By Hannah Freedman
tor.jpg” alt=”" width=”540″ height=”353″ />“Everybody say MDGs!”
Ten people pose for a photo, ten people from ten corners of the world that never would have met if not for each of their unique sustainable development ventures. The Equator Initiative has awarded the Equator Prize to twenty-five incredible organizations that work to improve our world’s environments, economies, and societies. And all winners were gathered in the basement of Barra Arena, an offsite addition to the Rio+20 conference center. I had ventured out to Barra Arena to attend a different event that, upon arrival, was promptly canceled. Instead of returning to Rio Centro in shame, I explored for a bit, and stumbled upon the winning project leaders hanging out in a basement room, talking amongst themselves and sharing their projects with others. When I found them, Talemo Tukidia was presenting on his organization, Sisi Initiative Site Support Group in Fiji. Tukidia speaks no English, and had brought a friend to translate his mix of Fijian-Hindi into English. Over half of the room had headsets on, and relied on translators to hear how the Sisi Initiative Site Support Group united tribes to protect over 600 ha of forest. When Tukidia finished, a question on logging in Fiji was posed by a burqa-clad Egyptian woman in Arabic, translated by a patient translator into English, and then translated from English into Fijian. The room was full, absolutely overflowing with ideas and languages, and though the communication of these ideas was time-consuming, the excitement of every person in the room was clear.
Each project uses a community-based approach to improve wellbeing through sustainable natural resource management and conservation in a rural area of a UNDP supported country. The 2012 Equator Prize placed special emphasis on food security, biodiversity, and traditional knowledge and medicines. Each initiative was invited to meet each other and participate in Rio+20, as wonderful examples of sustainable development on the local scale.
The next presentation was Ana Isabel Arroyo presenting on Asociación de Artesanas Unidas de Los Límites in Colombia. AsoArtesanas creates handmade stuffed animals of the endangered cotton-topped tamarind monkey to raise awareness and improve income of local women. While listening through my translated headset (my Spanish vocabulary does not extend to the causes of habitat loss of tamarinds), I flipped the channels up and down. English changed to French, which melted into Arabic, and reformed into Portuguese and Swahili. As I listened to these languages, all saying the same thing, the size of our world came into focus. Our planet is huge, and the cultures that cover it are expansive, often creating divides. But the power that we have to unite and share ideas is equally as large. Rio was an opportunity for each of us to connect and create long-lasting partnerships and friendships. By sharing ideas and uniting cultures, we have the power to create the future we want, starting locally and growing. The Equator Prize winners have already started, and are leading the way for the rest of us.
Hannah Freedman is a Rio+20 delegate with SustainUS, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment in the United States. Through proactive education and advocacy at the policy-making and grassroots levels, SustainUS is building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Learn more at www.sustainus.org. Read Hannah’s other guest blog for us here.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.