Sunday Jun 17, 2012
Yesterday as I sat on the Selaron stairs I realized that these stairs had a great story to tell the UN.
On Saturday morning I had the chance to attend a briefing with Jonathan Pershing, the US negotiator. It was at the Windsor Plaza where he was staying and in a medium sized room he addressed the 15-20 US youth there. He was as always light on the topics and with on my opinion classic political responses. He started by giving a context or explanation of the Rio process. He mentioned the civil society component and said he wished it was more connected. He went on and mentioned the NGO community and how for him one of the most important things was that we all make connections and something different because of Rio. In the end he said we should not expect something too big from Rio because the economy worldwide is weak. Then an employee of the EPA talked about a project they have called Catalyzing Investment in Urban Sustainability. Basically what they do is to bundle small sustainability projects in to big projects so they can get investors interested. They are starting with projects in Philadelphia about controlling storm water. To check more info about this project go to www.epa.gov/jius
I have been too many briefings with this negotiator before. He does bring good points to the table but still does not see the urgency about the issue and the need we have for more leadership and commitment from the US. He mentioned how important it is that we connect with other NGOS here in Rio. This is a good point and a lot of the networking we do here build our organizations. But in the end is this not “preaching to choir”?
Indeed we are at the end of an era of simple investments as Pershing said. But I don’t think we should be talking about money investment but people being invested. We are investing the lives of people; we are investing our resources for the sake of our economy.
Then at night I sat in the Stairs of Seladon in Lapa. “In 1990, Selarón began renovating a dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbors mocked him for his choice of colors as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colors of the Brazilian flag. It started out as a side-project to his main passion, painting but soon became an obsession. He found he was constantly out of money so sold paintings to fund his work. It was long and exhaustive work but he continued on and eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors” Now the steps are an icon of that community and are visited by people from all over the world. “There are 250 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. No sooner than one section of the steps are 'finished', Selarón starts work on another section, constantly changing it so that it is an ever evolving piece of art. Selarón considers the work as "never complete and claims that "This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death"
So the UN should visit these stairs and realize that we can truly create something together. Even if international negotiations are hard and long they should have something to bring at the end. These stairs started in 1990 and two years after the UN meet in Rio. The UN should take Selaron’s example and create a diverse text that includes everyone and that can be visited by many.
“The process of working on the stairway has cost Selaron – quite literally – blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the numerous telephone line disconnections and the occasional threat of eviction due to unpaid rent. Like many artists, Selaron is a man possessed, his stairway a labour of love.”
Text from: http://www.thetravelrag.com/docs/10102.asp
Picture from: http://www.shafir.info ceredit to Alexander Shafir