The world has come a long way since the last Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Twenty years ago, there was no Facebook or Twitter or even texting or camera phones. It’s not a stretch to say the Summit existed in a vacuum. Important discussions took place, and in order to know what those discussions were, the average person had to wait many hours to get the news report.
Now, much more than a discussion between world leaders, governments and businesses, this year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or Rio+20 is a conversation—and not just between participants attending the conference, but between spectators from around the world, including myself! Though I couldn’t attend Rio+20 in person, I felt very much a part of the conservation and was grateful to have the chance to participate in an issue about which I feel very passionate.
This is made possible by technology, of course, and the many innovations in social media that allow people thousands of miles apart to partake in a single conversation. Thanks to Zoomph, we can analyze this feedback and get closer than we’ve ever been before.
Since the beginning of the month, 418,699 comments using hashtags related to Rio+20 were generated on Twitter, with the potential to be seen at least 1,918,473,612 times (i.e. impressions). Already that’s more coverage than any single news source can expect to achieve, although one did influence the Twitter conversation more than any others. CNN’s Breaking News Twitter feed @cnnbrk was responsible for at least 7,847,129 impressions. Brazilian TV presenter Luciano Huck was also a top influencer as was Brazilian celebrity Marcos Mion.
A glance at the substance of the tweets themselves reveals the urgency of the issues discussed. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s opening speech warning that time “is running out” was the top tweet with almost eight million impressions. The words “future we want” and “end fossil fuel subsidies” top the list of commonly used words and phrases among tweets.
When you look at the geographic breakdown of the tweets, you see a truly global conversation taking place. Portuguese, English, Spanish, German and Vietnamese were the top languages tweeting about the conference. What’s even more telling is that Hindi and Mandarin did not make the top 5 list of languages used on Twitter, despite India and China being such prominent players in any discussion on sustainable development.
UCLA Berkeley professor of integrative biology Anthony Barnosky told the Washington Post that policymakers don’t realize how interconnected their communities now are. “People tend to think on a very local scale, and that’s what we actually need to get away from, both scientifically and politically. We have to realize in some sense, there is no local scale anymore,” he said.
Luckily and not a moment too soon, social media is making it easier for the world’s decision makers to experience this interconnectivity.