Bolivia people's climate summit: An S.O.S. from Tiquipaya

Cochabamba people's conference. Photo by Reuben McCreanor, Upside Down World.

By Nidia Diaz, translated by Granma International

It would not be exaggerated to state that Tiquipaya, a small locality in unredeemed Cochabamba, is making history. More than 20,000 people, clinging to the final hope of saving the planet, or Mother Earth, are meeting there.

Five heads of state and two Nobel Peace laureates are accompanying them on this noble crusade in which the very existence of today’s world is at stake.

The corporate media have barely given it any space; with a bit of luck it will be stuck at the end of some superficial note intentionally underestimating what has happened there. The leaders of the rich and developed global North have definitely not asked their advisers to put the issue on their working agendas; it doesn’t matter to them. The major transnationals, to a great extent the aggressors against nature and the environment, probably haven’t even heard about the meeting. Their head offices, located in enormous skyscrapers, symbols of their power and an ill-named modernity, are far away from Tiquipaya. "What is Tiquipaya, anyway?", they might be asking if anyone should comment on it.

Nevertheless, to date overlooked and forgotten, in Bolivia a battle has begun that concerns everyone and, although they choose not to believe it, even those responsible for having brought us to this point. It is they who have provoked – with their system of unrestrained waste – global warming, responsible for the worst natural disaster of the last few decades, and it is they who are also responsible for the climate debt that is asphyxiating the global South, where underdevelopment, backwardness, poverty and the extreme apathy of neoliberal governments have prevented the building of an infrastructure that, in times of natural disaster, can help those most in need and safeguard collective security.

Halting this future disaster and beginning from within to respect and care for Mother Earth is the S.O.S. being sent from Tiquipaya to the planet. It is not by chance that Bolivia is the scene of this decisive battle for life. Nor is it by chance that its Indigenous president, Evo Morales, is its principal standard bearer.

In a letter sent to the first World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, writer Eduardo Galeano says to the participants from 129 nations and five continents meeting there: “…the whole world should hear those voices.”

He added, “They are teaching us that we little humans are part of nature, relatives of all those who have legs, paws, wings or roots… The European conquest charged with idolatry the indigenous peoples who lived in that communion, and for believing in it they were flogged, had their throats cut or were burned alive.”

And it is precisely for having maintained alive that eternal flame of love for Mother Earth that Evo Morales and his people have now become symbols of this struggle. Having sustained the cult to what they call pachamama gives them the moral authority to exercise a leadership that demands an end to the eternal lamentations and to pass, for the good of all, two indispensable instruments: a Climate Justice Tribunal to try the predators of nature, whether these are governments or corporations, and the creation of a world agency to defend the rights of the Earth, because, without an organisation to follow up on the regulations established at international summits, there will never be anything or anyone to oblige industries and developed countries to comply with them.

Both proposals come from the ethics of Evo, who has charged the capitalist system with the accelerated deterioration of the ecosystem provoked by carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and global warming.

In his opening address at the first World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC), Evo Morales stated: “The principal cause of the destruction of planet Earth is capitalism and, as people who inhabit it, let us respect this Mother Earth; we have all the right, we have the ethics and the morals to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism."

“The capitalist system seeks to obtain the maximum possible profits by promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world”, he affirmed, condemning the poverty against which half of the world population is struggling.

He noted that “more than 2.8 billion people are living on less than two dollars per day. For capitalism, we human beings are no more than consumers and a labour force; people are valued for what they have and not for what they are”. In that context he condemned the fact that the dominant global economic system is commercialising water, land and even culture.

“As long as the capitalist system remains unchanged, the measures that we adopt will be of a limited and precarious nature, which poses an existential dilemma: to continue along the road of capitalism or death, or to take the road of harmony with nature and respect for life in order to save humanity”, he finally emphasised.

With these opening arguments, the people's summit of tens of thousands of participants divided into 17 working sessions to discuss a similar number of issues. These include the structural causes of climate change, the rights of Mother Earth, a world referendum on climate change, climate refugees, the environmental debt, the Kyoto Protocol, and the transfer of technologies and action strategies.

The final declaration and the conclusions of each and every one of those issues will be presented to the next UN climate change summit in Mexico, which follows on from the Copenhagen edition and has been the subject of more than a little scepticism, given the resounding failure of the former summit.

As the Bolivia's president explained: “It would not have been necessary to convene the world summit of the peoples in Bolivia, if the Copenhagen summit could have achieved agreements that would contribute to the conservation of nature and dropping irrational industrialisation policies.”

At the same time, he stated: “We want to reveal the imperialist pretensions of the so-called Copenhagen Agreement, an understanding drawn up by a minority of countries which are seeking to raise the global temperature of the planet by more than four degrees centigrade, a measure that would bring catastrophic consequences for humanity.”

In that context, he recalled that “in Copenhagen the industrialised nations wanted to impose a document not to save life, but to feed their contaminative environmental policy”.

With that background and the conviction that only the force of a people’s struggle can attain respect for life on the planet and the planet itself, the working sessions got underway in this summit which, as anticipated by its organisers, will be ending with a great mass event in Cochabamba stadium as we go to press

As was the case 10 years ago, when the so-called “water war” exploded when the Bolivian people successfully confronted the power of an untouchable transnational and a government subjected to the dictates of the US government, making possible a few months later the victory of President Evo Morales in the elections, the days in Tiquipaya in defence of Mother Earth will culminate in the triumph of life over a system that is condemned to death.

The agreements that emerge from this first World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth will not be left in oblivion. They will be monitored by those who are already deeply involved in saving their home, the habitat of everyone. Hopefully, as Galeano would say, the deaf of always will hear them.