Our place in the world

Written by on 3 July 2014

Major events like the Commonwealth Games that pull people in from all over the globe can make people think about their place in the world.
Just as the Sochi Winter Olympics will be primarily remembered for highlighting equality issues in Russia, so too is the World Cup in Brazil putting the country’s own political struggles on the global stage after starting under a cloud of police controlling demonstrations using teargas and firing rubber bullets.
Naturally, for events that are beamed to millions of living rooms worldwide, there is an opportunity for a wider message to be spread too.
For the environment, Brazil is where it all started for many of today’s campaigners.
Often it was Rio and the first Earth Summit in 1992 that saw people take their first steps into the environmental sphere. If it was not the first time they had thought about the issues; for many, it was the critical moment that first crystallised the need to do something to help save the environment.
The bookmaker Paddy Power, no stranger to controversial ad campaigns, caused outrage a week before the World Cup as it released photos on Twitter with cleared trees spelling out the phrase “C’mon England”. Unsurprisingly, it was revealed to be a hoax and the company said it was trying to raise an awareness that the size of 122 football pitches is being chopped down every 90 minutes – urging people to join the Greenpeace campaign to save rainforest wildlife.
The Amazon, where England played their first match against Italy, is still – more than 20 years on from Rio – the focus for environmental issues.
An old school friend of mine now living in Ecuador is involved with campaigning to protect the country's natural resources. Eight million acres of rainforest in southern Ecuador are under threat after the 11th oil round. In addition the government had abandoned a promise in 2007 not allow drilling in the Yasuni National Park - in return for $3.6bn from foreign governments, the first time a country had proposed keeping such a large reserve permanently in the ground.
A film made last year, The Dark Side of the Amazon, showed the impact oil companies have had on the region and it is good to remember, as debate continues in Scotland over exploitation of rural resources, where we sit within a global context and the importance of getting the all important environmental decisions right.

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