Uma Exploração de Comunidades Sustentáveis na América Latina.
It’s the first week of January, 2011, and we’re in Tulum, Quintana Roo, about 100 km south of Cancun. Cancun is a capitalists dream, and an ecological nightmare. As a city grown from nothing to 700,00 residents in less than 40 years, Cancun’s economy is entirely generated by a very unsustainable form of tourism.
One month ago, politicians, indigenous groups, journalists and climate activists from all over the world converged in Cancun for COP 16 to discuss climate change and try to form a plan of action. At the same time, two simultaneous alternative events, Klima Forum and the Via Campesina camp, took place just a few minutes away, as a forum for many who are have become frustrated with the political process of the COP.
On our quick trip in and out of Cancun, we passed the site where COP 16 took place, but there was no visible sign of change, of a new culture embracing ecological balance and social justice, of any lasting effect on this resort-city. Concrete everywhere, high-rise hotels fill the horizon, cars and more cars.
Cancun is a capitalists dream, and an ecological nightmare. Was the conference any different? Will the agreement reached affect any significant change in the political or ecological world? And how about these alternative events?
We weren’t able to be present for the conference or the Klima Forum, but here we present an article written by our friend Ivan Sawyer Garcia who was there, giving a critical perspective on the process and the outcome. We’ve edited, translated and added photos, and we hope you find it useful.
Cancun and Climate Change: The most realistic solutions to
climate change come from alternative groups
Author: Ivan Sawyer Garcia
Editing: Leticia Rigatti y Ryan Luckey
One month ago, with the motto “Change the system, Not the climate”, activists, artists and environmentalists gathered in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, with the intention of demonstrating alternative ways to overcome the planetary crisis brought about climate change. No, I’m not talking about the COP 16, I’m talking about Klimaforum 10, which was organized as a counter-proposal to the COP 16 (16th United Nations Climate Change Conference) which took place in Cancun, Mexico from the 31st of November to the 10th of December 2010.
The Klimaforum 10 (www.klimaforum10.org) is an event that was born out of last year’s COP15 that took place in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009 with an inclusive and participatory approach as an alternative to the official event organized by the United Nations. In that occasion, the Klimaforum 09 received thousands of visitors and alternative groups that shared technologies and proposals of energy self-sufficiency and other solutions to mitigate and even revert the planetary crisis brought about by climate change.
The Klimaforum 10 was organized with this same idea, as a diverse forum so that different groups and organizations could come together and share different experiences, tools and ideas that we can all apply in our lives to try to reduce our own environmental degradation.
Many of the groups that participated in the Klimaforum 10 were people, mainly young people, that have a strong conviction that the solutions are in our own hands, and that we have a strong responsibility as citizens of the Earth to make changes in our lifestyles and daily habits.
One of these groups is lead by Kareen Kohn, one of the main organizers of the event. Kareen is a self-proclaimed nomad that has been traveling on a horse for more then 13 years and across more then 20 countries as part of a project called Nomads United. Nomads United promotes the return to horses as a carbon-free mode of transportation. They also are involved in environmental education programs and organize reforestation projects. For more information, check www.nomadsunited.com.
Another interesting group that came to Cancun was the BioTu project. This group is dedicated to promoting the transition into renewable energy sources. They travel on a bus that uses filtered vegetable oil and is equipped with an eco-toilet and a solar power system. They have been traveling for 5 months through different parts of Mexico giving workshops on renewable energy and environmentalism in schools, universities and rural communities. For more information about BioTu, check out www.biotu.org.
Also worth mentioning is Karmakanonen, a group made up of environmentalist from Denmark that came to Cancun with a series of bicycles that generate electricity and provide energy to a sound system on wheels. They are also equipped with solar panels that turn their bicycle-machines into mobile energy systems that can provide electricity to any electrical device wherever they travel.
While all this was happening the official COP 16 negotiations were taking place in the luxurious and very unsustainable Moon Palace Hotel in Cancun, one of the most environmentally un-friendly tourist destinations in the world. Participation there was not open to the general public and was only permitted to government representatives and to some NGOs that had applied for official accreditation beforehand.
At the same time, also in Cancun, another event was happening: the camp belonging to the Via Campesina, an international farmers rights organization, that served as a temporary home to approximately 2000 indigenous representatives, peasants and their sympathizers from all over the world. These groups came to Cancun to make their voices heard in relation to the decisions being made within the official conference that would have a big effect on their lives and on all of ours for that matter.
Amongst the different activities organized by the Via Campesina was a demonstration prepared for the International Day of Environmental Justice on the 7th of December. That day, more then 3000 people with representatives of more then 20 organizations such as Greenpeace, Oxfam and Klimaforum 10, walked along the main avenues of Cancun to demand justice to the governments and corporations that commit environmental crimes and demanding recognition for Indigenous people and all people worldwide that are vulnerable to catastrophes caused by climate change.
According to a recent estimate 300,000 deaths worldwide can be attributed to natural disasters caused by climate change, and most of these are in developing nations where people live in extreme poverty. Amongst some of the concerns expressed by Via Campesina is a program called RED + (Reduction of Emission and Deforestation and Degradation), one of the initiatives being discussed at the COP16 which would give big corporations such as Shell, Chevron-Texaco, and the Rio Tinto mining corporation the opportunity to buy carbon credits by supposedly protecting forests and thus ‘avoid’ the production of emissions of greenhouse gases. According to the Indigenous Environmental Network, the RED+ initiative is filled with “perverse intentions” that could, for the lack of precision in defining what a forest is, turn natural forests into monocultures and even be used to grow genetically modified trees. In the end, this would only cause more deforestation, rather than reducing it. This program has actually already begun in several pilot projects around the world where, in some cases, Indigenous peoples have been displaced from their homeland by their own governments with the excuse of environmental protection. Most of the Indigenous populations around the globe have for centuries maintained a lifestyle that is much less destructive to the environment than any of these corporations would ever be able to synthesize.
One of the strongest critics of the RED+ in the official negotiations was President of Bolivia Evo Morales. Evo was one of the only heads of state present at COP16 apart from Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon. He was also the only one who ventured outside the police barricades when he presented himself in front of thousands of people at the Via Campesina camp on the 8th of December under a double rainbow that appeared as he was arriving. The leaders of the world’s richest countries, Evo reminded us, do not want to change the system, they do not want to get to the root of the problem, and when they talk about a ‘green fund,’ that only means privatization of nature though bonds and resources to convince poorer countries to accept. He also added- “Money cannot cool down the planet.”
Finally the conference came to a close and indeed, among the agreements reached is a plan to design a ‘Green Fund.’ This includes measures to protect rainforests and new ways to share green technology and help developing countries to adapt to climate change. Also, the goal was maintained to raise 100 thousand million dollars to help poor countries, although it is not clear how this money will be raised. There was not any new progress regarding the Kyoto Protocol, which is signed by 40 countries and in which they agree to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.
Something very noticeable at the COP16 was that the voices of those most vulnerable to climate change are still being excluded from the decision table. Various groups were forcibly thrown out of the negotiations for expressing their disagreement with the RED+ initiative including Tom Goldtooth, a Lakota leader from the Indigenous Environmental Network. It’s clear that the next COP, South Africa 2011, has to be more open to the NGOs and alternative groups, but waiting until that happenes would be too late. The work has already begun and many of the groups present in the Klimaforum10 and in Via Campesina demonstrate this.
Our hope comes from these and other grassroots events and projects that continue to gain momentum because they are open to the voices of those that are less heard and are looking for ways to come together to find the real solutions that we all need. Whether or not we are able to stop the course we are taking as a human race, it is clear that we all must take responsibility for the future of the planet. We must begin to make radical changes in our consumer and living habits, so that little by little we can begin to make the wave of change necessary, not only to stop the destructive nature of our civilization, but also to revert the damage we’ve done.
The time to change is now! If climate changes, why don’t you?