Saturday, April 24, 2010

People's World Conference on Climate Change

 The climate change debate has many layers. Here on klimazwiebel we tend to discuss climate in scientific terms and a technology based free market spirit (or something like that -:)).  Copenhagen was an attempt to solve the climate problem in 'our' terms, and it failed.  But of course, there are other perspectives and approaches. One is the 'People's World Conference on Climate Change' in Bolivia, which is understood explicitly as an alternative to Copenhagen. This summit gathers grassroots movements and NGOs from many places all over the world,  and it represents the overall idea that especially indigenous (or ethnic) groups have a privileged access to the planet we inhabit. And there is, I guess, a direct connection to subcultures in the West; critic of capitalism and Mother Earth folklore are wide spread elements of Western youth cultures. Thus, this conference deserves our attention; isn't it as multi-layered, contradictory, ridiculous and serious as the one in Copenhagen? Especially the alternative media report from this event.

The spirit of the conference is expressed by Bolivian's president Morales:
'“Either capitalism lives or Mother Earth lives.” Morales criticized capitalism: "The main cause of climate change is capitalism. As people who inhabit Mother Earth, we have the right to say that the cause is capitalism, to protest limitless growth. Capitalism is the source of the problem. More than 800 million people live on less than $2 a day. Until we change the capitalist system, our measures to address climate change are limited.”

 These are the  results of the conference:

  1. Reparations from rich countries to poor and low-lying nations, to assist them with adaptations to climate change;
  2. The creation of an International Climate Justice Tribunal, modeled on the UN’s International Court of Justice;
  3. The development and transfer of technology by developed nations to developing countries; and
  4. A Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, modeled on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, Morales called for borders to be opened to climate refugees.
But there is also dissent:

'Yet there is also dissent. Despite Morales’ recent work on climate change -- calling for April 22 to be recognized as Earth Day by the UN, and creating this forum -- within Bolivia, various groups argue that there is a discrepancy between the president's rhetoric for Mother Earth and his policy of mineral extraction, where revenues from natural gas help to keep the poorest country in South America flush.'
And there are many more accusations of Morales' economy, with environmentalist NGOs actively fighting against him. 

So what to make out of this? As usually point with the finger to the stupid indigenous people, their hypocritical politicians, the presumably stupid Mother Earth rhetoric, the anti-capitalist folklore? I think this is too simple. This kind of rhetoric and symbolism is part of the post-colonial political reality in South America and elsewhere (even in the Western world); debunking alone is not enough. There is more to it, and it is necessary to understand it, I guess, in case 'we' indeed care about the future.


P Gosselin said...

Mayday is next week!

_Flin_ said...

Oh, something completely different.

This is just more of the same that has been said for years and years now. First it was colonialism that needed to be repaired, now it is climate change.

Without global measures to fight CO2 emissions, however, nothing will be accomplished, because the first world just outsources their CO2-emissions to other countries.

And "Mother Earth" probably couldn't care less about climate change. A million years of lots of CO2? Well, no problem for "Mother Earth". Rock weathering will take care of it.

Werner Krauss said...

Well, sure, that's what I expected: almost nobody will post a comment. Third world is too far off; the rhetoric is too 'old school'; the math is absent and the ideas too ridiculous for 'us'. South America has no voice; in case they raise it anyway, it will serve as an argument against them. There is no dialog with Chavez or Morales or grassroots NGOs. 'We' will solve the problem on a global scale, as usual, and without them. If there is a problem at all. Strange world we live in. We do not share the same planet.

Anonymous said...


Let's just imagine people would stop to produce children for one hundred years. All this "Spuk" would have gone.

Why do we "talk" for years about things we don't really want to talk about?

isaacschumann said...

sorry Werner, out of town for the weekend.

Thanks for bringing the conference up, I was reading about it last week. I think its very relevant to the discussion we were having in your last posting. The movie 'crude' has a similar emphasis on litigation as a primary means to combat climate change.

I think the conference is right on track in its emphasis on technology transfer. Novel methods to deploy and create new technologies in the developing world desperately needs more discussion and consideration, as well as a more collaborative approach.

I'm worried, however, at the propensity of morales and chavez to speak for the developing world. IMO, these men are waging ideological battles under the guise of climate change, it is only another means to undermine capitalism for them. How does one reconcile their bold rhetoric on climate change with their economies reliance on the export of hydrocarbons? While they are indeed popular, they are also incredibly divisive. I do not think that their increased involvement will benefit the situation. I would much rather see Lula taking center stage.

I am opposed to the idea of a criminal court to try 'climate crimes'. Aside from the unclear nature of what constitutes a 'climate crime', court cases involve clear winners and losers, good guys and bad guys; except for the few indigenous populations that have few connections to the modern economy, we are all both victims and perpetrators of various degrees, and I think the court would only increase bad blood while having little impact on the environment.

I support the idea of this conference in principle, but I think that it has become hijacked by ideology. To me, there is a disconnect between the narrative of 'this is a global problem that effects all of us to some degree and requires a global collaborative effort to solve' and the narrative, 'evil western capitalism caused this and they owe us reparations.' both are espoused at the conference literally in the same sentence.

Here is some thoughtful commentary on the conference from the Democracy Center:

Tobias W said...

As someone who thinks that there is no problem but the people that say there is, this meeting of nutters couldn't be better. And by the way Chavez and his croney Morales certainly doesn't speak for South America, it's a big place - and they aren't exactly to popular outside the "Viva Che!" fringe... Or wouldn't you say?

eduardo said...

@ Werner,

I am sorry, Werner. I have tried but I could not see any solid foundation in this discourse within this conference. I miss three characters in this meeting: Gadaffi, K. Marx and G. Marx.

Did you read that Morales had stated that Europeans are bald because they eat too much chicken contaminated with female hormones ?

I fail to see the philosophical depth here.

isaacschumann said...

...and the female hormones also caused men to become homosexual, or "have problems being men."

I want to support the conference and take it seriuosly, but I cannot escape the impression that this is a 'judean peoples front/peoples front of judea!' moment for environmentalists. Splitters!

P Gosselin said...

Dr Pokrovsky responds.
Last week I posted at my new blog a piece about a Russian scientist that predicts cooling ahead, here.

Well this has gotten a lot of attention in the blogosphere.
Now Dr Pokrovsky has provided a brief presentation on what motivates his thinking.

I'd like to know what others here might think.

eduardo said...

Dear P. Gosselin,
two quotes from Pokrovsky
'We do not know everything that happens. The climate system is extremely complicated'
'temperatures are predicted to return to the lows of the 1950s-1960s and reach their peak in 15 years'

They seem somewhat contradictory to me. The system is extremely complicated but by identifying 60-year oscillation (in observations of say 120 years), we can predict the future...
Should we be critical with *all* hypothesis ?

Werner Krauss said...

@ P Gosselin
Please don't use that thread to announce your own blog and to switch to another topic. If you don't have anything substantial to contribute, just be quiet. How's that?

Morales is a difficult case, obviously. I agree with Isaac that Lula is easier to handle, to understand and to negotiate with. He speaks kind of the same language. Morales is completely different. Read his biography here:

Is there any dialog possible? For sure we can discuss the results of the conference. Or at least learn from it that climate politics are deeply entrenched in post-colonial histories.

Of course, we just can ignore 'them'. We can forever play with our computer models and imagine fantasy worlds where Chinese people don't reproduce, where India will be shaped according to the latest satellite observations and Bolivia and Venezuela are not left-wing anti-American. That's what many climate nerds in their 'save the world' games do. The rest of the world maybe doesn't consider that all too funny. As if our climate visions were free from politics, belief and history!
Out there, there are other forms of conceptualizing climate change, there are alternate stories. It has a long tradition not to listen to them, not to take indigenous people or however you call 'the others' seriously as long as they don't speak the MIT, MPI, Harvard or Princeton language. But anyway - in case we are really interested to manage the effects of climate etc, we should show some interest in the real world.

_Flin_ said...

That is true, we do not know all that happens. For example we didn't know until yesterday that indecently clad women cause earthquakes.

Which is as absurd as calling for an International Climate Tribunal (when China and the US among others wouldn't even ratify the Statute for the International Criminal Court).

"People's World Congress" sounds like straight from some Marxist-Leninist textbook.

And when it comes to a "Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth" it gets so hilarious, it might as well be out of a Mel Brooks movie. When all Mother Earth is, is a rock in space. As if anyone cares about Mother Earth.

Noone cares enough about the Atlantic tuna, whose population will be damaged beyond repair in two years, to mark him as an endangered species. Well, but "Mother Earth" is something different, probably.

Mother Earth will be happy and around with it's children when we are all gone. The time of which is of more concern to me, personally.

itisi69 said...

Who needs enemies with friends like Morales and Chavez...