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LATIN AMERICA
“Saving the Earth to save humanity”
Juan Nicastro
4/29/2010
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Native communities eye socialism and indigenous traditions to fight climate change.

Indigenous peoples are trying to actively use their ancient traditions based on respect for the environment and the community to fight climate change and not let their ideals be reduced to just talk, native groups said at the World People´s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 19-23.

Native peoples are some of the most affected by climate change, as extreme temperatures and abnormal weather destroy their lands and vital resources like water. The melting of tropical glaciers, torrential rains, frosts, droughts are a major problem in the region. One of flagship cases is in the summit´s host nation, where the Chacaltaya glacier, near La Paz, disappeared last year.

Talk is cheap
Participants called for an end to simple discourse and for communities to take real action, by pushing a socialist, community based model as the way to fight consumer-based development.

Oscar Vega Camacho, an indigenous Bolivian and member of the group Comuna, said their proposals should not “just remain as an anti-capitalist posture, but advance an alternative project.”

“By just recovering and revaluing our roots, strengthening our cultural practices, our ways of life and our forms of collective organization for the sustainable use of natural resources ... we could contribute to humanity to steer the future of the planet,” a document at the end of the meeting said.

Peru´s Miguel Palacín, president of the Andean Coordinating Group of Indigenous Organizations, said that “Buen Vivir” or Living Well, a concept that stresses quality of life instead of economic profits, “is not just a theory or a discourse ... it´s the practice of peoples to maintain balance between human beings with Mother Nature.”

Participants said their traditional knowledge and customs should not only be strengthened but incorporated into climate change research and public policies.

“Buen Vivir and capitalism are not compatible,” Rafael Quispe of the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu, a Bolivian indigenous group.

Bolivian President Evo Morales proposed a Community Socialism, in which lands, animals, and their products, do not belong to a single person but to the community, to balance out the wealth.

“That´s the new paradigm we´re living in: Saving the Earth to save humanity,” said Morales.

“To ensure that this process deepens and is extended as an encouraging example for the whole continent and peoples around the world, we have to illustrate the existing contradictions reflected by social-environmental conflicts,” said one of the participants´ statements.

Fighting the system
Quispe noted that 12 of the some 500 projects of the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America, or IIRSA, a massive infrastructure project, are affecting Bolivia with transoceanic highways and hydroelectric plant that could damage the environment and displace campesinos.

Bolivia´s Foreign Minister Carlos Choquehuanca said Buen Vivir is neither socialism nor capitalism, but the stress is on putting nature first “and the human being within” that system.

“We need to go from discourse to action,” said Loyda Oliva, leader of the National Confederation of Campesina, Indigenous and Black Organizations of Ecuador. “We have a very good constitution in our country, but we need to adhere to it more. We should also reduce consumerism, that is clear. In terms of food, we should fight so it´s understood that the best food is not the biggest or shiniest, but what matters is what they have inside.”
— Latinamerica Press.


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Indigenous peoples called for an end to simple discourse and for communities to take real action. (Photo: Juan Nicastro)
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