A lesson from Bolivia – Humanity has to rediscover humanity

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To have countless brothers and sisters from all around the world at your disposal to exchange stories, ideas, smiles, handshakes, and hugs, is an empowering experience.

by Julien Lalonde

Julien Lalonde was one of the delegates from Toronto Bolivia Solidarity to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April. This article appears in the newspaper America Latina.

They say that Cochabamba is the ‘corazon’, the heart of Bolivia, and that Bolivia is the heart of South America. So it was very appropriate and only fitting that the heart of the world’s epicenter of social change, became the focal point of solidarity by hosting from April 19-22, 2010, the first ever World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth.

International presence and exchange was remarkable, with people and delegations from the U.S., France, Italy, Zambia, Colombia, England, Brazil, Tanzania, Venezuela, Cuba, Chile, Argentina, and even great compañeros from Paraguay, and Greece, to name only a few. Canadian activists also had a significant presence among the tens of thousands of participants..

The conference featured half a dozen different venues with panels and presentations going on around the clock. Information was accessible and plentiful, the possibilities and options of what you could take in and what you could participate in were boundless. There was a lot of activity condensed into four days and letting it all permeate was a task and a beautiful privilege.

The conference was structured for 17 different working groups; action strategies, structural causes, climate debt, agriculture and food sovereignty, the Right of Mother Earth, and harmony with nature and ‘Vivir Bien’ amongst others. The goal was to draft a declaration for each theme as an official position statement for the conference, which will also be sent as a set of demands in the name of humanity and Mother Earth to the U.N. Climate Summit in Cancun in November/december of this year.

For all its academic content, its theory, and its endless panels, the summit created new spaces, new connections, and new hope. The experience was about networking, exchanging contacts, meeting new people and gaining new perspectives. To have countless brothers and sisters from all around the world at your disposal to exchange stories, ideas, smiles, handshakes, and hugs, is an empowering experience.

Its our duty to take these messages back home, to draw the best ideas from the best places from these most inspiring people and to mesh everything together. Strength lies in the complexity of our mosaic, in the confidence of our collective threads, and the summit illustrated this very successfully.

Early on the summit took on a very unique complexion as a dynamic evolved between the conventional anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist discourse, and the new call for the ideas of sustainability, permaculture, bien vivir or living well instead of living better, and an embrace of traditional indigenous values and practices to get back to a communitarian way of life in harmony, reciprocity, and respect with Mother Earth.

This creative energy was manifest in the working groups at every turn, in a process of collective creation, of two correlative schools interacting with each other, which made for a fruitful and fiery exchange of ideas.

In his opening address, Evo Morales spoke wisely, not so much about the ravages and inequalities of capitalism, and the destruction of our planet, but about rejecting foreign, artificial consumption habits, and about making small daily changes, telling anecdotes about changes that we need to make in our personal lives. He talked about not drinking Coca-Cola and that we need to check our indifference to plastic waste.

The message was that the answers already exist, that sustainable solutions are at our fingertips, and that the way of life we aspire to is there for the taking. Politically, your mentality can be changed and advanced tenfold, but if you keep consuming like the system compels you to consume, if you don’t change your way of life, your energy, if personal commitments are not made, then we are running on treadmills.

The indigenous culture, its values and practices is where we will seek and find our answers. This involves living a life in affinity with Mother Earth, and severing ties to the artificial, the chemical, the unnatural. We need to be living as we should be living – of the earth.

The changes ahead, the changes that we need to establish, are not simply a distant vision. We have to see the path of change as a tangible entity, and no longer think of sustainability, equality, peace and justice, a world free of exploitation, and a communitarian way of life in harmony with nature only as possibilities.

Humanity has to rediscover humanity, and we have to understand that the practices needed for a natural and sustainable world already exist, and that the consciousness and values required to effect that change are already inside of us.

And, perhaps most importantly, as a great friend of the earth has said, we have to understand that “the answers to the future lie in the traditions of the past.” (Eduardo Galeano)

There is much to discuss, and much to build on moving forward. Now, internationally, the local chapters of this gigantic endeavor of the human family must begin with enthusiasm and adherence.

For more reports and commentary on the Cochabamba Conference and its decisions, see the Toronto Bolivia Solidarity Web page (LINK) and Climate and Capitalism’s Cochabamba page.