Why We Failed: Brazil and World Politicians Can’t See Humanity, Only Voters

Maldives Islands Everyone knows that the Copenhagen meeting failed in its attempt to impede the climate-change disaster. After two years of discussions, the meeting of world politicians concluded on a melancholy note, ending with a communiqué in which no one committed to anything, leaving things to run their course to disaster.

The entire world knows what is happening but is not able to impede it. What is worse, the failure of Copenhagen is the failure of the politics we are practicing.

For centuries, we have practiced politics in the same manner: we are leaders of countries concerned about the next election. In politics, humanity does not exist, only the voters. The next century does not exist, only 2010. The next generations do not exist, only the next elections.

President Obama said that he is not president of the world. He is, rather, President of the United States and must defend the interests of his country’s voters, who are concerned about changing their cars, increasing their consumption, and not about saving the planet. We, the politicians, are unprepared for planetary, long-term problems.

President Lula spoke to the voters with ecological sensitivity, proposing goals for carbon dioxide emissions, and also to the consumers, proposing reductions to the automotive Industrialized Products Tax (IPI) and defending the use of the pre-salt petroleum, which will increase the emissions.

The very appointment of Minister Dilma as chief of the Brazilian mission to Copenhagen is proof that President Lula subordinated the interests of humanity to the Brazilian electoral calendar. Not because he wanted to do this but, rather, because that is the logic under which we work, we the 21st-century politicians with a 19th-century mentality.

We, the politicians, have failed. For the last 200 years, we have been the leaders of a civilizatory course that succeeded in the miracle of consumer growth in each country. We are, nonetheless, incompetent and impotent in making decisions for course corrections. We are not capable of this because political logic does not permit it.

One proof of the stupid logic guiding our political steps is the only exception presented in Copenhagen by the President of the Maldives. He spoke for all of humanity because his country will disappear if the temperature increases only 2 degrees centigrade, raising the sea level and covering the little islands where all his population lives. Mohamed Nasheed spoke for humanity because this is the immediate, direct interest of his voters. It was the exception that proves the rule.

Copenhagen, therefore, was a failure from the point of view of the decisions of the nations into which humanity is divided. But, happily, it was a success from the point of view of those who are not politicians, those representing NGOs, universities, pressure groups.

It was they who dared to invent the proposal of a world government, with no possibility of political function, merely with a moral force. By doing so, they exposed the reasons of our failure: we are a political, electoral force, but we have lost the human, moral dimension.

This is our greatest failure: the inability to combine local politics with human morals. It was not COP-15 that failed; it was politics, which lacks moral banners. Until recently, we had these in the socioeconomic debate between socialism and capitalism, when we were speaking for the entire world.

Now the debate is a moral one between one type of civilization and another that we do not yet know, one that collides with the individualism of each human being, each voter seeking to increase his or her power of consumption, independently of the consequences that this may bring for future generations.

Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. He was a Brazilian delegate to the COP-15. You can visit his website – www.cristovam.org.br – and write to him at cristovam@senado.gov.br.

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com.

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