It's the Rio Thing
Alas, even the weather didn't seem interested in helping this ambitious environmental conference to succeed. The first rays of the sun hid behind a thick morning haze.
Even thicker was the oratorical haze generated by official delegates from 178 nations and the 40,000-odd environmentalists, industrial lobbyists and activists of every stripe and color who came to cheer or jeer from the sidelines. Spiritual leaders from the Dalai Lama to Shirley MacLaine dropped by. Senators Al Gore of Tennessee, Tim Wirth of Colorado and Larry Pressler of South Dakota were among members of Congress who came to advise and dissent, and erstwhile presidential hopeful Jerry Brown flashed his 800 number but pleaded, "Don't call it from Rio!"
The atmosphere within Rio Centro was mostly dour, but elsewhere the city loosened its necktie. Jane Fonda and Ted Turner jetted in for 36 hours. Placido Domingo, the Beach Boys and John Denver performed. Roger Moore and Olivia Newton-John earned out official functions as U.N. ambassadors for UNICEF and the environment. And Bianca Jagger, River Phoenix, Jeremy Irons and Edward James Olmos were there because, well, Rio, for the moment at least, was theater.
The principal stage was Rio's Flamengo Park, where hundreds of environmental groups from around the world manned booths hawking green ideas (Grandmothers Against Nuclear War) and gadgets (portable solar cookers). Jonas Froberg, 22, a ponytailed and barefoot Swede, sat on the ground and thanked bananas and pineapples as he ate them. A shirtless magician in a tuxedo ate flaming coals to protest world hunger. A Brazilian religious sect, celebrating Sacred Village Night, drank hallucinogenic tea. "It's all the nutters in the world," exclaimed Mark Edwards, a British photographer. "Still, there's more energy and creativity here than at the main conference."
"People do these crazy and wonderful things," said Branca Moreira Alves, 52, a Rio feminist. "Despite our planet's troubles, we're hopeful still."
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