Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Is Hugo Chavez Hitching a Ride on the Backs of the Peoples Climate Movement?

Photo credit: Joaquin Noguera 

So why do I get nervous when I see Hugo Chavez hitch a ride on the back of the People's Climate Movement? Well, because I see how the media automatically moves the conversation from one of Climate Justice and Mother Earth to one of South vs North or one of Venezuela vs the United States and that is not the pressing issue at hand now, Climate Change is. I know that I will be angering folks that both support and oppose Chavez but I feel very strongly about this. Props have to be given to Chavez for the speech he gave at Copenhagen demanding a more inclusive process of climate negotiations. Evo Morales is now honored globally for his efforts to organize support for Indigenous Peoples worldwide and for mobilizing so many to "live well" and in harmony with Pachamama (Mother Earth) but the people have spoken and it is now time to listen, reflect and plan action.

"Yo no soy Yankee, ni quiero ser, yo estoy con Evo, con Hugo y con Fidel." Im not a Yankee, nor do I want to be, I stand with Evo, with Hugo, and with Fidel. What? I thought this was a Climate Change Conference. Yet, those were the words of the large group of Socialist Argentinians chanting in the row behind me, only feet away from the stage where Evo welcomed people from over 146 countries to the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (WPCCC). For many people, myself included, the three days of the conference were a historic moment where Indigenous, Afro-Descendant, Latinos, feminists, the poor, small farmers, working mothers, the unemployed, and labor union members united and spoke or chanted their diverse issues under the shade of "Pachamama."

From a US perspective, I can only attempt to relate this moment to the comprehensive organizing efforts born from the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement, the American-Indian Movement on through to the Rainbow Coalition in the United States which organized peoples from various interest groups and racial backgrounds in support of those hurt by the Reaganomic policies of the 1980s. The 80s was also the decade that gave birth to the Environmental Justice Movement in the United States which, shifted the conversation from wilderness land conservation to the environmental-human rights of the then "minority" communities and the working class.

The WPCCC's great accomplishment is that it united people in favor of Climate Justice for the "vulnerable yet dignified" communities of the world. It was not an easy task yet is was Globalization at its best. The common enemy targeted this time was the shortcomings of Capitalism which the majority rightfully linked to the United States. To witness this movement take organic shape has injected energy into many social and environmental activists that had long thought the most effective days of the struggle were buried with Che Guevara. A good number of which were also from the United States.

The WPCCC was truly a People's Climate Conference, different from the Copenhagen Climate Summit of government leaders and that is where its power rests and that is where the Peoples Climate Movement will take root and sprout. The conversations around the environment, climate change and the possible future were very different from any environmental conference I have attended before. Traditional knowledge and culture were honored, people's voices were encouraged, and the terminology to describe the pressing environmental urgency moved from scientific to common language. Everyone may not have agreed but many of us were present in dialog and that is a start.

Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez have set the foundation. Now as leaders, they need to step aside and let the Worlds People digest what took place in Cochabamba, share it with their communities and meet again in Cancun in November for COP16 with an action plan. Otherwise, I am afraid that this may indeed turn out to be another Copenhagen and we promised that Cochabamba was everything but COP15. I for one, am excited to be part of the conversation playing out in the United States in preparation. While we prepare for Mexico the "Olympic Summits of Climate Change" have already been planned for 2011 with COP 17 happening in South Africa next year, and Qatar and South Korea bidding to host COP18 in 2012.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

From the Climate Debt Panel to Cochabamba

On Rev. Martin Luther King Day, I went to Busboys and Poets in Washington DC to hear Naomi Klein speak about her new book, The Shock Doctrine. It was standing room only and the line was around the block with people still trying to get in.  I was invigorated by Naomi yes, but more so by her fellow speakers on the Climate Debt Panel.  Michele Roberts, the Campaign and Policy Coordinator for Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, recited a spoken word poem "Vulnerable Community" that captured the voices of those people that suffer most from Climate Change but are heard from the least.  watch it below.

Pablo Solanos, Bolivia's Ambassador to the UN also spoke about his disheartening and unbelievable experience and ultimately, null results of the Coopenhagen "talks", watch it below. (Thank you Farrah Hansen for the video footage).

Solano's discussion on the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth encouraged me to attend. Perhaps, I am an idealist, perhaps I am naive to believe that the diversity within civil society will save us and lead the way on the environmental front, if only because our health and security depends on it.

Regardless, this is my journey,  I am going to Cochabamba to lead La Trenza Leadership's Eco-Hermanas  group of 12 Intergenerational Indigenous, migrant, Afro-descendant, and Latino women and men leaders. They represent the dignified yet vulnerable voices and communities of the United States.  I want you to also be part of this journey,  so I will be blogging regularly and sharing resources and links on my Facebook and Twitter pages where you may meet these leaders and share the experience with us as it unfolds in Cochabamba.  Pack Lightly!

"When we heal the earth, We heal ourselves." David Orr