The most dramatic technological transformation in history – involving information technologies, biotechnologies and engineering – has occurred since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992; during the same period, however, governments have systematically downsized or eliminated their capacity to understand science and monitor technologies. While technology has thus far played an extraordinarily prominent role in preparatory documents for Rio+20, technology’s potential contribution to sustainable development and/or new Green Economies cannot be realized as long as the world lacks trusted and transparent mechanisms – at global, regional and national levels – for technology evaluation. The absence of such mechanisms incites distrust and invites disaster.
At Rio+20, governments need to adopt forward-looking strategies that will make tangible progress toward sustainable development through policies empowered to:
- Assess in a comprehensive way the social, economic and ecological impacts of new technologies and to share information about them;
- Ban geoengineering (the large-scale technological manipulation of the Earth’s systems as they affect the climate; and
- Support small-scale peasant-led agriculture that reduces waste, protects biodiversity and enables rural livelihoods.
All of this must be accomplished with the active participation of civil society groups, especially the communities that are most likely to be affected by decisions at the Summit.