(From Agnes – Monday 19th)
The day started at 7AM with us going to get our accreditation. In Bolivia you quickly learn that times are a reference and rarely observed. The accreditation opened at 8:30 and supposedly the working groups were to start at the same time.
While in the queue I spoke to two women from Oruro – they had taken a four hour journey to get there that morning and hadn´t registered online (this should not be a problem as another line inside was formed for those who been able to get online – this line was much longer and mostly of indigenous local peoples). Our conversation started with her asking me a simple question ‘What effects of climate change do you feel from where you come from?’ and my heart sank because I could already imagine her answer. My own answer was that right now where I am from we did not yet feel any impacts. I continued that we were here because we knew that this was a global issue and that we needed to do something to stop it. I then asked her the same question and quietly she replied that things were not the same – the rivers were dry, the rain doesn’t come, which means their harvest doesn’t come either. She said her community was worried. I said we were worried as well, but then her friend pointed out that this may be true, but that there were contradictions. She gave me the example of agrofuels which lowered our emissions, but threatened their ability to feed themselves! That’s when the line moved and we were quickly ushered into the coliseum and separated into separate lines to register.
Once we got our shiny passes we quickly made our way to the university to try and find the forest working group. Rumours were that REDD made its way into the draft declaration and many of the grassroots groups and NGOs who have been fighting this were planning an intervention – which may still happen depending on how the group goes today and tomorrow. The working group is moderated by a UN bureaucrat, but is also filled with many strong voices that I am sure will not allow this to happen, and if it does, then I am sure they will leave the process. For now there is still hope.
As I do not know much about the technicalities of REDD and I left this group and went to find the structural causes group thinking it would be interesting to see how capitalism is deconstructed. I sat there for the rest of the morning listening to the interventions signaling capitalism as the problem – agro industries, transnationals, agro fuels, consumption, business, imperialism and militarism were all mentioned. Many interventions blamed the US and said that it was up to individuals to change, but some strong voices said that we should look at the system that touches everything. The most interesting intervention came from people in Venezuela who talked of the need to look at the ‘modelo civilizatorio’ – civilizing model – which from my understanding includes a criticism of the states such as Venezuela and Bolivia who have maintained an extractive capitalist economic model as their way to fund the socialist revolution. I heard this the day before when in the thematic tent of the Water Forum someone pointed out the contradiction within Bolivia of blaming capitalism to the world, but not changing their own extractive industries. The lady insisted they needed nationalization and someone pointed out perhaps a new economic system would be even better.
One last thing that I want to share with you – probably the thing that inspired me the most – I attended the a side event entitled ‘Megaprojects and repression.’ It was a toss up between this and a feminist workshop, but something nudged me here. Perhaps it was because the Mapuche woman from Argentina asked for support the day before – because as it turns out the side event was almost cancelled. Supposedly the Argentine government met with the Bolivian ambassador to try and pull it. I quickly understood their worry as it was a powerful account of the Mapuche people’s struggle against mining extraction and the repression they suffer from military, police, and private security forces (http://catamarcacontaminada.blogspot.com/).
The floor opened up for questions – but instead more stories of extraction and repression were told from Nicaragua to Chile. In Northern Chile, the Canadian transnational company Barrick Gold wants to mine gold, silver, copper and other minerals using open cast/pit mining – which threatens the nearby glaciers and the clean water supply to the traditional farming communities. The mood got heavy, but then a Bolivian companero stood up and said that we all fight and that it is hard to win, but not impossible, he said he fought in the water war and the people threw out the multinational company from Cochabamba and everyone cheered – together we can fight and win!