Sunday, 3 June 2012

Pre-Rio+20: thoughts and hopes

I am lucky enough to be one week from departure for Rio de Janeiro and the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20. As part of the Australian National University delegation, I am going to learn, observe and hopefully bring back some nuggets of wisdom on how good ideas become a great reality.

- I have always been under the impression that we are in a world full of great ideas, but they often don't get used
- I am particularly interested in cities and how they can become more environmentally sound or 'sustainable'.
- Australian and American cities continue to fiddle around with bad bike infrastructure and dodgy PT systems despite the amazing things being done elsewhere
Conclusion: Cities aren't great at learning from each other, especially if they don't feel connected.

When cities form policy, they do it based on the experiences and knowledge of their policymakers. Those people can only use ideas from all over the world if they have been exposed to them, and Rio+20 is one place where they can do that. The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives or ICLEI will be a meeting of city governments to share and swap ideas at Rio, and I will be there to work out exactly how ideas flow in the policy community, what makes a good idea, and how interested citizens can inspire their cities to get involved in the process.

I'm forming the impression that policymaking, while hopefully a logical process, is often driven by unexpected factors and always by the human element of government. Hopefully the downside to this (so messy!) can be counterbalanced by the great power humans hold when they become inspired by a good idea and start turning it into reality.

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