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Goldman Prize board president calls on leaders to lead at Rio Earth Summit

May 14, 2012

In the weeks leading up to the Rio+20 Earth Summit, we’ll be posting blog entries that celebrate environmental achievements accomplished at the grassroots level over the past two decades while urging government leaders to step up to the challenge of sustainable development.

As the first part of a this new blog series, we’re pleased to highlight excerpts from Douglas Goldman, the Goldman Environmental Foundation board president’s speech at the 2012 Prize ceremony in Washington DC, where he praised grassroots activists for their environmental accomplishments and called out the vacuum of leadership from government leaders around the world:

The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio was the first time throughout history that leaders from around the world gathered for the sole purpose of addressing our planet’s environmental challenges.

Today, we are now 20 years past that hopeful effort in Rio. Regretfully, there is little to show at the global leadership level in the fight against climate change. Climate protocols have been stalled; the obligations promised in the Convention have gone unmet.

Lest we throw up our hands and give up hope, there is a silver lining to this tale of woe and dashed expectations. I am referencing the heroic efforts of grassroots activists who have taken on the lion’s share of environmental protection work over the past couple of decades.

Once again, our world’s nations will gather in Rio de Janeiro to address an issue that has the potential to destroy our collective civilization.

We will look to grassroots activists to demonstrate a path for our leaders to follow. They will be the ones pressuring their governments to take bold actions to meet the global challenges of assuring clean water, renewable energy, and food security. Nevertheless, these environmental heroes need their governments to take a stand, support their work, and represent their voices on the international stage.

The 2012 Earth Summit in Rio presents a real opportunity for global leaders to set international standards for sustainable development. Grassroots activists are doing their share to protect our environment. What is missing is our leaders coming together and doing what their titles imply—lead. Be warned that time is running out on these opportunities to redeem our future.

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