Reflections on the Cochabamba climate summit.

Author:Lander, Edgardo

At the recent Cochabamba climate summit in Bolivia around 33,000 people attended, more than double what the organizers were expecting. Around 10,000 participants came from countries other than Bolivia. It was extremely difficult to produce 17 group documents, as well the final Peoples' Agreement document, in just three days and make decisions collectively, rather than in small meetings. We managed, and now we have a Peoples' Agreement as an alternative to the so-called Copenhagen Agreement. It is now possible for the governments (so far only the ALBA governments, but hopefully others will come on board before the next climate summit) to express the agenda of the social movements and the world's most threatened peoples within the official Cancun Conference.

The importance of global environmental issues can hardly be overestimated. I would like to highlight just two reasons. The first is obviously the fact that we are facing a crisis that threatens the survival of humankind, even life on planet Earth. The second is the fact that the struggles for environmental or climate justice have managed to bring together most of the most important issues/struggles of the last decades (justice/equality, war/militarization, free trade, food sovereignty, agribusiness, peasants' rights, struggles against patriarchy, defense of indigenous peoples' rights, migration, the critique of the dominant Eurocentric/colonial patterns of knowledge, as well as struggles for democracy, etc., etc.). All these issues were debated in Cochabamba and, to some degree, are present in the Cochabamba Peoples' Agreement.

There are, however, several issues which 1 think are potentially quite problematic.

  1. The first one is the fact that the world's resistance movements have to a great extent adopted the way the environmental issues have been framed by the UN Intergovernmental Panel as issues of "Climate Change." I believe that once the problem is defined as "climate change," it is fairly easy to take the further step of limiting the discussion to the increase in average temperature. This tends to narrowly frame the debates in terms of how to limit carbon emissions without questioning anything else.

    Thus, there is no debate on the limits (or terminal crisis) of a patriarchal anthropocentric civilization based on the radical separation between humans and the rest of the web of life, a civilizational project based on the idea of unlimited growth in a limited planet. Thus, for example...

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