Dispatches from Rio+20: Talking grassroots change
By Valerie Davis, EnviroMedia Social Marketing
Consumers can no longer wait around for business and government to implement sustainable practices that protect people and the environment. It’s time for consumers to demand it. At Rio+20, Unilever CEO Paul Polman said it. Demonstrators said it. Miguel Lago said it.
Wait. Who’s Miguel Lago?
He’s the 24-year-old, Paris-educated "carioca" (native of Rio de Janeiro) behind Meu Rio (My Rio) — an online portal that provides tools to demand transparency in local government.
For instance, when the city was spending less than the constitutionally required 25 percent of its budget on education (it was only 18 percent), Meu Rio went into action. The organization used social media to drive people to an online petition calling for an amendment to the city budget that would right the proportion spent on education — meaning moving some $500 million into education. It almost worked. Twenty-three of the necessary 26 council members supported the amendment. It didn’t help that the mayor moved the date of the city council vote at the last minute — causing Meu Rio to have to scramble to keep community focus on the issue.
Was Lago mad about the outcome? No. He said he was “happy” because he never thought Meu Rio would come so close to swaying such big change in a local government that’s not always so transparent.
Fellow EnviroMedian Millie Salinas and I met with Lago in downtown Rio two days after the conclusion of Rio+20, the United Nations sustainable development conference that drew 45,000 from around the globe. He wanted to meet away from the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana and show us old Rio, which is “much more interesting and beautiful.”
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