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Venezuela Blog post #2: Buen Vivir vs. Predator Capitalism

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, from the Social PreCOP in Venezuela

Traditional dancers and music at the Social PreCOP dinner reception in Venezuela. Photo: Petermann

Another theme of the Social PreCOP meeting I am attending in Venezuela is Buen Vivir, loosely translated as “the good life,” a worldview toward which increasing numbers, especially in Latin America, are striving. Buen Vivir speaks to a philosophy of living derived from an Indigenous worldview that life should be about living in harmony with one’s community and one’s environment—and not about exploitation or commerce or about making others rich with one’s labor.

Achieving Buen Vivir is directly linked to the official theme of the conference: Changing the System, Not the Climate. This theme’s roots come from the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. There, the US led secret meetings with a small cabal of countries to hammer out the infamous “Copenhagen Accord,” which was introduced at the last minute to the negotiations, flying in the face of the long arduous consensus process in which the other delegates had been engaged for two weeks.

Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now! organized a “Reclaim Power” march in Copenhagen, where more than 300 Indigenous Peoples, social movements, NGOs, activists and even country delegates marched out of the conference, demanding “system change not climate change.” They attempted to meet up with activists marching to the conference from the outside for a Peoples’ Assembly, where real peoples’ solutions to the climate crisis would be identified. The assembly was brutally attacked by the Danish Police, and several activists were charged with terrorism.

Bsq6Pm5IQAA5NaKAccording to Venezuelan Climate delegate Claudia Salerno in her address to the crowd yesterday morning here, Hugo Chavez was so inspired by the march out and the outrage of the activists against the US manipulations that he brought the idea of “System Change not Climate Change” into his thinking about climate change. In Venezuela’s final Copenhagen press release he stated:

In Copenhagen, from the beginning, the cards were on the table for all to see. On the one hand, the cards of brutal meanness and stupidity of capitalism, which did not budge in defense of its logic: the logic of capital, which leaves only death and destruction in its wake at an increasingly rapid pace.  One the other hand, the cards of the peoples demanding human dignity, the salvation of the planet, and for a radical change, not of the climate, but of a world system that has brought us to the bring of unprecedented ecological and social catastrophe.

Salerno led the effort inside the negotiations to ensure Obama’s Copenhagen Accord was rejected. There was a moment at the end of the negotiations, in the middle of the night where she, using her metal name tag as a gavel, demanded attention from the COP President who was ignoring her.  She famously cut open her hand in her attempt, but was ultimately successful, and the Copenhagen Accord was merely “Acknowledged” and not adopted—a huge blow to President Obama.

The utter lack of real progress, and the growing domination of the climate talks by corporate interests is part of the story of how this Social PreCOP meeting came about. The goal of this meeting and the next PreCOP meeting in November is to bring the demands of the People to the governments of the world in advance of the next Climate Conference in Lima, Peru as a means to create a great mobilization to contribute to the salvation of life on earth—and the human species.  The Venezuelan government hopes to incorporate the social movement agendas into the official framework and negotiations, to speak, as they put it, “against the Capitalist predator model.”

While I honestly cannot bring myself to believe that the UN Climate Conference will accomplish anything but more of the same, I am here for the work outside of the official agenda, the face time with allies, the discussions between social movements from different parts of the world to share their experiences in dealing with the climate crisis. I am here to learn what People are doing/inventing/exploring in their efforts to cope with/address/take action against the horrific reality of climate change, on top of the already horrific reality of the neoliberal stranglehold attempting to choke the independence, the creativity and the life out of the vibrant and rich countries of the Global South—the heart of Buen Vivir.

Photo 1: 7/15 event, taken by Anne Petermann
Photo 2: Claudia Salerno at opening event, Social PreCOP Twitter feed

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Blogging from the Venezuela Climate Summit

Report from GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann from the Venezuela Social Pre-Cop on Margarita Island.


“Changing the System not the Climate”/“Cambiando el Sistema no el Clima” 

That is the theme here at the Climate Change meeting being held on Margarita Island in the Caribbean off of the coast of Venezuela.

The meeting, organized by the Venezuelan government, brings together social/ecological justice organizations such as ours, with NGOs and representatives from social movements, Southern governments and a few UN-lings to hash out a new set of justice-based demands to bring to the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP 20) in Lima Peru in December.

The meeting here is a reaction to the increasingly heavy-handed approach of Northern governments–led by the United States–to dominate the annual UN climate COPs.  Of course the US government cannot really be blamed, it is only doing what its corporate puppet-masters demand–pushing their profit-motivated false solutions coupled with a fanatical obsession with suicidal business-as-usual schemes until the world ends.  Simple.  The fact that these obsessions are already leading to climate-chaos driven suffering in poor communities all over the world–especially in the South, but including the North, and yes, even the US–is of no relevance.

The hope, as espoused by the Venezuelan hosts here, is to come up with a new set of demands/solutions/ideas that might be able to advance a peoples’ effort to stabilize the climate and stave off the worst of the oncoming climate catastrophe.

Of course the fact that the host country is one of the world’s leading oil producers is a slight problem, and one that is already being hotly debated both within these walls and by those who have sought to condemn the meetings before they even happen.

Flying to this meeting was itself a surreal experience, as it always is pumping out carbon emissions as part of an effort to help organize a coordinated response to the system that is literally destroying our ability to live on the planet.  But a global problem of the scale of global warming demands a global movement coordinated in some fashion, and in my experience, this is best done face to face.

But soaring over Caracas last night, gazing down at the bejeweled coast, densely populated by the water and leading in multicolored strands up the hillside, so much like an ostentatious necklace adorning a starlet on the red carpet, was a sight that both inspired, awed and humbled me.  It reminded me that I was again outside of the United States and back in a country where life is so much more alive.

Buen Vivir (The Good Life)

Photos: Anne Petermann interviewed by a reporter in Venezuela. Below also shows Lindsey Gillies, part of the GJEP team there.


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KPFK Earth Segment: Ashoka Finley on Occupy the Farm

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod and the Sojourner Truth show at KPFK Pacifica in Los Angeles for weekly Earth Segments and weekly Earth Minutes.

On this week’s Earth Segment, Ashoka Finley of Urban Tilth in Richmond, CA and the Gill Tract Farmers Collective shares the news from Occupy the Farm, where radical sustainability is being put forth as a means of political resistance.

To listen to the Earth Segment, click on the link below and hit the play  button:

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KPFK Earth Segment: Rebecca Manski, with Occupy Wall Street, on Occupy Earth Day, and efforts to bring an ecological justice approach to the Occupy movement

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod and the Sojourner Truth show at KPFK Pacifica in Los Angeles for weekly Earth Segments and weekly Earth Minutes.

On this week’s Earth Segment, Rebecca Manski of Occupy Wall Street fills us in on Occupy plans for Earth Day and how they are planning to make visible ecological justice in actions around the May 1st general strike.

To listen to the Earth Segment, click on the link below and go to the third segment listed:

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Mourning for suicide victim at Occupy Burlington

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Burlington, VT–Occupy Burlington and their supporters, to pay their respect to Joshua Pfenning, a homeless man and a participant of Occupy Burlington, who once served in the military, held a candlelight vigil and memorial tonight.  Pfenning committed suicide yesterday.

At this point the Occupy Burlington encampment is cordoned off by by police tape.  No one is allowed to stay in their tents.

The Burlington Free-Press reported that earlier in the day:  “Police Chief Michael Schirling, speaking at a press briefing at the police department’s North Avenue headquarters, said the shooting Thursday afternoon and the near-riot later that night had convinced him that the public’s safety cannot be assured unless the encampment is disbanded.”

Tina Goldman an Occupy Burlington supporter said later, ” So I guess this means if a homeless person commits suicide at a homeless shelter, officer Shirling would have everyone in the shelter thrown out on the street and have the shelter shut down.  This is utterly ridiculous.”

Occupy Burlington, now all homeless, will discuss their next steps tomorrow.

–Orin Langelle

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Suzanne Dhaliwal on KPFK Radio’s Sojourner Truth Program

Each week Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with KPFK Radio’s Sojourner Truth program to deliver interviews with experts from around the world for their weekly segment on the environment. Listen to this week’s interview as Suzanne Dhaliwal covers the protests at the BP Shareholders Meeting in London today.

Click here to listen!

Suzanne Dhaliwal is the co-founder of the UK Tar Sands Network. The UK Tar Sands Network works in solidarity with the Indigenous Environmental network to campaign against UK corporations and financial institutions invested in the Alberta Tar Sands. She has worked on indigenous rights and mining issues with Doctors without Borders Canada and Survival International, London UK.

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Jeff Conant on KPFK Radio’s Sojourner Truth Program

Each week Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with Margaret Prescod and KPFK Radio’s Sojourner Truth Program to deliver interviews for their weekly segment on the environment with experts from around the world. This week our own Communications Director, Jeff Conant, discussed GJEP’s recent trip to Chiapas, Mexico investigating the California-Chiapas Climate Deal and documenting the impacts of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and other development plans on the Indigenous peoples and jungle of Chiapas.

Click here to listen!

Jeff Conant is a writer, and social justice activist with a focus on international development and ecology. As the coordinator and lead author of A Community Guide to Environmental Health (Hesperian Foundation, 2008), he spent most of a decade collaborating with grassroots development initiatives in many countries to develop popular education materials addressed to the needs of under-resourced communities. As a researcher and independent journalist he has published articles and contributed to reports on water privatization, resource colonization, food sovereignty, ecological sanitation, environmental injustice, climate crisis, and related issues. He won a 2010 Project Censored Award for his coverage of the World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey.

His book, A Poetics of Resistance: the Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency (AK Press, 2010) examines the cultural politics of the Zapatista movement of Chiapas, Mexico, focusing on the Zapatistas’ persuasive use of symbolic language and colorful imagery to bring their struggle to the world’s attention.

He is a Fellow with the Oakland Institute, a coordinating committee member of La Red VIDA (the InterAmerican Network for the Defense of the Right to Water), a permaculturalist, and sits on advisory boards of several non-profit organizations. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and daughter.

For more information check out these recent blog posts:

A Broken Bridge to the Jungle: The California-Chiapas Climate Agreement Opens Old Wounds

Medical Services in Amador Hernández, Chiapas Withdrawn in Advance of REDD+

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Photo of the Month: Clash of Cultures

Clash of Cultures. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

In 1972, at the height of the Vietnam War and the youth counter-culture, the gap between the generations and cultures seemed insurmountable.

This photograph was shot on assignment for the St. Louis Outlaw during the anti-war protests of the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach.  It was Orin Langelle’s first photo assignment.

Langelle, now the Co-director and Strategist for Global Justice Ecology Project, is working on a book documenting four decades of his concerned photography.  He comments, “Times change but yet the U.S. is always in some war somewhere, while still being deeply divided by race, class and politics. The madness continues while Mother Earth and all inhabitants suffer from those who profit from her exploitation and plunder.

This first assignment helped make me the photographer that I am today.  It was a difficult assignment for me back in ’72 but included sharing a smoke (ahem, not tobacco) with Yippie! co-founder Abbie Hoffman.  My photos ranged from images of John Wayne on the inside of the convention center to ‘Hanoi Jane’ Fonda on the outside.”

See more from Langelle’s photo essay of the 1972 Republican National Convention by clicking here.

This and other of Langelle’s photos from the 1972 RNC are housed in the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan.

Also check out the GJEP Photo Gallery and past Photos of the Month.

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