After months of hard work and planning, I took my seat on a Tuesday morning in the Rio+Social audience, plugged in my computer, my phone, and my other phone, opened up all of my social-media channels, and waited anxiously for the program to begin.
As others took their seats and plugged in, I witnessed firsthand a connection between those in the room and the thousands of tweets that began to stream in with the hashtag #RioPlusSocial.
From prominent figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio to concerned global citizens, tweets poured in, creating a global conversation. From U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraging the world to come together to tweets such as "Apart from the need to use our 2 ears to listen as much as we talk, we need to use our feet & hands for twice the action," the conversation focused on how to build the future we want.
As I listened, reading tweets and sending out my own, one key theme was woven throughout the day: This generation can change the world. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi banker and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, reinforced this theme when he said, "This young generation is the most powerful generation in all our history because of technology."
Truly, technology is the difference between the Earth Summit in 1992 and Rio+20 in 2012. Social media connect us instantly as one world. Rio+Social is about the nexus of technological innovation, social media, and sustainable development. About an hour into the event, the promise of social media's power was realized when the #RioPlusSocial hashtag trended globally on Twitter. In other words, Rio+Social became a top-10 topic of conversation on social media on the planet. Yes, I was in the room, but I was having a conversation with thousands around the globe.
The people of the world tweeted questions for our panelists. And through live streaming, everyone had a front-row seat for the interaction with government representatives, social-media pioneers, corporate social-good catalysts, foundations, celebrities, Nobel laureates, and U.N. leaders. And they were all there with one goal: Use the boundless reach of social media to create solutions for pressing global challenges such as energy, health care, the environment, and education.
Thousands of people from around the world spoke June 19, and what they declared was obvious: The future of our planet demands action now, and social media are important tools, both for ensuring that effective solutions are implemented and for empowering us all to help make our world better.
"You don't need a fancy title or huge sums of money to make a difference," Canadian activist Severn Suzuki told the conference. "You have a voice, now use it."
Now we must continue the conversation; we have the power to write, to tweet, to lobby, to reach media, to take initiative. We must not wait for others to make the change. We must work collectively to create the future we want.