(From Agnes – Tuesday 20 April)
Capitalism is crisis
I’m sitting here in the stadium waiting for the inauguration of the conference to start. Everyone is chanting ‘oye amigo el tierra esta en peligro’ – 'listen friend the land is in danger.' The stadium is filled with colourful flags and banners representing the many Latin American nations and organizations that are here, the sea of green from Via Campesina’s scarves and flags is notable. The sun is out and the mountains surround us – we wait for the stadium to fill and Evo Morales to arrive.
The inauguration starts two hours later with speakers from all over the world. I’m sure it’s well covered all over the press, but here are some things that stood out for me. The representative from Via Campesina talked of two projects – one of getting rid of the capitalism, imperialism and its false solutions – and the other one of constructing an alternative system that defends life stating that we are capable of creating this alternative! Somehow Via Campesina always fills me with hope…
The other interesting moment was to see the UN representative speak who stopped in the middle of her discourse to acknowledge the fact that people were yelling ‘fuera’ / ‘get off / get out’ whilst she was speaking. It was clear that the people have no hope in the UN process and did not come here to be given false promises, false solutions and guarantees from the UN. What struck me was that she defended herself by stating ‘we represent peoples too’ and I wonder if that is in anyway true?! Evo picked this up in his speech and said that the UN should be here, but only to listen and respect the solutions that will come out of this conference and through this a real dialogue between the people and governments in this world can begin.
Evo’s speech can be divided into two parts – first talking about the capitalist system and the responsibility that the developed world had to acknowledge in tackling climate change. He said that the last 20 years have been the hottest years in the last 400 years, and that during the same time 20% of the population has generated 76% of the emissions. The cause of the destruction is capitalism and it is our right and obligation to stop it!
The other part of his speech focused on the need to recuperate traditional indigenous knowledge and customs in order to combat the culture of capitalism. He started with the anecdote about having a headache: ‘When we have a headache the North gives us alkaselzer – this may stop the headache – but will cause a stomachache. I don’t understand why we do not take our own medicines, such as coca or chamomile teas.’ He could have stopped here, but went on to give examples of clay dishes as opposed to plastic ones, chicha (fermented drink) as opposed to coca cola, etc. A lot of people within the country were angry with this because it went too far and to some it was embarrassing, but I can imagine that some identified with the morale of taking in pride in traditional ways.
I’m not sure what I expected from his speech, but I know that we need more than words.
Rising Tide International
In the afternoon we joined the rising tide meeting with people from Australia, US and climate justice activists from Europe. It seems that in the rest of the world climate camps are organized by Rising Tide or coalition of groups and there isn’t a ‘climate camp’ identity as has formed in the UK. It´s also interesting that no matter where we are in the world, or how we organize, we face some of the same challenges of how to build an inclusive mass movement. It was really inspiring to hear stories from Rising Tide Australia and the actions that they were taking against coal (http://www.risingtide.org.au/)
Engagement with UNFCCC?
From there some of us went on to see what would be discussed in the CJN organized side event ‘how social movements should should engage with the UNFCCC process’. I didn’t pay much attention to those that encouraged engagement or started talking about mobilization, rather what struck me were two female voices that called us to action. The European Via Campesina representative that told us that there was no reason to think that any proposals from the UN or governments would get any better, we needed to take action ourselves. Similarly a Mexican woman who as it turns out belongs to the Rising Tide network called on us to not wait for the UNFCCC to deliver, but to take effective action now.