From Stockholm to Rio

Bo Landin, science journalist and biologist

Stockholm, 1972. For the first time, world leaders gathered to discuss the environment under the leadership of the United States. I was 20 years old and the youngest journalist reporting from the summit. While Scandinavians discussed saving the environment, environmental activists from Asia, Africa and Latin America were talking about the universal right to welfare and democracy and eliminating poverty. We had just seen the first images of earth photographed from space – a planet encapsulated by a life-sustaining but thin and delicate atmosphere. In Stockholm, two world views collided: North and South, with contrasting perspectives on sustainable development on our shared planet.

Today, many people look back on that conference in Stockholm as the beginning of an era of environmental awareness and action. In Sweden, a strong and informed public opinion evolved, pushing government and business to adopt new laws and regulations in favour of the environment.

I personally witnessed how the Environmental Images television programme in the late 1980s helped turn the public against the production of bleached paper. Consumer pressure and environmental journalism led to the introduction of eco-friendlier paper.

Forty years after Stockholm, it is time for a new environmental summit. The third time around, world leaders have another chance to take public opinion on sustainable development seriously.

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