Report by Anjali Kamat and Rick Rowley
As the peoples’ climate change talks here move into their third day, thousands of participants from across Latin America and around the world are streaming into this small Bolivian town to discuss how to slow the impact of global warming. Anjali Kamat and Rick Rowley file this report on Tuesday’s opening ceremony.
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ANJALI KAMAT: Fifteen thousand people from around the world gathered under the hot Andean sun on Tuesday morning for the official opening of the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. Bolivian music, indigenous ceremonies and the Bolivian army’s honor guard were on hand to greet the first indigenous president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales.
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] People of the world, honor guard of Bolivia, greetings.
ANJALI KAMAT: In a forty-minute address, President Morales outlined the failures of Copenhagen and Bolivia’s alternative proposals to tackle climate change. He warned that the world faced a stark choice between capitalism and survival.
PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] We are here because in Copenhagen the so-called developed countries failed in their obligation to provide substantial commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. We have two paths: either Pachamama or death. We have two paths: either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies. Either capitalism lives or Mother Earth lives. Of course, brothers and sisters, we are here for life, for humanity and for the rights of Mother Earth. Long live the rights of Mother Earth! Death to capitalism!
ANJALI KAMAT: The Bolivian government has promised to present the outcomes of this popular conference to the 192 nations involved in the official UN climate change discussions. Participants said they hope this conference would have a greater political impact in the UN-sponsored talks.
CONFERENCE PARTICIPANT: [translated] Copenhagen basically was by and for the authorities. It was for the leaders of the countries. This is a gathering of the people. And as people who suffer the consequences, we share our concerns and our expectations.
This is a movement. It is a first step to mobilize the whole world, to search for another kind of civilization, another kind of relationship with nature. And I think that if we, the people, come together, we can generate a worldwide movement. That is the road we are on.
ANJALI KAMAT: Social movements, indigenous organizations, environmental groups, labor unions and individual activists from five continents have flooded into the small town of Tiquipaya in the last few days to take part in the summit. Saeed Ali Mousavi is a religious student from Iran.
SAEED ALI MOUSAVI: [translated] We need to change the world. We need to destroy capitalism. And we can. All the people united here show that it is possible and that we can do this. We are all people who cannot and do not want to accept that capitalism is the global power.
LESLIE BORGES: [translated] My name is Leslie Borges of Brazil. The summit is very important because it is one of the few times that people bring their struggles, their flags and their opinions directly to decision makers. This is a unique moment.
SPIRITCHILD: My name is Spiritchild. I’m from the artist and activist collective called Movement in Motion, grassroots organization. Basically we’re—we use hip-hop to document social movements. We talk about the bus depots in Harlem, all the smoke and the smog that’s coming through to the South Bronx, so we have asthma. And we talk about the connections between South Bronx asthma to Katrina disasters to the Maldives, Tuvalu, and, you know, things of that issue, and, you know, connecting to climate change, so trying to have a global movement, express it through hip-hop, through social arts and things of that nature. And hopefully we can keep this going.
CARLOS ARRIEN: My name is Carlos Arrien, and my organization is BoliviaSol. This small country of eight million people could throw a gauntlet and stand on its feet and say, you know, this stuff about Mother Nature is not just quaint, it’s not just beautiful, it’s not just nice. It’s real. And we have to do something about it. And here is—you know, here is Tiquipaya, and here is, you know, this and that, and we’re going to make it happen and open the door to the participation of people who have been shut out of this process of coming to terms with, you know, global warming and climate change. So it’s an extraordinary event, and that’s why we’re here.
KETY ESQUIVEL: My name Kety Maria Esquivel, Kety Esquivel, and I’m the executive director and CEO for an organization called Latinos in Social Media. We’re a group of Latinos from across the United States who are mobilizing online and social media in various capacities. I came here to Cochabamba for this conference with a group of folks that are from indigenous communities, as well as underrepresented communities across the United States. And the reason that we wanted to come to Bolivia is because historically these climate conversations are happening without our voices being at the table. And that can’t continue. This has to—in order for it to work, the solutions have to really include everyone’s voice, and especially demographically, as the numbers are changing in the United States, we have to be at the table.
And I think what makes this conference different than what we saw in Copenhagen is that we’re here. In Copenhagen we weren’t here. And if you talk to people around here, everyone shares the common vision that we are the ones we’re waiting for. We share the vision that we are the ones that can create the solution, all the way from the president to all of us who are here as individuals representing different organizations and the grassroots. We all believe now that we can do it together in solidarity.
ANJALI KAMAT: On the first of this peoples’ climate summit, hopes were high for a the gathering that promises an inclusive and democratic process to take on the challenge of climate change.
For Democracy Now!, this is Anjali Kamat and Rick Rowley.