"Planet or Die, We shall Overcome" Evo Morales opens the World People's Summit on Climate Change
Leaving Britain to the dull echoes of the live television election 'debate' between the main political party leaders, where each boring man in a suit and coloured tie tried to out do each other in avoiding talking about any of the pressing issues that confront humanity, couldn't be a sharper contrast to the experience of this mornings inauguration rally in the Esteban Ramirez Ecological Stadium, Tiquipaya.
In blazing hot sunshine over 15,000 activists and indigenous peoples of the World heard many wonderful speeches denouncing the Capitalist system and stressing the need for 'system change' to address the urgent problems of Climate Change.
Bolivian president Evo Morales finished the rally with a 45 min speech, which took in jokey personal anecdotes on subjects such as the unhealthiness of the use of plastic trays to eat off at the U.N. summit in Copenhegen, to how ill drinking Coca-Cola had made him once.
Bold and radical statements denouncing the Capitalism system, and the need for a just, social system that doesn't destroy the planet but respects the Planet - the Bolivians call this idea 'Living Well' - as he said, either Capitalism dies or Mother Earth and those who rely on her will die.
Buoyed by the rally the crowd left the stadium and took the short walk through the dusty streets up to the plush greenery of the University campus on the other side of town. Here the debates-which ranged in size from a few hundred to several thousands-started in earnest.
Specific panels discussing issues like the proposal for a global People's referendum on Climate Change, the ABC's of the U.N. negotiations, or the structural causes of Global Warming.
Alongside this there are 16 different working groups on topics like the dangers of Carbon Markets, food sovereignty, the Kyoto Protocol and one called Strategies for Action. These meet throughout the conference.
The working groups had actually kicked off yesterday to get the process up and running and lay the groundwork ready for today's start proper.
I participated in the Strategies for Action group, the main aim of which is to produce a timetable and call for various actions over the coming year leading up the COP16 meeting of the U.N. in December in Cancun, Mexico, and a second Climate Conference next year. Today was mainly spent in that group going through the proposals from yesterday to do just that.
Outside the conference site was alive and buzzing, as to be expected there are huge amount of indigenous people here which means some interesting sights, such as the herd of Llamas that graced the main drag through the site at lunchtime, or the joyful (and loud) procession of various tribes in ceremonial costume dancing their way through the site this evening.
One of the most interesting aspects of Movement gatherings like this is the vast range of campaign stalls and activist groups that surround them. Being a government led event this can often mean some strange situations.
The Bolivian military are on site, and have a stand which today was giving out tree seedlings for a mass planting of 2000 trees on Wednesday which will be led by Evo and with the help of that self-same military.
School kids from the local area are also here en mass as volunteers, dressed in their school uniform, and like their fellow countrymen and women, are uniformly proud and feel honoured that Bolivia is home to activists from around the world for a few days.
Tomorrow kicks off with a debate on whose responsibilty is Climate Debt, including among others, Shock Doctrine and No Logo author, Naomi Klien. Climate Debt is a concept that the movement is pushing hard to get a wider hearing.
Essentially it means the Industrialised Nations owe a 'debt' to the poorer Nations of the South for the exploitation of resources through the historical legacy of Imperialism and Colonialism that have been used to enable our societies to have a social model of overconsumption. That has created the problem of Climate Change and the South will feel the worst effects of it first.
Concluding tomorrow will also be the working groups so I'll be reporting back to let you know just what those conclusions are, as long as the Andes Internet connection will allow me, I'll also be gathering as many voices from the conference on video to give you a flavour of just who is here and how diverse the conference is.
From Globalise Resistance