When was the last time you got to attend a brainstorming session with the president of a country?
That’s what I did October 10-12 in Tiquipaya, Bolivia at the People’s World Conference on Climate Change.
Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, demonstrated his commitment to having people’s voices be heard by inviting anyone who wanted to participate to come, free of charge. All I did was fill out my registration form online and show up.
I was one of about 7000 delegates participating in the People’s World Conference on Climate Change.
The resulting documents that our dozen working groups developed through consensus brainstorming are going with Evo to the UN climate summit, COP21, in Paris, November 30th.
I was in Working Group #1, globalization. Here is a report of some of my experiences at Tiquipaya II, held on the campus of Universidad del Valle in the Andean valley of Cochabamba, over 8,000 feet above the rising sea.
First Nations chief Deer from Canada shared a Native technology to avoid selfishness. They open every meeting with a ceremonial bowl of food and a single spoon. The goal is to eat from the bowl, yet leave enough so everyone present gets some, too.
President Evo Morales spoke in an open, friendly, and frank way. “What are the causes of so much damage to Mother Earth? . . . The dominator system of capitalism is the number one cause of climate change. Capitalism is a cancer on Mother Earth. . . . We must eradicate this cancer in order to save Mother Earth and humanity. . . . In capitalist countries, business and the banks govern. . . . . Wars add to global warming. . . . Our task is to unite the social movements of the North and South.” Evo tasked the delegates with the responsibility to dialog and come up with conclusions to send to COP21 in Paris.
Nobel Peace Prize laureates, human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and climate specialist Rajendra Pachauri, presented evidence that emphasized the need to quickly change the structure of society and lifestyles, before it is too late.
Curtis Doebbler, an international human rights lawyer, proposed the creation of a World Court on Climate Change, whose decisions would be binding and enforced.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, praised Evo and Bolivia for creating positive examples for the world. Ban mentioned that even if Bolivia were to go to zero emissions of greenhouse gases the very next day, it would make no difference to climate change because Bolivia is so small; large rich countries are the ones who need to change without delay.
Pope Francis sent his greetings, and former president of Uruguay José Mujica shared his support via video.
I felt a shared purpose and vision unite us all who care about our Mother Earth. There was much talk of the need for structural changes of economic systems to become more partnership–egalitarian, and for changes in lifestyles–for the rich to consume less and live more gently on the planet.
For the past two decades governments have gathered yearly to discuss reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the biggest contributors to climate change have refused to sign binding agreements to change their ways. Glaciers are melting, ocean levels rising and turning acid, weather is more extreme and unpredictable, all because of skyrocketing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from human industrial activity.
The speakers urged us to take action–to pressure our elected representatives to have the political will to make binding agreements at COP21 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The next five years are crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and switching to low- or no-carbon technologies, before it is too late.
Inspired by this, I created an online petition, which I will present to the White House and U.S. Congress and Senate.
Sunday the working groups met all day. Here are snapshots from my day in Working Group #1. In the morning we elected a man and a woman (one Bolivian and the other a different nationality) to facilitate our conversations.
Our globalization group started with a three-page list of proposed solutions developed by group-member-email contributions before the conference. One by one we each had the opportunity to speak for five minutes, to add proposals to the list. The facilitators wrote constantly, documenting each person’s input.
During our lunch break the facilitators edited our commentaries into a tidy document. It took much longer than they expected. We waited, but not like sheep awaiting our shepherd.
Spontaneously, one by one people stood up and took the floor to address the group about their concerns. A man from Chile talked about how their seas are being over-fished by transnational corporations, destroying the ability for local fishermen to make a living and feed their families and communities.
An alternative radio producer from Bolivia warned about television and radio as brainwashing tools of transnational corporation globalization. He called for more control of the media by the people.
A woman from Cuba shared that they have local community television stations, with all the shows created by people in each community. She said she was proud that Cuban television portrays stories with actors who look like real people, instead of surgically-altered skinny blondes.
And we talked among ourselves. The woman next to me gave me a pamphlet in Spanish from an international conference on Gender and Climate Change she’d attended in May 2015 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. It concluded that we must design and implement alternative economic models to capitalism.
When the facilitators returned, they projected our collective document on a screen for us to proofread as a group. Unfortunately, at one point, the consensus process got hijacked by one man. He yelled down all other people until his own point of view was adopted.
I did not yell when my own proposal disappeared in the editing process (another Working Group told our facilitators it would be included in their category). In case you are curious, my proposal is for news broadcasts to include the daily Keeling Curve number (the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) along with the weather report and the Dow Jones average.
Our consensus process was not perfect–it is an art we are learning. I am proud to be part of a movement towards what Riane Eisler calls partnership structure–of power with, instead of our existing domination structures–of power over.
As I left the bird-song-filled campus, a young man handed me a pamphlet with a picture of Jesus from a group called Alfa y Omega. Alfa y Omega calls for people to live as Jesus did, in solidarity with the humble, meek, and poor. Among their fifty-one proposals, they call for equality and justice for all people, living our daily lives in more simple natural ways and avoiding consumerism. They encourage governments to take inspiration from the egalitarian laws of Nature.
Monday morning we delegates met again in the University’s coliseum. The facilitators of the dozen working groups read the collective statements.
After lunching at local open-air restaurants, we traveled by chartered buses to a coliseum in Quillacollo for the closing ceremonies.
The doors were open for free, to anyone who walked through them. The stands were decorated with banners brought by members of the audience. Some banners were painted by hand. One was from an association of street vendors. Another from the women’s group Bartolina Sisa, named after a martyred indigenous woman who led a resistance against the Spanish occupation.
Famous musical groups including Llajtaymanta gave a free concert. We danced in the aisles.
Speeches punctuated the music. The presidents of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, and the chancellor of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, each spoke.
They criticized the dominator capitalist structure that has caused climate change. They called for a new economic structure, a partnership structure, which is egalitarian and honors our Mother Earth.
The final speech was by President Evo Morales. He noted that this day, October 12, 2015, was the 523rd anniversary of Columbus invading the Americas, taking away our natural resources to enrich others.
He said, “The U.S. is still doing the same thing. . . The U.S. takes Bolivia’s brightest, trains them, then returns them to Bolivia to implement U.S. imperialist policies . . . like the parasites in the lion’s bowels that kill it.”
Evo affirmed he is taking the documents we created to COP21 in Paris, to present and defend the voice of the people.
The ceremonies closed with a tinku song, to which we and Evo danced along.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=1451697392,1576756297]