the best and most hilarious overview. Author Greg Hanscom asks Did Rio do any good?

The Earth Summit is mercifully over, leaving us all to wonder: What the hell happened last week? Did the end result justify the 3,600 tons of CO2 generated by the UN delegation alone? And has anyone seen my pants?

For a rosier view of the meeting, read The Guardian’s John Vidal’s post Reasons to be Cheerful.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.