On Wednesday evening in Cancún, in light of the violently farcical nature of the COP-16 talks to date—Todd Stern, the premier U.S. climate-change envoy, declared on Tuesday that the U.S. would like “important measures” to be approved in Cancún, though not “binding” ones—contingents from Anti-C@p and Klimaforum10 attempted to protest against a high-level meeting being held at one of the Marriott hotels located in Cancún’s notorious hotel zone, but the combination of heavy police presence on-site together with the number of federal-police checkpoints leading to the area from downtown prevented any action from taking place. The meeting at the Marriott—attended by Mexican President Felipe Calderón, World-Bank President Robert Zoellick, Walmart CEO Robson Walton, and financier George Soros, among others—sought to express corporate and State approval for the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Forest Deforestation and Degradation) scheme, a proposal that has met with fierce resistance from much of international civil society.
Much of Thursday at Via Campesina’s Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice was uneventful, at least until the arrival in the late afternoon of Bolivian President Evo Morales together with other prominent figures—Pablo Solón, Bolivia’s ambassador to the U.N., as well as Nnimo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. The group accompanying Morales was met with a series of greetings made by various representatives of Via Campesina who hail from a number of different countries: Haiti, Guatemala, Cuba, Honduras, Ecuador, Brazil, El Salvador, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Austria, France, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. In their comments to Morales and the assembled crowd—which, comprised of thousands, filled much of Jacinto Canek park, site of the Global Forum—these campesin@s set forth some of the “thousands of solutions” regarding climate change that are being advanced by ordinary peoples around the world: small-scale agriculture, food sovereignty, and anti-systemic politics. These interventions were followed by a public reading of the document that has been put together by the Global Forum this week, a document that stresses the decidedly serious nature of the threat posed to humanity by climate change and argues for the peoples of the world to take immediate action on this issue in line with the recommendations made in the April 2010 Cochabamba Accord.
Morales’ speech to the Global Forum—perhaps the keynote address of the counter-summit taken as a whole—placed the critique and overcoming of capitalism as central tasks for the present. The president rightly noted that, because extant governments have little interest in changing the existing system, they hence fail massively to address the causes of climate change, thus resulting in the current predicament. For Morales, then, capitalism holds “no hope” for the peoples of the world; he illustrated this conclusion by movingly discussing the number of droughts, floods, and crop-failures that have been experienced in Bolivia in recent memory.
In place of the severe failures of capitalism, Morales put forth the alternative of what he calls “neo-socialism,” which he sees as being characterized by buen vivir (well-being), equality, sharing instead of competition, class-struggle, as well as the struggle to establish harmony with nature. In Morales’ estimation, this political project should be one that is “without hegemony” and horizontal; indeed, the Bolivian president last night expressed his wish that the third millennium C.E. be a “people’s millennium,” one in which “oligarchy, hierarchy, and monarchy” are overcome as historical residues.
At other points in his speech, Morales denounced the isolation of COP delegates from the enormity of human suffering that follows from anthropogenic climate change, called on the U.N. to adopt the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, advocated that Northern societies accept and institute the concept of ecological debt, and expressed hope for the alternative-globalization processes he sees as potentially emanating from a multilateral Bank of the South.
At the close of his comments, Morales stated that political action today should be undertaken primarily with the interests of future generations in mind. Expanding the scope of Fidel Castro’s famous declaration on the Cuban Revolution—“¡Patria o muerte, venceremos!” (‘Nation or death, we will prevail!’)—Morales suggested that the current problematic is one of “[p]laneta o muerte”: planet Earth, or death.