Rio+20 + #OWS = ?

Photo by David Shankbone (CC by 3.0)

As the nascent Occupy Wall Street movement continues to evolve, it seems to be targeting an unlikely ally: Rio+20. The predecessor to Rio+20, the UN Conference on Environment and Development, may have emerged out of environmental concerns, but it has grown to incorporate issues at the intersection of development, environmental degradation and economic disparity. One of the key concerns at the upcoming Rio+20 gathering will be how to build a global green economy in the context of a sustainable development movement that is working to eradicate poverty while raising the standard of living for whole populations.

The connection between poverty and economic development resounds particularly for Occupiers who see economic inequality and environmental crisis as stemming from the same social ills. As author and radio host Jerry Ashton recently wrote, “Whether it be saving a rainforest or saving a foreclosed home, the need is the same: something is terribly wrong and the word must be gotten out, and strong action applied.”

While #OWS actions around the world have often been criticized as disruptive and unproductive, OWS language on Rio+20 seems to focus more on collaboration with stakeholder groups at Rio+20. As Ashton points out, Ted Shulman, the Occupier spearheading this cross-pollination, is a veteran of collaborative technological innovation. The seemingly disparate voices at Rio+20 may greatly benefit from Shulman’s experience of applying the “open source” culture of the tech-savvy OWS movement to provide a platform for innovative thinking across interest groups at Rio+20. As OWS wrote in its declaration of its Occupy the Earth initiative: “…in truth we are the 100% – we should all strive to create a moral and sustainable future.”


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