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The People’s Summit Gets Underway at Rio+20

June 20, 2012

Goldman Prize staff members Melina Selverston-Scher and Jenny Park spent yesterday at the People’s summit in Rio de Janeiro. Touted as the ‘counter conference,’ the People’s summit departs from the ‘suit and tie’ formality of the UN conference and offers a more relaxed, grassroots forum for alternative ideas and discussion. An outlet for idealism, radical change and discontent- the People’s summit is home to sundry protests and ideologies.

The summit is held on Flamengo Beach, where meetings take place under bamboo tents and canopies. Information is shared through pamphlets, demonstrations, placards and performances. Upbeat music fills the air. People are dressed casually, if not in traditional garb, for there are many representatives from Brazil’s numerous indigenous groups. Rituals, body art and dancing are around every corner.

The feeling is relaxed and communal. Earnest faces of young activists mix in the crowd with stoic and hardened life-long environmental defenders- all united in their desire to effect lasting change and promote environmental stewardship.
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Melina poses in front of the beachfront entrance to the People’s summit. Later, she has a chance run-in with some old friends, reunited after many years by the pursuit of shared interests.

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The “quilt of messages” from people to leaders serves as a visually stunning call to action. Indigenous Karioca people gather outside the summit to make a unified entrance.

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Marina Silva receives a blessing from Karioca leaders before her speech, in which she told the crowd, “This movement doesn’t have a leader, it’s a collection of everybody.”

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Over 1000 people gathered on the beach, braving hours of hot weather to form a ‘human river.’

Above, participants wave to the RC helicopter camera taking aerial shots of the crowd. Below, the RC camera flies overhead.

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In the photo at the top of this post: A spectacular aerial view of the human river, a living work of art designed by John Quigley to call attention to the threats that hydroelectric dams (like the Belo Monte) pose to the environment.

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