04 June 2012

Dam the River

Things are about to get messy in Rio.

The Rio+20 environmental [sic] conference is going to blast millions of tons of pollution into the air, clog traffic, generate thousands of tons of waste and overload the already taxed sewage system while purporting to resolve global environmental issues. Not that I’m skeptical, but unless we convince China and the USA to back off of coal consumption, or convince Brazilians and Indians to stop buying petrol consuming cars, or design our cities a little more intelligently, is there any way that this conference is going to do anything but make things worse? In the midst of a global economic crisis that not even the CRIBS have managed to avoid the first thing on the long list of trivial concerns is the environment. Second is health care, third education. As Zizek has told us, the capitalists can’t live without the environmentalists and vice versa, making them part of the cycle of creative destruction that keeps our happy globe tilted at 23.5 degrees.

The solutions for our collective problems are more likely to come from the parallel conference of the Cúpula dos Povos that will take place on the Aterro do Flamengo between the 15th and 23rd of June. While the VVIPs and heads of state are shutting down the city with their motorcades, regular people will be discussing more serious issues than the medieval concept of carbon credits (which to my mind are much like paying the Pope for indulgences). I’ll be giving a talk at the session sponsored by the Conselho Federal de Psciologia on the 15th in their session: A Psicologia e o Compromisso com a Construção do Bem Comum (Psychology and the Promise to Construct the Common Good).More specifically, we’ll be talking about  Direito Humano à Mobilidade: Crimes de Trânsito e Meio Ambiente (The Human Right to Mobility: Crimes of Transit and Environment). Should be interesting.

Federal Universities, meanwhile, have just entered into greve, that is, we’re striking. This is a huge novelty for someone who worked at universities in the southern USA, where it was/is ILLEGAL to form a union of state workers. There hasn’t been a real wage increase at Brazilian federal universities in ten years, the buildings are falling apart, and there is a noticeable shift towards the privatization of public institutions, ala the recent turns in the UK (that followed the sad trends in the USA). There is probably still some lingering perception out there that the Worker’s Party is a leftist government. While they do have some progressive policies, the general trend is towards privatization and letting the invisible hand of the market wiggle in mysterious ways. Most people get a solitary and salutary finger, while a chosen few get rather more happy endings.

The strike at Federal Universities means more, not less, work for professors and students. The demands and justifications for the strike can be found here (in Portuguese).

The IOC is visiting Rio this week for another series of closed meetings. Transparency continues to be a major problem.

The Vila Autôdromo, long targeted by our Sun King mayor for removal has proposed an alternative plan for urbanization of the community. The Vila is located in the northwest corner of the Olympic Park project, but was included in AECOM’s winning design, even figuring in the 30 year urbanization plan. However, Snoozman at the COB has said that there needs to be a transportation link between the Olympic Village being constructed by Carvalho Hosken (at a cost of R$500,000 per apartment) and the Olympic Park and that this transportation  line needs to pass through the Vila Autôdromo. Right. Now that there is a counter proposal on the table and the entire world is watching to see what the government is going to do, let’s see if they decide to do the right thing and open a conversation with the Residents’Association.

There will be a march from the Vila Autôdromo to the site of the Rio+20 conference on the 20th of June, starting at 8am.


steve said...

I lived in Fortaleza in the mid 1980's and the University Professors were all striking then...for the same things!

Also - I think your comments on the PT tending toward privatization are interesting. Do you feel they're moving right because they philosophically feel that is the best direction for a country, i.e. Brazil, or simply to keep the investment fluid (like China)?

Antonio Oswaldo Cruz said...

Don't you think they are not exclusive? Is not keeping the investment fluid one of the major priorities that make the right be the right?

Christopher Gaffney said...

Keeping the investment fluid is one way of describing what is going on, another is to say that this is a transfer of public wealth to private interests. I think all governments want to have money circulating but what they do with that money is the difference between right and left. The rightward lurch of the PT is taking public money, investing it in fixed goods, and then handing those gods over to private companies. The risk is entirely public and the profits private. If and where and when there is return on the public investment, it is unclear that that money will then be invested into social goods.

I don't think the PT is able to act independently of the coalition of business interests that call the shots in Brazil, anymore than Obama, say, is able to change agricultural subsisies in the USA, even thoug hit would be the "left" thing to do.

I agree with Antonio that priming the pump of investment with public money (subisides, tax exemptions, PPPs, etc) is what makes the right, right, and so very wrong at the same time.


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