The Meta-Industrials, WSF, Occupy, and Rio+20

Date de la référence: 
14 March, 2012

Ariel Salleh*

Whereas the official pitch for Rio Earth Summit 1992 was "our common future", the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil this June speaks to a negotiating text called The Future We Want.[1] The question of course, is who is this "we"? Is it the 1% again?

Who is "we"?

According to the network Business Action for Sustainable Development, it is the "private sector".

Multitudes around the world are part of the private sector, whether self-employed, entrepreneurs, farmers or small and medium sized as well as large multi-national enterprises. The private sector generates most of the goods and services that are utilised every day and therefore must be actively engaged to address the implementation gaps that have limited the achievements of sustainable development goals.[2]

It is true that the growth-driven private sector is responsible for the global ecological crisis, but it is not true that business delivers most people's needs. For one thing, the majority of world food growers are women in the global South. BASD's inflated claim subsumes and invisibilises several other economic groupings. It is peasants, mothers, fishers and gatherers, outside of capital and labouring directly with natural cycles, who meet everyday life needs for the majority of people on earth. Moreover, this "meta-industrial" class uses modes of provisioning that already integrate precaution and sustainability.[3] Theirs are actually real "green jobs".

Meta-industrial workers constitute the very broadest base of what the Occupy movement likes to call the international 99%. And around two thirds of meta-industrials are actually women, North and South, engaged in life-affirming reproductive labour. If they can achieve a hearing at Rio+20, then a momentous step for global democracy and sustainability will have been made. The significance of this point is yet to be grasped by many on the Left. Nevertheless, the now decade old World Social Forum is - at least in principle - an instrument for drawing together workerist, women's, indigenous, and ecological voices, and as it looks towards Rio+20, WSF Thematic Groups have articulated a strong synthesis of shared concerns.[4] Traditionally, each movement has had it own objectives and discourse and WSF has been fraught with internal conflict. Now, the rise of Occupy and the Indignados means a new round of WSF self-examination and another potential fracture. But it is critical for activists to avoid sectarian strategising. The alternative globalisation movement is not even a 1%, and without unity of purpose, can easily have political realities defined for it by the professional managers of capital, leaving it open to the divide and rule of wedge politics. The crude BASD subsumption of all groups to the "private sector" is a case in point.

The BASD posture is a bid to promote the private sector as key sponsor and "ideas man" for reframing international governance institutions. The technique was pioneered by the Business Council for Sustainable Development in 1992 as it steered UNCED, the first Rio.[5]

Today, Elliott Harris from the IMF, announces a GEI (Green Economy Initiative) built on "the strengths of the market-based economy" but supporting this with a more "coherent institutional framework".[6] No surprise that the peasant organisation Via Campesina, a leading strand of WSF and the worldwide class of meta-industrial producers, reads the Rio+20 Green Economy as

... another phase of what we identify as "green structural adjustment programs" which seek to align and re-order the national markets and regulations to submit to the fast incoming "green capitalism".[7]

Technological innovation will be central to capital accumulation through this Green Economy. But ramping that up means ever more resource extraction, biodiversity loss, and energy pollution. In the words of ETC (Erosion, Technology, Convergence), advocates for people's science,

The big idea is to replace the extraction of petroleum with the exploitation of biomass (food and fibre crops, grasses, forest residues, plant oils, algae, etc.). Proponents envision a post-petroleum future where industrial production (of plastics, chemicals, fuels, drugs, energy, etc.) depends – not on fossil fuels – but on biological feedstocks transformed through high technology bioengineering platforms. Many of the world’s largest corporations and most powerful governments are touting the use of new [but untested] technologies including genomics, nanotechnology and synthetic biology to transform biomass into high-value products.[8]

The Green Economy is a circular and self-defeating strategy from an environmental perspective.

The key substantive issues for Rio+20 are energy access and efficiency; food security and sustainable agriculture; green jobs and social inclusion; urbanisation; water management; chemical wastes; oceans; risk and disaster amelioration. Greening the global capitalist system is deemed to "integrate" economics and ecology. At the same time, business and the UN recognise that "innovative instruments" for financing this must be consistent with "the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations". The major big-picture initiatives towards this self-contradictory hegemony are:

-- Moves to transform UNEP into a World Environment Organization;

-- Moves to assess the feasibility of Earth System Governance;

-- Moves to explore a new Global Financial Architecture.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the regional development banks, UNCTAD and the World Trade Organization will be asked to consider the ecosystemic implications of their decisions. In so doing, these neoliberal drivers of social hardship will acquire fresh political legitimation.

With guidance from UNEP, The Future We Want, also known as the Zero Draft, spells out terms of reference and potential outcomes for Rio+20. It builds on earlier agreements such as Agenda 21, the Johannesburg Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus, Doha Round, Istanbul Programme for Least Developed Countries, and the Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building. The Zero Draft also endorses the 1992 Rio principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" in redefining relations between the affluent global North and so called "developing" South. But while the need to remove poverty from the planet is right upfront in this negotiating text, other critical "p" words are missing. The first such word is "power" and the second is "profit".[9]

Rio+20 spins into view with networks, promo agencies, think tanks, websites, and conferences. The Canada based IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development) offers itself as a comprehensive "knowledge management project" in preparation for the impending "innovation culture". Proposals are coming online from serious bodies like the New Economics Foundation and World Future Council. The feminist network Women in Europe for a Common Future is engaged; ministers from the Congo call for new intergovernmental architecture; global policy meetings are conducted by facilitators with buzzy names like Bright Green Learning. In London, late March, A Planet Under Pressure gathering will be held under the auspices of the Royal Society. Described as giving scientific leadership for Rio +20, the plenary positions are given to the World Bank, a Shell Oil Company Vice President, and UK Chief Scientist. Attendance registration is at GBP 400 per head.[10] Elsewhere, Lund University in Sweden, the Australian National University, and Tokyo's UN University are being funded to host conferences on Earth System Governance.

But thinking publics are paralysed in a maze of acronyms such as IEG (International Environmental Governance); 10YFP (10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production); CPR (Committee of Permanent Representatives); EMG (Environment Management Group); IPBES (Intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services); GLISPA (Global Islands Partnership); ISFD (Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development); SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management); UNON (United Nations Office at Nairobi) and even COW (Committee of the Whole). Could words be more mystifying and more disempowering?

If Rio+20 achieves nothing else, it will forge a new and homogenising discourse of international governance, a shared set of social and material expectations across nations, classes, and bodies. Yet market logic like "carbon trading", "geo-engineering", or "climate smart agriculture" cannot restore broken life-support-systems in nature. - World Watch Institute calculates that 60% of nature's "services" have been destroyed by industrialisation since World War II.[11] The trouble is that economics describes an abstract idealised realm of human assumptions, whereas ecology describes an actual living material realm. There is a profound cognitive disjunction between the two disciplinary lenses. International consensus on an incoherent totalisation like the Green Economy will do little for sustainability - or democracy.[12] Rather, what a Green Economy designed by free traders will do is deepen the unequal exchange already existing between global North and South. In fact, it is simply the next stage in the history of eurocentric colonisation.
For the system of capital accumulation can only continue to function as long as it can draw on a surplus provided by others. Thus, capitalism is built on a social debt to exploited workers, on an embodied debt to unpaid women for their reproductive labour, and on an ecological debt to peasants and indigenes for appropriating their land and livelihood.[13] So too, history has shown that this process of extraction from the peripheries of capital relies on the development of a comprador class, groomed with the incentive of special recognition by the coloniser. This is the real meaning of "development" and such power relations are enacted today through the UN machine, through the business world, and through universities. High-level consultations for Rio+20 are currently taming a powerful managerial class of scientists, academics, and bureaucrats. Usually, such intermediaries come from marginal populations or poorer regions, but not always. Neoliberalism reaches into unexpected quarters ... and this is one reason why the Occupy movement's call to the 99% is inadequately thought through.

For example, women internationally are especially vulnerable to the privileges of comprador status as they strive to climb out of oppressive patriarchalisms, and to obtain better conditions for their communities. Such women are a ready target of the Zero Draft.

We call for removing barriers that have prevented women from being full participants in the economy and unlocking their potential as drivers of sustainable development, and agree to prioritize measures to promote gender equality in all spheres of our societies, including education, employment, ownership of resources, access to justice, political representation, institutional decision-making, care giving and household and community management.

This gender mainstreaming seems benign enough, yet the criterion for equality is "the masculine universal" - an idealised image of the emancipated woman as one who lives like a white, middle class, man. Women's material embodiment is neutralised, often with technological help. In this way, the unique skills and integrative insights that women learn from reproductive labours are diminished and "contained" as a valid source of alternative life-affirming values.

To illustrate this centripetal tendency: at the 56th session of the UNCSW (Commission on the Status of Women), UN Deputy-Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro endorsed the fact that rural women constitute a quarter of the world’s population; grow the majority of the world's food; and perform most unpaid care work. There is no doubt that they merit financing for water infrastructure and renewable energy, biodiversity protection, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Likewise, UN-Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet pointed to barriers in women's empowerment and called for more gender sensitivity in national budgets and in business. To carry these things further, a high-level meeting is planned for June, hosted by Brazil.[14] However, like the old micro-credit scheme, any new measures afforded to women will serve to recruit them as functional players in the capitalist system.

In the preparatory dialogues for Rio+20, "civil society" is used persuasively and often. Yet the term essentialises social differences and dissolves a myriad of grassroots struggles under the bland functionalist formula of citizenship and deliberative democracy. Worldwide, people see their national parliaments swept into the revolving door of suits - and find they have nowhere to go but the streets. This is why the World Social Forum formed following the Battle for Seattle. It is why the Occupy movement broke out across a thousand plateaux following the second financial crash in 2011. And it is why, at Rio 2012 just like Rio 1992 before it, the People's Summit will be located for security reasons a good distance from official UN and government proceedings.[15]

The Great Chain of Being

At the pinnacle of the Aristotelian hierarchy of Rio+20 stands conference Secretary General Sha Zukang, a Chinese career diplomat. He maybe less hands-on than Maurice Strong, the Canadian businessman who brokered UNCED in 1992, but he is pushing a Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, as well as women's and indigenous rights.[16] It is envisaged that after Rio+20, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development should be upgraded to Council status - CSD becoming SDC - and ECOSOC, the United Nations Economic and Social Council, will have a strong coordination and outreach role. But for now, as per the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, UNEP remains the official driver of Rio+20 under Executive Director Achim Steiner.

As UNEP's One Planet magazine explains, getting the Rio event up means orchestrating - intergovernmental, governmental, and nongovernmental humans. In the governmental sector, state ministers or their stand-ins meet under the rubric of GCSS-12/GMEF - that is to say, the UNEP Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum (Special Session 12). These national representatives are deployed to spell out a mix of new Green Economy models "tailored to different local and national conditions"; at once "pro-growth" but based on a measurement of well being that goes beyond GDP. Governments are asked to configure the Millennium Development Goals into their policy with a view to realising these by 2015.[17] In undertaking this work, the UN requires that states listen to both intergovernmental and nongovernmental inputs. A rehearsal for Earth System Governance is underway.

The nongovernmental sector is marshalled under the UN acronym GMGSF-13, which stands for Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum, currently in its 13th Session. Here a designated space is made for Women's groups, Children and Youth, Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, Labour and Unions, Business and Industry, the Science and Technology community, and Local Authorities. There is also scope, possibly ad hoc, for regional opinion makers. But with no acknowledgement of the dynamics of "power" and "profit" as economic levers of capitalism, there is likely to be a good deal of sociological fudging in the Rio+20 consultations. Coordinators of the Stakeholders Forum, like Felix Dodds, will have to keep an eye on this, as WSF participants certainly will. Preliminary arrangements give a nod to "vulnerabilities" such as gender and ethnicity, but class analysis is absent. Instead, business delegates follow the UK's New Economic Foundation in talking about "joining the dots", enabling integration of "the three pillars" social, economic, and environmental. But a very skilled transdisciplinary analysis would be required to tease out the complexities and contradictions that inhere in such a crude functionalist agenda.[18]

UNEP believes that the views of Major Groups and Stakeholders will readily converge on the global Green Economy theme.[19] Meanwhile, the corporate sector is being urged by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to sign on to a Global Compact, circulating as kind of individualistic rights based credo of 10 principles. The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) agrees with the Green Economy approach and the idea of a new architecture of global governance. In addition, ITUC prioritises procedure - access, right principles, concrete targets, and accountability. Likewise, the ICS (International Council for Science) wants clear definitions and measurable implementation. But it needs to be emphasised that if the concerns of Major Groups get tied up with operational matters at Rio+20, then capitulation to the status quo will happen by default.

It seems relevant to the political identity of WSF, that the only Major Groups reported by IISD as expressing material alternatives are those whose labour involves the hands-on reproduction of natural processes.

-- Women want their unpaid domestic contribution valued;

-- Indigenous peoples want secure land rights;

-- Peasant farmers want attention to local food security.

To reiterate: it is these meta-industrial workers whose local economic provisioning and care-giving already exemplifies sustainability. Inhabiting the domestic and geographic peripheries of capital, meta-industrial labour is largely ignored, even by many on the Left. But their labour already models the "green jobs" that the UN, private sector, and unions hope to "generate" out of thin air. Meta-industrial workers should be keynotes at Rio+20. On the democratic count they are a global majority and on the ecological count they are skilled managers of "nature's services".

Where are these workers in the GEC (Green Economy Coalition) forming around UNEP? Led by Oliver Greenfield, GEC associates comprise Vitae Civilis, Consumers International, International Institute for Environment and Development, WWF, Biomimicry Institute, International Trade Union Confederation, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Ecologic Institute, The Bellagio Forum for Sustainable Development, Aldersgate Group, Philips Global, Development Alternatives, the International Labour Organisation, SEED Initiative, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Global Footprint Network, Ethical Markets Media, The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute, The Natural Step, and Eco Union. If meta-industrials had a seat at this table, they would be readily overshadowed.

The Green Economy Coalition describes its mission as a resilient economy within the limits of the planet, but from a meta-industrial perspective, the GEC agenda is a very eurocentric masculinist developmentalist one. It is involved in research and product design, partnerships for local "entrepreneurship", grant giving, educational forums, and reporting. GEC entertains a mixed bag of themes - MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) - equity yet inclusive governance - competitiveness yet market reform - green jobs yet finance for technology - workplace standards yet best practice - and transitioning. There is some interest in an international environment court, although again, the question of global power relations under neoliberalism is not interrogated.

At the G20 meeting in Mexico late February 2012, President Felipe Calderon, intimated that funding for technology transfer offers a way for the global North to compensate for climate change and the ecological debt of colonisation. Again, the environmental imposts of technology are passed over in favour of "opportunities for growth":

... current high energy prices open policy space for economic incentives to renewables ... investors are looking for alternatives given the low interest rates in developed countries, a factor that presents an opportunity for green economy projects.

The G20 communiqué rallied to this call, by deciding to ask the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the UN, to prepare a report

... inserting green growth and sustainable development policies into structural reform agendas, tailored to specific country conditions and level of development. [20]

The Green Economy is contradictory for two reasons. First, it is embedded in capitalism, a system whose raison d'etre of profit depends on three levels of extraction or cost transfer. These economic externalities are experienced by others in the structural violence of social debt, in embodied debt, and in ecological debt. Second, the official Green Economy is embedded in industrialisation, and rhetorics of "dematerialisation" notwithstanding, even ecologically modernising digital production cannot avoid energy and resource draw downs. Each further advance in technology depends on a further cradle-to-grave cycle of extraction - transport - manufacture - transport - market - transport - consumption - transport - waste pit. In the human metabolism with nature, technology never solves a problem, the best it can do is displace a problem. The displacement may be spatial - shifted on to the backs of less powerful sectors of society, or the displacement may be temporal - shifted on to the backs of future generations.

Capital's last card

As capitalism exhausts the planet's capacity to provide material throughput for industrial "value-adding", it is not just new high tech "renewables", but global institutional architectures that are being devised to push against natural limits by enacting constitutional powers for Earth System Governance. Some 150 members of the official Rio+20 constituency - including Malaysia, Congo, and Peru - hope to see UNEP transform into a specialised agency with WTO like powers and capacity to simplify the 900 odd MEAs (Multilateral Environment Agreements). Others members favour social change strategies based on global treaties or regional conventions. As for The Future We Want, the Zero Draft confirms Rio+20 as a quintessential neoliberal arrangement - "voluntary commitments" to be recorded.

The logic of the Green Economy reduces society to a confused amalgam of imaginary and material interactions between "financial capital, human capital, natural capital, and physical capital". By imputing "economic value" to the life-giving capacities of "nature's services", metabolic flows must be reduced to imaginary tradeable units. Young people, small farmers, workers, squatters, grandmothers, and indigenous gatherers are planning to converge on Rio+20 to oppose this deadly commodification of life. But environmentalists like the Global Footprint Network give up the game when they say that "billions of dollars of investment" will be necessary to make sustainability real. Again, Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment, invites funds from "non-traditional sources" to help green the global South. Edna Molewa, South Africa's Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs hopes for "public-private partnerships" to multiply.

Middle class activists need to think carefully about the tactics of the ruling 1%. As the global private sector weakens governments, leading to cash starved public universities, academics are being co-opted by business donations for Centres of Excellence. In another way, the advocacy network, EJOLT (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), also walks a tight rope; sponsored by EC research moneys under the 7th Framework Programme. EJOLT runs a website, data base, workshops, policy papers, and offers a utilitarian focus on best practice, life cycle analysis, and fair "distribution" of "development benefits".[21] But in terms of cultural autonomy and global alternatives, its imperial structure may absorb grassroots energies, leaving master governance institutions with an opportunity to exercise "repressive tolerance".[22]

On the US West Coast, wired-up communities look to social media for answers and find "a fast-mutating array of high-tech opportunities to create new solutions to social and economic problems".[23] But IT is itself part of the problem; a voracious energy user and toxic polluter, not least to the bodies of assembly workers. Young activists need to look closely at cradle-to-grave accounts of the digital revolution. Meanwhile, the profit-driven corporate vision is thoroughly technocratic.

Collaboration and collective action on innovation and technology development and their appropriate deployment via sustainable consumption and production (SCP) are at the heart of greening economies.[24]

Here, even Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is scientised with an acronym - and it is telling in an era of "false needs" that consumption precedes production! But "at the heart" of this hyper-industrial economy, who collaborates with whom? Capital accumulation in the great world cities has always relied on forcing food sufficient peoples off their lands to become factory workers and consumers. And today, in order to keep the SCP model afloat in the global North, women from the global South are sent off across the world as cheap migrant labour and clean foreign exchange for home governments. The "knowledge base" enthusiastically propagated by UNEP and IISD and arguments for the global Green Economy are seriously lacking - not just in ecological literacy, but in sociological literacy as well.
Leaving aside the difficult history of the WSF, its Charter of Principles stands in strong opposition to any top-down form of globalisation directed by governments and institutions in the service of capital. The Thematic Social Forum at Porto Alegre in January 2012, has now issued a comprehensive response to Rio+20. The working paper, subtitled 'Come to Reinvent the World at Rio+20' offers a people's statement under the following heads.
1 Ethical and Philosophical Foundations: Subjectivity, Domination, and Emancipation
- Foundations for Biocivilization
- Education in a World Crisis
- Knowledge, Science, and Technology
2 Human Rights, Peoples Territories, and Defense of Mother Earth
- Right to Land and Territory
- Territory and Native Peoples
- Sustainable Cities
- For the Right to Water as a Common Good
- Health is a Universal Right, Not Source of Profit
3 Production, Distribution, and Consumption: Access to Wealth, Common Goods, and Economies of Transition
- Finance and a Fair and Sustainable Solidarity Economy
- The Green Economy: A New Phase of Capitalist Expansion
- Energy Transition is Urgent and Possible
4 Political Subjects, Architecture of Power, and Democracy
- The Commons: a Kaleidoscope of Social Practices for Another Possible World
- Civil Society, Organizations and Social Movements
- Governance and the Architecture of Power. [25]

Of course, the WSF continues to deliberate over its identity, as does the emerging Occupy movement. But a dialogue between the two around an external focus like Rio+20 may ground that, by articulating a division of political labour between the two arenas of protest: local and global. The current focus of Occupy on tools like collective vision, shared power, individual accountability, and strategic use of privilege - can refresh WSF thinking. But this said, the biggest challenge for the Left remains its ability to communicate with the broader community. As Chico Whitaker points out: if the movements constitute barely 1%, the 99% is really only 98%. Besides,

... a good portion of this 98% is only trying to survive or has not even the physical force to protest; another good portion is more and more happy with the incredibly rapid technological progress of their commodity and comfort equipments and gadgets ...[26]

In the 1970s, activists in the global North talked about "living simply so others may simply live". But this commitment was overtaken in the 80s and 90s by the rise of "professional environmentalism" championed by business through the UN sustainable development agenda. With the new millennium, Latin American states are revitalising Left politics, inspired by earth centered Constitutions in both the Ecuador and Bolivia. The indigenous principle of sumak kawsay, buen vivir, or "living well" has been adopted by activists around the world since the 2010 Cochabamba Climate Summit.[27] The precise meaning of these words is unique to their Andean cultures of origin. But broadly speaking, in the global South, wherever resources remain free of capitalist appropriation, "the dots" are actually still joined, and local people - precautionary meta-industrial workers - are "living well" in autonomous ecologically sensitive economies. The classic eurocentric division of Man versus Nature, and the metabolic breakdown that results from this historical anomaly is unknown here. At the margins of the capitalist economy, the earth is valued for itself, not simply as a resource for human profit. And where economics is an embodied practice, people find identity and belonging in working together with nature. A strong call for this kind of deep green common future is yet to be inserted into the Zero Draft.

It is neither possible nor desirable for all in the movement of movements to fly to Brazil for Rio+20. Besides, conferencing by the international economic elite contributes more than enough greenhouse gases as it is. Consciousness raising can be done where people live and the proliferation of Indignado and Occupy scenes in cities across the world is a gift to this deepening political integration. At home or abroad, the WSF text "Another Future is Possible: Come to Reinvent the World at Rio+20'' will seed many thoughtful transformative strategies. Among these WSF proposals is a citizens audit of global debt, space for alternative currencies, minimum and maximum wage levels, bank socialisation, trade regulation, a financial transactions tax, and an end to land, water, and biodiversity piracy. Educational mobilisations are planned for 15 and 23 June around the world under the slogan: "Stop the Green Monster, the Future We Don't Want".

A close reading of the Zero Draft suggests further life-affirming interventions such as -

-- Celebrating the Rights of Mother Nature in the Decade of "Water for Life". Just as human bodies are joined to ecosystems, land is joined to water, and water to air. Through living plants, evapotranspiration cycles fertilise land and cool the atmosphere. This ecological rationality is lost with market oriented climate solutions like CDM and REDD.

-- Endorsing the proposal for A High Commissioner for Future Generations and insisting s/he focus on a protective treaty covering the health and social costs of new technologies.

-- Supporting the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and matching it with a UN Declaration of the Rights of Peasants. Both should be cross-referenced to poverty, women, children, youth, land rights, livelihood, food sovereignty - that is to say, real "green jobs".

-- Converting UNEP's openness to "a mix of policy options" into a genuine exploration of non-violent decentralised alternative modes of provisioning: commoning and collective rights, cultural diversity, local autonomous economies from "simply living" in the global North to "buen vivir" in the South.

-- Seeking agreement that governments and multilateral agency decision-making and institutional modelling, uphold the distinctions between public versus private and science versus policy. The IPCC is a good place to start applying this.

-- Challenging the rhetorical "integration of social, economic, and environmental pillars" by demonstrating how the very machinery of a capitalist economy, the dynamics of power and profit, is inherently incompatible with social justice and ecological sustainability.

-- Demanding satisfactory attendance in training courses on socio-ecological literacy as prerequisite to participation in Rio+20. Workshops will include exercises in political reflexivity to enable delegates from the global North to recognise colonisation in all its forms. Current training courses by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development are a travesty of education.

Observing the interconnection between sustainability and peace, the WSF Thematic text argues that "a radicalization of democracy requires deeper changes" than UN reforms. The suggestion is to open up the Security Council to "new actors" - states, regional organizations, global networks - a new balance of power based on bodies appropriate to watching over life, peoples, and planet in a "biocivilisation". However, under existing global power relations, this vision could be readily appropriated as a step towards Earth System Governance. Would it not be better for the movements to simply occupy Rio+20 and close it down? Yet this too, would play into the hands of corporates and governments, particularly the US, who really want nothing to change. How do the movements deal with this tortuous ambiguity? My sense is that here the initiative falls back to Occupy with its essential task of building understanding and lateral support on home ground. Will these grassroots activists have the maturity and perseverance for this testing political work? If so, the dialectical interplay of WSF and Occupy will surely become a powerful historical force.

*Ariel Salleh is an activist and writer on political ecology