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Day 3: Marching in the streets of Cancun

December 8, 2010
Day 3 (if you only count full days) here with la Via Campesina is complete!  After a long march in the sun all day, we are all feeling pretty tired.  More on the march later.
In the camp, every day that we´ve been here (with the exception of today, since pretty much the entire camp went on the march), there have been panels of speakers throughout the day on topics such as false solutions, the People´s Agreement on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, and more.  Yesterday we attended a panel called “Weaving the struggle for environmental and social justice on an international scale,” which was especially interesting.  The speakers talked about the effects of climate change and corporate land grabs on peasants, indigenous people, and fisher folk and the shared experiences that are common to these groups of people throughout the world: essentially, these groups of people are forced to leave their land and go to urban areas, creating an army of cheap labor that is easy to exploit.  The stories of struggle shared by the panelists were extremely saddening, but the ideas  they expressed were radical, inspiring and exciting.  One spoke about the need to analyze and break down the man/woman, human/nature, individual/nation paradigms, that any solutions we come to have to include this kind of analysis.  They talked about the global challenge of combining the social and environmental struggle; many of the speakers talked about labor, agricultural, immigrant and other struggles in the context of and in connection with climate change – not as separate struggles, but as the same struggle.  The environmental crisis is a reflection of the social crisis created by capitalist policies (and visa versa), as well as the separation of women and men in production, and the separation of the countryside from the city. (This made me, Callista, wish that there was more of this kind of conciousness in the States where we are organizing.)  One especially powerful idea that the speakers talked about was the idea that the governments that are not committed to actually addressing climate change (such as ours) are terrorist governments since they are threatening life itself; the speakers talked about the need to overturn the verticality of power (right now, power looks like a pyramid) by reconstructing our environmental/social struggle in a horizontal power structure.  Right now, they said, new paradigms of economy and life are needed; the crisis we are experiencing is a systemic one of/by the system, but is also a crisis of the Left – we are entering a new kind of struggle where new alliances and new ways of doing things are needed.  These kinds of ideas were really exciting to hear about, and made me feel like the Via Campesina space is a feminist and very radical space in which people are thinking creatively about new ways to transform the world we live in and build new ways to live.  (Specifically, one of the speakers said “We of la Via Campesina are so happy that the majority of the people here are women.”) (!!!!)
One challenge that we have been thinking and talking about lately is how we can bring these ideas and this experience home with us when we leave here.  How can we organize in solidarity with la Via Campesina and other grassroots climate justice activists and farmers around the world from within the borders of the United States (los otros Estados Unidos), inside the belly of the beast?  One of the speakers from the “Weaving the struggle” panel is an organizer in LA and spoke about how we in the US have a greater responsibility as organizers because of the US´s destructive behavior in the climate negotiations and elsewhere that threatens the lives of people and societies all over the world.  She spoke about how activists in the US need to work on building a strong base (through connections with other organizations, both from the US and internationally) as popular movements on the Right such as the Tea party are gaining momentum.

Last night there was also a really interesting panel about Migration in which panelists talked about how migration is affecting their countries today and how it could be affected by policies and climate change in the near future. A speaker for the US talked about how the US has been tightening its laws on immigration recently and how its policy is shaped by three main components: neo-liberal economics (which are impoverishing people in other countries and often forcing migration to the US), labor exploitation/”managed migration” (allowing immigration as it is useful to US economic interests, and deporting people when it is not), and repression of immigrants (criminalizing immigrants and violence at the border). This is really interesting to think about as climate change is changing living conditions and forcing many to have to migrate, and this is a major issue in Mexico. So, is it really a coincidence that the US is tightening the border? One of the proposals on the table for the alternative People´s Climate Agreement (Cochabamba) is for countries that are largely responsible for climate change (ahem…US) to play a role in providing asylum/land/space for climate refugees that are forced from their homes due to climate change. This is clearly not on the minds of US delegates who are still dragging their feet through the climate negotiations and like nearly all of the delegates are ignoring voices from indigenous people, the global south, and international social movements.

Today we woke up early to join hundreds from the camp in a march for climate justice. We all gathered in the main forum of our camp, everyone wearing green Via Campesina shirts and green bandanas. When the critical mass had been reached at about 8:30, we all headed out to the streets in an organized, unified march. It was exciting to be surrounded by ‘people from so many different countries, all walking together with the same message: food soverignty, campesina agriculture, and climate justice. During the march we got to meet and talk to many interesting people all around the world from Austria, Japan, Haiti, India, Spain, Bolivia, and the US! Throughout the march everyone was sharing their stories, ideas, what kind of work they´re doing and just all moving together with an air of celebration. We were lucky to be right near the Haitian and Bolivian groups who kept the energy high all day with their music, instruments, and singing!

The march consisted of a wide variety of people all united as part of La Via Campesina or in support of LVC, including UNORC (a network of campesinos in Mexico), an international coalition of indigenous people, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional, a large delegation from Bolivia, Anti-Cap/Anti-COP, Friends of the Earth, and more! It was a great showing of about 2,000 (rough estimate) people who took over a section of one of the highways in Cancun to march towards the Moon Palace where the COP16 negotiations are taking place.

 

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

Movimiento de Liberacion Nacional

Graffiti that protesters in the march from the Anti-Cap Anti-COP group (a young radical/anarchist bloc in Mexico) spray painted outside of a HUGE power station along the march route.

The march ended with a People´s Assembly with speakers from all of the groups present and a good amount of press present. It was incredible to hear people speaking with such passion and fury about the COP16 negotiations and the attempt of world leaders to commodify nature and turn the lands and livelihoods of indigenous people around the world into capitalist markets and profit. There were bold calls to an end to pollution of people´s lands, colonialism imposed by rich countries onto poorer countries, and capitalism. It was truly incredible, and I only wish all of the negotiators over at the Moon Palace could hear and feel the words of the people in the Assembly.

Today at the march, we met a lot of other young activists from the US, including youth farmers who are part of the Via Campesina in the United States (which prompted Dianne to talk about how awesome it would be if Youth Grow could become a part of la Via Campesina!).  We are hoping to organize a discussion later in the week with other young US climate activists to talk about how we can bring what we are learning and the connections we are making here back with us to the States…

(PS– We tried to get some photos into this post but can´t seem to figure out how to download them in the internet cafe. Hopefully we can share them soon!)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. avolfson permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:42 am

    > (This made me, Callista, wish that there was more of this kind of conciousness in the States where we are organizing.)

    That’s definitely a central question. Here’s a discussion that Transition MA had about an article (and response) related to getting Transition to take hold in the US: http://transitionmassachusetts.ning.com/forum/topics/michael-brownlees-article-on?xg_source=activity

    I talked to Vanessa Rule the other day, who’s really involved in Transition Somerville and one of the points that really resonated with me was that we need to “meet people where they’re at”. So coming at them with the agenda of “you have to renounce capitalism to join us” isn’t going to help us transition. If we talk about food security or resilient economy, so be it. We lead the cultural change by modeling it, through awareness raising events, and talking about it openly.

    There’s no other way unless you want to start buying TV ads, is there?

  2. avolfson permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:42 am

    oh, and what happened to day 1 & 2, did I miss it 😉

  3. Ally permalink
    December 8, 2010 6:10 am

    Wow, it sounds like you are having a truly amazing and eye-opening experience down there! It’s great to hear that there are activists from so many different countries convening together and sharing thoughts and ideas. It seems like it’s a real once-in-a-lifetime learning experience and I can’t wait to hear more about it!

  4. Judy permalink
    December 10, 2010 9:20 pm

    Via Campesina Worcester! All the youth groups doing environmental justice work, not just Youth Grow, could get involved, no?

    • Robert Huttick permalink
      December 14, 2010 3:38 am

      Hi Judy,

      The way La Via Campesina works is that you have to be an agricultural organization in order to be a member, hence youth grow. Other EJ groups can definitely be allies though.

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