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At Foro Global para la Vida y la Justicia Ambiental y Social

December 6, 2010

Hello everyone!  We are writing from a little internet cafe around the corner from where we are staying, with la Via Campesina at one of the alternative forums that have been organized as a response to the international climate negotiations  in Cancun, Mexico at the COP (Conference of the Parties) 16 .  La Via Campesina is an international organization of peasant farmers (campesinos y campesinas) organized around food sovereignty and the campesino way of agriculture (organic, sustainable, small-scale peasant agriculture). 

The camp that we are staying at is a large, urban tent city (similar to the tent cities organized at the United States Social Forum in Detroit this past summer, but bigger and better!) set up within a sports complex here in Cancun.  We guesstimate that there are about 1,000-2,000 people staying here right now, with possibly more on the way since it is still early in the week.  Spanish is the “lingua franca” here, and for speeches that are presented, there are translators available for English and French speakers to understand what is being said.  Delicious food is provided for everyone, and there is a feeling of community in the camp.  Not everyone has tents, and those who don´t are sleeping on mats provided for them under a big top style tent.  Most of the people here are from Mexico and other countries in Latin America; we have encountered few other United States people outside of the group we came with.  We have met interesting people from different states in Mexico who are campesinos, activists, organizers, leaders, and youth. 

The sentiment here is largely anti-COP 16, anti-capitalist, and anti-carbon markets, specifically REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), a program that is being pushed for strongly by the US and other developed countries in the negotiations at COP 16.  We´ve had personal conversations with people who have experienced the consequences of the REDD program already, and the stories they´ve shared with us demonstrate how destructive and harmful the program is to their cultures and farming practices, as well as to their local ecologies and biodiversity.  Through our conversations it has become clear that the REDD scheme is a very underhanded practice to protect the interests of developed countries who want to make a profit off of “protecting” forests in other countries with little regard for the lives and livelihoods of people who are living in harmony with the forests.  From what we´ve heard from everyone here, its apparent that the COP 16 official negotiations is not a space that will produce any real solutions to climate change.  It is obvious that the true motivations of the governments of the world who are present there is not to solve climate change but to figure out ways to extract greater profits from developing countries, and ways to continue to profit off of climate change even as people in developing countries are suffering the costs.  People here at the Via Campesina camp have rejected any hopè that something good will come from COP 16 and instead are working to build alternatives to whatever comes out of the COP 16 negotiations, as well as a global movement to support and develop those alternatives.

One of the strongest unifying forces here is support for the People´s Agreement of Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth which came out of the People´s Climate Conference held in Cochabamba, Bolivia in the spring.  It encompasses the values of the organizations and individuals that are present here including an acknowledgement of the rights of Mother Earth, creating the idea of “climate debt” (a debt owed by industrialized countries to non-industrialized countries), the creation of an international climate justice tribunal, respect for the voices of  indigenous peoples in the decision making process around climate change,  and a shift of the production model away from capitalism.  There was a huge sense of excitement, pride,  and celebration when a lare group of Bolivians arrived today.  One thing that we thought about was how amazing it must feel to be here today from Bolivia and to know that your country is standing behind you in these efforts, to feel proud of your homeland, and to know that so many people at this conference and around the world are looking to your country as a source of hope and leadership.  We feel a bit ashamed to say that we are from the United States when we are here, but we know that people are glad that we are here to listen and learn from them.

Since being here we have observed that there is an enormous and intimidating police presence on the ground and in this entire area.  People have told us that Cancun is essentially a police state right now.   This is especially concerning because there is a HUGE march planned for la Via Campesina and other alternative forum groups for tomorrow, in protest of the COP 16.  It´s unclear what will happen at the march tomorrow, and how the police will respond to the demonstration.  We have also heard that the government is spreading rumors that the march has been canceled in an effort to quell the tides of supporters who are planning to turn out for the day.  We strongly encourage everyone from the US to turn out for the “1000 Cancuns” solidarity events happening around the world tomorrow, since it means a lot to everyone here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Madeline Fine permalink
    December 7, 2010 7:52 pm

    I really enjoyed reading about the terrific experience you are having. Your good listening skills and excellent reporting will help those of us far away better understand the urgency of common language and common direction.

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