2014 World Cup: is it sustainable?

17 giugno 2014
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daniel danmug_threequarter_bwThe 2014 FIFA World Cup is touted as being the greenest and most sustainable in history, with the final to be powered by solar energy. Indeed, the sustainability program is both formidable and impressive, at least on paper. A quick perusal of the official World Cup website’s section on sustainability reveals that considerable effort has gone into at least the outward appearance of sustainability. Of course, everything is not all right in Brazil, where the population struggles with extreme poverty and inequality, made all the more stark in contrast to the lavish stadium facilities which have been erected within a stone’s throw of the favelas. This is to say nothing of the enormous profit that (non-profit organisation) FIFA itself extracts from tournament while simultaneously leveraging their negotiating power to get tax breaks (they pay almost no taxes on the money they earn in Brazil), as well as changing the nation’s very laws to accommodate sponsors (prior to the World Cup, the consumption of alcohol in stadiums was not permitted for safety reasons). But surely a small amount of bad (or even a large amount of it) shouldn’t detract from the progressive steps made in the name of sustainability and environmental conservation. (…) Nonetheless (Editor’s Note) FIFA’s sustainability solutions seem much more like band-aids than real long-term fixes. By focussing too much on sustainability for the international stage in the narrow context of the World Cup, Brazil has ignored enormous problems on its own home front. “So what” if the World Cup is sustainable and solar-powered? It only lasts for a month. The legacy it will leave will be the ultimate badge of dishonour signifying our continuing inability to step back from our small bubbles of attention and influence to see the bigger picture and to do the right thing for everyone, and not just some arbitrary division of “us” (vs “them”). Undoubtedly the team that will eventually lift the trophy will consist of a group of extremely talented footballers, but I would bet that it won’t be a team composed entirely of forwards, or of goalkeepers for that matter. It will be composed of a team in which every player plays his part for the benefit of the team. A team in which no player decides that they don’t want to play all of a sudden, and certainly where no player decides to go against their own team (and in the context of this metaphor, the Brazilian team’s own goal in the opening game is perhaps worrying sign). For a team to be successful, they must all at least be on the same page. The protestors marching down the streets of Brazil are unequivocal evidence that humanity is unfortunately not yet on the same page – not everyone on team Brazil gets to have possession in the game, it seems. Reflections on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, by Daniel Yeow (Worldwatch European Newsletter, June 2014)


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