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Days 5: REDD– NO! Cochabamba– SI!

December 14, 2010

Sorry this post is delayed. We didn’t have access to internet during the last couple days of our trip! But we’d love to fill you in on the excitement of Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, coming to speaking and packing up from the camp.

Thursday afternoon the camp was a-buzz with excitement and anticipation as everyone got ready for Evo Morales to come speak. President Morales is viewed by many people as a bit of a super-hero around here as he is one of the only heads of state that is challenging the power and influence of the United States in climate negotiations and pursuing alternatives that recognize the rights of indigenous people and the problems of capitalism and climate markets. There has been a continuous air of celebration for Bolivia and their president among the camp here, especially since there are many Bolivians here, whose travel to Cancun, from my understanding, was paid for by their government.

The auditorium set up for Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, to come speak

One of the bands from Bolivia playing up in the stands amidst waving Bolivian flags

The Via Campesina organizers closed off the camping area so everyone was in the auditorium finding their seats well before Evo Morales arrived. The Bolivian bands practiced their music in preparation and we joined hundreds of people filing into their seats. Evo Morales arrived around 3:30 and walked on stage as Bolivian music blared, crowds, cheered and delegates from countries all around the world waved flags from the front rows.


Everyone standing in anticipation of President Morales' arrival

The evening of speaking began with presentations from the delegates from each country introducing themselves and saying what they believe are real climate solutions: food sovereignty, campesino agriculture, climate justice, the People’s Climate Agreement, and more. Following, a companera of the La Via Campesina movement presented the declaration written during the week here at the Alternative Forum and drew mostly from the People’s Climate Agreement.

Delegates from all different countries waving their flags in the front row as a Bolivian band plays onstage

The declarations read:

  • The current modes of consumption and production have caused enormous environmental degredation
  • We must transcend anthropocentric thinking; we need holistic thinking and relation to the cosmos
  • Humans do not own nature but are part of everything alive
  • We denounce governments that, instead of debating ways to cool the planet, are debating financing mechanisms to capitalize natural resources
  • We denounce the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization which are facilitating intervention of big transnationals in our  countries
  • We denounce the exclusion and expulsion of indigenous people and peasants from climate negotiations and international decision-making
  • We need social, economic, and climate justice
  • We demand:
  1. To reach the principles of Cochabamba and the People’s Agreement on Climate Change
  2. Food sovereignty and sustainable peasant agriculture
  3. Assumption of collective responsibility for Mother Earth (recognizing Bolivia’s courage to oppose governments of the north)
  4. Obligatory accords: all who are responsible must take responsibility and reduce greenhouse gases where they are
  5. Full participation of people in making decisions on resource/water management, agriculture, energy, etc etc

We heard from a couple different speakers from Nigeria, Cuba, and Mexico, and then Evo Morales spoke. He spoke in bold words about how what we are experiencing right now is a crisis caused by capitalism, and climate change is only part of the crisis. We are also experiencing a financial crisis, a food crisis, a war crisis, etc. I felt a weight in my stomach as he talked (and reminded me again) about how the “North American Empire” (the US) has not respected democracy in Latin America and has been behind many of the attempted and successful coups in Latin America through the past few decades. President Morales called for the countries of the global South to unite together to create a new doctrine for life that moves away from capitalism and towards a new socialism based on complementarity, living with equality, and saving the planet. He called for this new milenium to be defined by moving away from oligarchy and hierarchy towards equality. He also called for the creation of a Solidarity Bank of the South so that countries of the global south can help and support each other through crises and sever ties with the World Bank.


Evo Morales on stage with other speakers from Nigeria, Cuba, and Mexico

His speech was powerful, but I think what felt more powerful to me was the number of the people in the room that were ready to pursue a new avenue forward into a new world that can adequately address climate change and recognize capitalism as a root cause of the climate crisis. After the speech was over the bands roared, people danced, and everyone seemed to move in a flurry of excitement. I personally felt excited by the words President Morales shared and the hope and possibility of creating a new world and pursuing cooperation, equality, justice, indigenous rights, and democracy that I could sense in the room. But simultaneously I felt a weight and a sense of sadness knowing that I come from a country that will never (or at least not in the forseeable future) be able to create this sort of world and that I have a lot of work ahead of me as far as ending US imperialism of the global south and creating alternatives to capitalism that do not steal people’s land, deny people of water and healthy food, and endanger future generations’ survival.

After the night’s events, I went up to the front of the auditorium to the table that was set up with a sacred offering. There were seeds scattered all over the table: corn, red beans, black beans, white beans, rice. They made an announcement that everyone was welcome to take the seeds. Amidst the hustle and bustle, I made my way to the table and held a few seeds in my hands, mostly because it felt satisfying and comforting  to have something tangible to put in my pockets to carry home from all of this, as a symbolic representation of all the intangible ideas, thoughts, and feelings I will be bringing back with me. They are the seeds of a new way that I can cultivate back in the United States. (Just don’t tell customs).

-Ashley

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 14, 2010 11:37 pm

    A fine report on the sense of Morales’ reasonable protest.
    From here, in denuded Guatemala, it looks like the best “take away” from Cancun was your handful of seeds.

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