This is the first part of a series of interviews with key actors in global environmental politics about the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012. The interviews aim to provide some of the contours of the debate, discussion, and wider impacts of the Green Economy and its articulation. By agreeing to the interview, the participants do not endorse any of the comments, themes, or ideas of the other posts on this blog.
Ricardo Navarro has a long and distinguished history of working in environmental affairs in El Salvador. He founded the Centro Salvadoreño de Tecnología Apropiada (CESTA) which is now affiliated with Friends of the Earth and which participates in direct environmental action in El Salvador. The winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1995, named one of Yes Magazine’s People we Love, and numerous other recognitions. His Goldman biography reads: “As president of CESTA – El Salvador’s largest environmental NGO – Navarro, an engineer by training, has worked in partnership with urban and rural communities to provide technical assistance for an array of appropriate technologies.”
Interview with Ricardo Navarro (2/21/2012 via email)
Will your organization be attending the Rio+20 Conference? Why or Why not?
RN: Yes for the simple reason that it is going to be a conference where major economic and political forces are going to be present and we have the duty to try to influence them to make the right decisions.
For you, what would be an essential component of a Green Economy?
RN: First of all the major component of a green economy would be to realize that the present political and economic system is the main responsible cause of the severe social and environmental crisis facing the world. If we ever want to have a real green economy we would have to get rid of ideas such as permanent economic growth, absolute freedom to produce, trade and consume, fossil fuel use, etc.
What hopes do you have that the Rio+20 Conference will be able to contribute to a sustainable environment for the future?
RN: The way I see the conference developing, I have little hope, because the major economic and political forces consider a green economy as the classical neo liberal economy painted green, by planting some trees and using some solar collectors.
What hopes do you have that the Rio+20 Conference will be able to contribute to improving the livelihoods of people around the world?
RN: Again, I see no hope unless major political, economic and technological changes be made.
Do you believe that the Rio+20 Conference will impact your work in El Salvador?
RN: Conferences like Rio + 20 and the Climate Change COP’s help to give the government of El Salvador new ideas they can use to have a better discourse on environmental issues, without really improving the situation and even some times making it worse. For example, the government of El Salvador is incinerating toxics, burning tires and promoting vegetable energy plantations, with no concern for the social and environmental impacts of these mesaures. On the other hand the discourse is good, fooling even the UNEP that recently gave the President of the country the Sasakawa prize. That makes our work somewhat more difficult.
What possible outcome of the Rio+20 Conference would most positively impact your work in El Salvador?
RN: The best outcome I see coming out of the conference is that many important sectors, even some political ones, will see clearly that by painting the economy of color green, the social and environmental crisis are not going to be solved, that major structural changes need to be made. That will more allies into the struggle.
What lessons would you have for actors around the world trying to improve the environment and the livelihoods of people around the world?
RN: The main immediate lesson would be to raise awareness on the issues, because if we are not aware we do not act. These consciousness raising requires to look not only at the immediate causes of the crisis but also to the structural causes that very often are at the political and economic domain.
Thank you Ricardo Navarro for his continual efforts on the environment and for participating in this interview!