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Sustainability is for life, not just for Rio

Posted by Nicola Sansom Activism and Community Campiagner

27th Apr 2012

It's been a full twenty years since the Rio Earth Summit. A summit where a 12 year old girl Severn Suzuki helped to hold world leaders to account and commitments were made to prioritise the environment.

Now, with Rio+20 just around the corner, how would she and you mark them out of ten?

I think we'd all agree that more must be done.

We are looking to see if sustainable development goals will come out of this process. Goals for us all to work towards ensuring tackling poverty and our environmental limitations are being taken hand in hand. Ensuring investment in small scale farmers, especially women, are going to be prioritised so that we can all have enough to eat, now and in the future.

There are some incredible strides being taken forward by local communities around the world to take action and innovate sustainable solutions; from adapting growing practices to reducing food waste. No matter how far your journey goes, it always starts with the first step.

Sustainable development means playing fair and making sure we are keeping our commitments to people living in poverty, now and in the future. It means, above all else, having opportunities.

Katie Boocock took the Grow campaign from Liverpool to Malawi

In Malawi, Oxfam volunteer, Katie Boocock recently helped to train local farmers in adapting to methods of 'permaculture'. This alternative farming method is more sustainable, and more productive than current intense farming models. If applied nationally, it could provide more work and more food.

Wherever you live, growing your own food and joining food co-operatives is on the rise. This helps to reduce intensive farming, and encourage organic, environmentally conscious production.

Sharing the skills and the knowledge that are already being developed out there is vital. As Katie notes of her teaching experience in Malawi, "It was amazing to hear that students didn't know the meaning of recycling and never understood the problem of littering. They were shocked to learn just how long it took for a plastic bottle to decompose."

When people know what the problems are, and are trained to deal with them, they can use their own creativity to tackle them in their own community.

Seeing the risk in North Malawi for the scale of land grabbing that is happening all over Africa and beyond, Katie worked together with twenty one local chiefs to spread the word about the importance of protecting land and water rights for the local community to be able to grow food.

What can you do?

You don't have to go all the way to Malawi like Katie to have a voice on sustainability. There is so much you can do within your local community to ensure that local people, businesses and government can be becoming more committed to a sustainable food system. We need to lobby the government to lead the way in an alternative, green economy. We must lead by example, too, by changing our own consumer habits. If we can do this, we can grow a new consensus, and a new future.

Download our Rio guide as a first step - though do remember that sustainability is for life not just for Rio!

Blog post written by Nicola Sansom

Activism and Community Campiagner

More by Nicola Sansom