Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rights of Mother Earth Conference and Bien Vivir in Cochabamba

They say that Cochabamba is the 'corazon', heart of Bolivia, and that Bolivia is the heart of South America, so it was very appropriate and only fitting that the heart of the world's epicenter of social change became the focal point of solidarity in hosting from April 19th to 22nd, 2010, the first ever World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. International presence and exchange was remarkable, with people and delegations from the U.S., France, Italy, Zambia, Colombia, England, Brazil, Tanzania, Venezuela, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, and even great companeros from Paraguay, and Greece, to name only a few, and a significant presence from Canadian activists.

The conference featured international organizations of all sorts with about five or six different venues with panels and presentations going on around the clock, so information was accessible and plentiful, the possibilities and options of what you could take in and what you could participate in were boundless. There was a lot of activity condensed into four days and letting it all permeate was a task and a beautiful privilege. The conference was structured for 17 different working groups; action strategies, structural causes, climate debt, agriculture and food sovereignty, the Right of Mother Earth, and harmony with nature and Vivir Bien amongst others. The goal was to draft a declaration for each theme as an official position statement document for the conference, which will also be sent as a set of demands in the name of Humanity and Mother Earth to the
U.N. Climate Summit in Cancun in November/December of this year.

For all its academic content, its theory, and its endless panels, one of the most positive and effective aspects of the summit is that it created new spaces, new connections, and new hope. The experience was networking, exchanging contacts, meeting new people and gaining new perspectives. To have countless brothers and sisters from all around the world at your disposal to exchange stories, ideas, smiles, handshakes, and hugs, is an empowering experience. Its our duty to take these messages back home, to draw the best ideas from the best places from the most inspiring people and to mesh everything together. Strength lies in the complexity of our mosaic, in the confidence of our collective threads, and the summit illustrated this very successfully.

Early on the summit took on a unique complexion as a dynamic evolved between the conventional anti-capitalist and
anti-imperialist discourse, and the new call for the ideas of sustainability, permaculture, Bien Vivir or living well instead of living better, and an embrace of traditional indigenous values and practices to get back to a communitarian way of life in harmony, reciprocity, and respect with Mother Earth. This centrifugal creative energy was manifest in the working groups at every turn, the action of collective creation, of two correlative schools interacting with each other, which made for a very interesting and fiery exchange of ideas.

Evo Morales in his opening ceremony speech chose to speak, very wisely, not about the ravages and inequalities of capitalism, and the destruction of our planet, but about rejecting foreign, artificial consumption habits, and about making small daily changes, telling anecdotes about changes that we need to make in our personal lives. He talked about not drinking Coca-Cola and that we need to check our indifference with plastic waste. The message was about the fact that the answers already exist, that sustainable solutions are at our fingertips, and that our model way of life is there for the taking. Politically, your mentality can be changed and advanced tenfold, but if you keep consuming like the system compels you to consume, if you don't change your way of life, your energy, if personal commitments are not made, then we are running on treadmills. The indigenous culture, their values and their practices, of living a life only in affinity with Mother Earth, and of severing the artificial, the chemical, the unnatural, is where we will seek, and find our answers. We need to be living as we should be living; of the earth.

The changes ahead, the changes that we need to establish, are not simply a distant vision. We have to see the path of change for the tangible entity that it is, and no longer think of sustainability, equality, peace and justice, a world free of exploitation, and a communitarian way of life in harmony with nature only as possibilities. Humanity has to rediscover humanity, and we have to understand that the practices needed for a natural and sustainable world already exist, and that the consciousness and values required to effect that change are already inside of us. And, perhaps most importantly, as a great friend of the earth has said, we have to understand that "the answers to the future lie in the traditions of the past." (Galeano)

There is much to discuss, and much to build on moving forward. Now, internationally, the local chapters of this gigantic endeavor of the human family must begin with enthusiasm and adherence.

Jajaja Suma Qamana y Nandereko!

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