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22nd April – Workshops and the Final Declaration

April 23, 2010

Disappointingly we only ran one of our workshops yesterday. At 8.30am when we arrived to the campus there was hardly anyone there, and it later transpired that the free buses had not been running that morning. We only discovered this as people arrived one by one closer to 10am, and so the workshop about the growing threat of  population controls didn’t happen, which is a real shame. We had wanted to share a really important example of the perverse lengths that the wealthy north will go to as a means for not making the changes that are really necessary to tackle the root causes of climate change and build for climate justice. At Copenhagen the Optimum Population Trust launched their new “population offsetting” project, which you can read more about here. www.popoffsets.com/

Many of the people we have spoken to about this all shared the same sense that on first appearances this project must have been a joke, something along the lines of Cheat Neutral… but sadly no, this is for real. What has been most worrying is the number of known environmentalists that are part of the Optimum Population Trust, and the fact that David Attenborough is a patron. As well as reading a general critique of overpopulation discourses in our texts and articles section entitled “Too Many of Whom and Too Much of What?”, you can read a critique of population offsetting here offsetdavidattenborough.wordpress.com/

We will also later try and post some of our thoughts on the topic.

Our second workshop, about Migration and Freedom of Movement went well. There were about 50 people and a really good translator, luckily! Again, we will post longer reflections on the outcomes of all this work on climate migration later, but the most important thing to come out for us was a sense that people in the room really understood that borders, nation states and the categorisations of human beings are another construct of the system.

After the workshops, we headed for the stadium in town to hear the final declaration of the conference. We haven’t been able to find it translated into English yet, though presume it is being worked on. It may appear here when done, http://pwccc.wordpress.com/

It seems crazy that the conference is over already as it only just felt like things were getting going! On the other hand, you could say that the process is only just beginning. Certainly the text that emerged, the 9 page long ‘People’s Accord’ is impressive when compared to its Copenhagen counterpart. There is an engagement with the structural causes of climate change, demands for binding 50% emissions cuts on 1990 levels through Kyoto for the 2012-2017 period, and the expected proposals for an international court for climate crime based on the rights of the earth.

The million dollar question will be how this text is used and how it is responded to. The plan is for an  intercontinental delegation to present it to the UN, and that it be used as a basis for a negotiating position at the next COP in Mexico. Indeed Chavez called for a Global Movement for the Rights of the Earth to mobilise to Cancun and even offered to pay for people to go there, unless I missed something in the translation.

we are realists. we ask for the impossible

It seems that it’s actually a good declaration. Despite earlier concerns, and after much effort in the forests working group, it comes out against REDD, the market mechanism for forests, which is great. The main points will surely be reported and analysed elsewhere but importantly it also criticises GM technology, false solutions, extractive industries and in general the whole process of climate negotiations through COP.

reading the declaration

One small extract from the section on migration says; “(The developed countries shouild be) accountable for the hundreds of millions that will have to migrate because of climate change, which they have caused, and to remove their restrictive policies on migration and provide migrants a decent life and respect their rights in all countries.”

Seeing Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales etc, presenting these quite radical discourses obviously raises questions about how their political projects, based as they are on the wealth from exploiting natural resources, will be justified at the same time as promoting this declaration.

It would be easy for some to cynical about the intentions of the ALBA, (Alliance of Bolivarian states in the Americas) in terms of using climate change as just another stick to beat the capitalist North and to promote their vision of global socialism that still relies on exploitation. However, even if this were true, there seems to be something much more complex going on as well. Bolivia glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, threatening the water supply in two major cities. All around this country and the region people are experiencing the effects of climate change that they did not cause, and that they know they are impotent to stop; impotent in the face of the current global system of capitalism. As for the concept of the rights of Pachamama, which has surely been co-opted to an extent for political purposes, it is also a very compelling argument that comes from the indigenous or original knowledges from Bolivia and beyond. We do indeed have a lot to learn from this with regards to re-discovering a respectful relationship with the earth.

Throughout the conference, there have been strikes, occupations and  blockades against San Cristobal mine. One of Evo’s biggest social movement support bases, CONAMAQ, were reported in the paper as saying that they will withdraw their support if the MAS government continues with its megaprojects and extractive industries.

The people here know that they have brought down governments and kicked out corporations. A Bolivian friend said last night, “This isn’t about one man, or one party, this is about bigger structural changes. We are not duped.” And it’s true that people are aware of the contradictions, and yet have still been engaging with this process. Just as we can suspect that the government is using social movements for its own ambitions, individuals and social movements may also be playing the same game. Only with time will really enable us to analyse the contradictions, until then we keep asking, listening and trying to understand.

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