(Updated April 22) Bolivia: `Capitalism is the main enemy of the Earth', Evo Morales tells people's climate conference

Video report from Democracy Now! (Full transcript of report below)
[For more coverage of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, click HERE.]

Prensa Latina

April 20, 2010 -- Cochabamba, Bolivia -- Bolivia's President Evo Morales Ayma condemned the capitalist system in the opening session of the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth today.

Morales, speaking at the April 20 conference inauguration, started his speech with a slogan, "Planet or death, we shall overcome". He said that harmony with nature could not exist while 1 per cent of the world's population concentrates more than 50 per cent of the world's riches. Capitalism is the main enemy of the Earth, only looking for profits, to the detriment of nature, and capitalism is a bridge for social  inequality.

More than 15,000 representatives from five continents were present at the Esteban Ramirez Ecological Stadium in Tuquipaya when Morales read a letter to future generations to alert of the danger the planet faces.

The letter, written by Morales, said the Earth is giving signals by means of earthquakes, seaquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, droughts and typhoons, so there is a great need to protect the planet.

In his letter, Morales called the attention to climate migrants, 50 million people going from one place to another, a number that could increase to up to 200 million in 2050, because of negative environmental impacts.

Bolivia's president called on the peoples of the world to join together to face those who kill people and purchase weapons. If capitalism is not changed or eliminated, measures adopted to defend Mother Earth will be precarious and temporary.

Morales criticised the 15th UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, as a place where the voices of entire peoples and social organisations were not heard. "It is necessary that the UN member countries listen and respect the will of the peoples of the world", he said.

He confirmed the creation of an alternative organisation of the peoples of the world in defence of nature.

The World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth will conclude on April 22 with the celebration of International Day for the Mother Earth at the Felix Capriles Stadium in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This is a Bolivian proposal approved by the UN General Assembly in


According to the Bolivarian Information Agency, taking part in the summit are the presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez; Ecuador, Rafael Correa; Paraguay, Fernando Lugo; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; and Bolivia, Evo Morales. Also present are two Nobel laureates: Argentinean Adolfo Perez Esquivel and Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu, among other personalities.

More than 50 scientists, social movement leaders, researchers, academics and artists have agreed to speak on 14 panels, including NASA scientist Jim Hansen; Bill McKibben, environmental journalist and leader of 350.org; Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva; best-selling author Naomi Klein; Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano; Miguel D’Escoto, former president of the UN General Assembly; Lumumba Di-Aping, former lead negotiator for the G77; along with leaders from leading environmental organisations and communities at the frontline of climate change.

Democracy Now!: Evo Morales Opens Climate Change Conference in Tiquipaya

April 21, 2010 -- Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Tiquipaya, just outside Cochabamba. And today we are going to be joined by the hour—for the hour by Bolivian President Evo Morales. But first, we go to the opening day of the global conference on the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth.

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 the small Bolivian town of Tiquipaya to discuss how to slow the impact of global warming. Anjali Kamat and Rick Rowley filed this report on Tuesday’s opening ceremony.

    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.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices from the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. We’re broadcasting at the summit in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya just outside Cochabamba.

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Planeta o Muerte — Evo Morales and the Revolutionary Politics of Mother Earth

By Roberto Lovato, New America Media via CMPCC

April 21, 2010 — Bolivia — Bolivian President Evo Morales seems testier today than when he told me during a 2007 interview, "For 500 years, we have had patience."

The urgency felt by Morales and the more than 15,000 people from 150 nations attending the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (CMPCC) was evident from the first sentences uttered by the host and convener of this unprecedented gathering in Tiquipaya, a small town just north of Cochabamba, home of the historic “water war” that helped sweep Morales into power.

In a 21rst century twist on “Revolucion o Muerte” (revolution or death), the slogan that powered Latin American revolutionary movements of the '60s and '70s, the generally soft-spoken Morales opened the conference by shouting “Planeta o muerte!” (planet or death). Morales slogan drew raucous responses from the diverse and mostly dark-skinned crowd filling a stadium that bore more flags of Indigenous nations than it did of nation states like Bolivia. Having sung just prior to Morales invocation the song “Oye-amigo-tu-tierra-esta-en-peligro” (Listen friend, your earth is in danger), a variation on the Spanish language version of “The people united will never be defeated”, the crowd was ready to accept Morales’ challenge.

Morales choice of opening words as well as his convening of this unprecedented global mobilisation reflects less a greening of revolutionary movements or a revolutionising of green movements, and more of something else, something even more ambitious: inspiring a new era in hemispheric and global politics, one that fuses the best of Indigenous, leftist, labour, environmentalist and other movements in the effort to save Panchamama (Mother Earth). The welcome from the President of the Plurinational State of Bulibiya (Bolivia in Quechua) also marks another stage in the remarkable rise of an Indigenous former coca-grower and immigrant (Morales migrated to Argentina in his youth) who has become the de-facto leader of this hybrid global movement that links the rights of humans to what organisers have coined the “Universal Rights of Mother Earth.”

“Without equilibrium between people, there will be no equilibrium between humans and nature”, said Morales, who proposed the CMPCC following what he and all attendees here consider the failure of the top-down driven Copenhagen round of climate talks to secure commitments to emissions reductions that will keep temperature rises to less than 2 degrees centigrade. The unapologetically anti-capitalist philosophy, program and approach of the CMPCC and Morales (i.e. “Either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies”) stand in direct conflict with the approach taken by the leaders of industrial nations behind the Copenhagen agreement. Critics came to Tiquipaya, a suburb of Cochabamaba, out of dismay with the “Copenhagen consensus,” which was brokered behind closed doors and rapidly ratified with little time for discussion and no connection to issues being discussed here: climate migration, agriculture and food sovereignty, climate debt, Indigenous peoples and 14 other issues organisers say they will push during the next round of UN-sponsored climate talks taking place in Mexico this November .

Also reflecting the alternative cosmovision (world view) of the burgeoning movement are proposals for the creation of, among other things, a climate justice tribunal that would establish an international legal framework to criminalise and punish those perpetrating climate crimes against the rights of Mother Earth and humanity. Filling the air of the Tiquipaya and rooting all of the proposals of the CMPCC is what writer Eduardo Galeano called in a statement read by the Uruguayan ambassador to Bolivia, “the voices of the past that speak to the future”.

Sponsoring a conference with the radical approach of the CMPCC puts Morales, the first Indigenous head of state in Bolivia, a majority Indigenous country, in direct conflict with another head of state whose election marked a historic political and racial shift, US President Barack Obama, who also played an active role in the Copenhagen “consensus“. The failure of Copenhagen caused Evo Morales and other leaders on climate change to call for the (CMPCC) conference”, said Lim Li Lin, senior legal and environment researcher at the Third World Network, a global rights group based in Malaysia. “By leading Copenhagen, Obama helped provide a platform for the alternative leadership of the movement led by President Morales.”

The growing conflict between the political interests and agendas embodied by Obama and Morales was on full display recently as the United States decided to cut aid for climate change to Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries opposed to the Copenhagen accord. Representatives of some of the governments attending the conference also told me that the Obama administration and other industrialised nations were applying pressure on countries not to attend the CMPCC. And, though he may not intend it, Morales' leadership of the revolutionary movement for the rights of Mother Earth also appears to be overshadowing (at least momentarily) the hemispheric and global left leadership of his ally and fellow conference attendee, Hugo Chavez, who has received similar treatment from the Obama administration around drug enforcement and other aid.

Bursting with enthusiasm under the blaring hot sun filling the stadium that shook with chants of “Ole, ole,ole, ole, Evo, Evo”, Marcelina Vargas, a Quechua-speaking member of the Peasant Confederation of Peru, accepted Morales’ Planeta o Muerte (Kay Pa Chachu o wanyuychu in Quechua). “For our people, for everybody, water is life. In Peru, we’re defending Panchamama (Mother Earth) from companies with US and Canadian investments, companies that are contaminating our water”, said Vargas, who wore one of the ubiquitous hats and ponchos seen throughout the region. “Evo is an expression of our movement and I feel happy he’s helping the world see our ways.”

Save the planet from capitalism, Morales says

By Franz Chávez

Cochabamba, Bolivia -- April 21, 2010 -- IPS via PWCCC – Activists meeting at the people’s conference on climate change in this Bolivian city booed a message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon but cheered at host President Evo Morales’s chant of “planet or death!”

A football stadium in Tiquipaya, in the suburbs of Cochabamba, was inflamed Tuesday (April 20) with temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius and the fervour of around 20,000 environmental activists and delegates from 125 nations.

But although they were invited, presidents from the region failed to show up for the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, which ends April 22.

The stadium, ablaze with the multi-coloured traditional garments of different Andean and Amazonian native communities and the flags of people from different countries around the world that contrasted with the cold formality of presidential summits, served as the stage for Morales, of Aymara descent, to call for an “inter-continental movement” in defence of Mother Earth.

The UN secretary-general’s message, read out by the head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, on the first day of the people’s conference, was interrupted by catcalls and whistles from activists in protest against the exclusion of grassroots groups from policy making on climate change. “We came with all respect to listen to the people, you invited us here. If you don’t want us to be here we can leave,” Bárcena said.

“For capitalism, we are merely consumers and a source of labour, and we have the right to say capitalism is the enemy of the planet”, Morales said, buoyed up by the cheers of the thousands of participants who have flocked to the dusty streets of this outlying Cochabamba district that is home to around 3000 people. “Justice is only possible with solidarity, equality and respect for the rights of Mother Earth and for the atmosphere, water and the new model of development”, he said.

“Capitalism is the chief enemy of humanity, synonymous with inequality and destruction of the planet”, he said, calling on people to organise at the grassroots level to save the planet. Morales suggested starting with simple steps like the use of biodegradable kitchen utensils like clay plates instead of disposable plastic. He also lashed out at transgenic crops and junk food.

Ecuadorean Indigenous leader Franklin Columba concurred with Morales, saying that reaching a balance with nature was essential to saving Pachamama or Mother Earth. “The Council of Wise Elders says that care and love are needed to keep nature clean. That is the true awareness that human beings must achieve”, he told IPS as the delegates to the conference were enjoying Afro-Bolivian and traditional Andean music.

Nicolás Charca, a Quechua Indian from the Canchis province of Peru, talked about unifying the movements, and expressed deep concern over pollution caused by the oil and mining industries.

But “not only the developed countries are to blame”, Mitsu Miura, a Japanese researcher into Andean cultures, told IPS in a friendly tone. “We would be closing our eyes if we only held the industrialised countries responsible.”

Linda Velarde from New Mexico in the southwestern United States, who has been an Indigenous rights activist for 40 years, challenged participants to take action now and stop consuming products that pollute. She said she does not agree with the idea of eliminating capitalism, and pointed out that not everyone in the US is a consumerist and that many are in favour, for example, of reforestation policies.

Another activist from the US, Kety Esquivel with Latinos in Social Media, said capitalism has committed “abuses” because money, which was created for use as an exchange mechanism, ended up using people instead.

“I’m gringa, Mexican and Guatemalan”, Esquivel told IPS, describing her multi-ethnic origin and her stance in favour of humanity as a whole.

Voice of civil society loud and clear in Cochabamba

By Daniela Estrada

April 19, 2010 -- Tierramérica via Bolivia Rising -- The success of the climate change conference taking place in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba will depend on how unified civil society ultimately is in its efforts to influence the next United Nations climate summit, in Mexico, say Latin American activists.

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, April 19-22, convened by Bolivia's President Evo Morales, is expected to bring together some 12,000 people from 130 countries, including international personalities, representatives from citizens' groups and government officials.

The bulk of the debate will be led by civil society, which tends to oppose the market-based mechanisms proposed by most governments to fight climate change, and this is fuelling doubts about just how much impact the Bolivian forum will have on the official climate talks taking place within the United Nations.

Only presidents who are close to Morales are attending the Cochabamba conference, such as Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. Other governments, like those of Brazil and Chile, will not participate. "I think it's a very important space for coming together, where it will be possible to discuss and come to agreement on our positions and strategies, but that depends on the organisations that participate", Colombian Lydia Fernanda Forero, member of the council of the Hemispheric Social Alliance, told Tierramérica.

The Hemispheric Social Alliance, an umbrella of grassroots organisations and networks from Canada to Chile, will have a greater presence in Cochabamba than it did at Klimaforum 2009, the civil society summit held in December in parallel to the Copenhagen 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"Thanks to (President) Morales we have a rainbow of social and political entities behind this issue that we couldn't have even dreamed of four months ago", including student and labour groups, said Eduardo Giesen, the Latin America coordinator of Friends of the Earth International's climate justice program.

For Alejandro Yianello, of Argentina's Piuké Ecologist Association, "it's an advance that there are other actors discussing the issue" besides those associated with COP 15. He told Tierramérica that he applauds the Cochabamba conference's shift of the focus towards "the rights of Mother Earth."

Massioli, of the Brazil's Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) and of Vía Campesina International, said in an interview with Tierramérica that the conference will not be a "trade fair" but rather "an important space for information, reflection, dialogue and coordination among peoples".

The conference's 17 working groups will deal with issues like the structural causes of global warming and the Bolivian proposal to create an international tribunal for climate justice and convene a climate referendum of the peoples of the world.

Also up for discussion is the situation of Indigenous peoples and of "climate migrants", and possible solutions for financing the transfer of technologies necessary for communities to adapt to the effects of climate change.

"Morales's call synthesises what many social movements in Latin America have been proposing in a fragmented way", which poses a big challenge to the organisations, said Lucio Cuenca, director of the Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts, in Chile.

Mexico, which will host the COP 16 in December 2010 -- an effort to reverse the failure of the Copenhagen meet -- is represented in Cochabamba by delegates from at least seven environmental groups.

"Our general proposal is to say 'no' to the false solutions against climate change offered by nearly all governments, such as market mechanisms that do not have mitigating effects", Miguel Valencia, an organiser of Klimaforum 2009, told Tierramérica.

"Cochabamba can be a democratic space for developing organisational capacity to build accord within civil society", said Claudia Gómez, of the non-governmental Mexican Centre for Environmental Law.

But not everyone sees this forum as an opportunity to strengthen civil society's role in the climate change debate.

The non-governmental Wildlife (Vida Silvestre) Foundation, which last month in Argentina led the campaign to turn out the lights to fight climate change, will not participate in the conference "due to budget issues" and because "it is more a meeting for indigenous organisations", said foundation member María José Pachá. "It's not a UN meeting", she said.

Hernán Giardini, delegate from Greenpeace Argentina, is participating in the Bolivia meeting, but told Tierramérica that he hopes it doesn't turn into an alternative process to that of the UN. It is the United Nations where decisions are made, he said.

In contrast, the director of the non-governmental Sustainable Chile Program, Sara Larraín, believes the Cochabamba conference represents precisely the possibility of recuperating "international democratic governability", given the failure of the official talks.

"We believe the people's conference is a fundamental space because if a pole of subversion and response is not created, and if we don't take the floor from the governments, there is no possibility that the negotiations will advance", Larraín stated to Tierramérica.

"We are going with the expectation of the creation of a genuine social and popular movement that takes up the environmental questions -- in this case the climate crisis -- as a social and socio-political problem, and that it is constituted beyond the non-governmental environmental organisations", said Friends of the Earth's Giesen.

[Emilio Godoy in Mexico City, Marcela Valente in Buenos Aires, Franz Chávez in La Paz and Fabiana Frayssinet in Rio de Janeiro contributed reporting. This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Environment Program and the World Bank.]


I think this sentiment is beginning to get a little more traction, even within the mainstream. Take a look at the success of "The Wire", which the creator David Simon has directly stated is a condemnation of capitalism and the ghettos it creates.

It won't be long until we either all wake up, or the natural world reminds us who's boss.