COCHABAMBA, Bolivia - Bolivian President
Evo Morales said capitalism is to blame for global warming and the
accelerated deterioration of the planetary ecosystem in a speech today
opening an international conference on climate change and the "rights
of Mother Earth."
More than 20,000 indigenous, environmental and civil society
delegates from 129 countries were in attendance as President Morales
welcomed them to the conference at a soccer stadium in the village of
Tiquipaya on the outskirts of the city of Cochabamba.
"The main cause of the destruction of the planet Earth is capitalism
and in the towns where we have lived, where we respected this Mother
Earth, we all have the ethics and the moral right to say here that the
central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism," said Morales, who is
Bolivia's first fully indigenous head of state in the 470 years since
the Spanish invasion.
Morales is the leader of a political party called Movimiento al
Socialismo, the Movement for Socialism, which aims to give more power
to the country's indigenous and poor communities by means of land
reforms and redistribution of wealth from natural resources such as
"The capitalist system looks to obtain the maximum possible
gain, promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet," said Morales.
"Capitalism is the source of asymmetries and imbalance in the world."
The Bolivian president called this conference in the wake of
what he considered to be failed United Nations climate negotiations in
Copenhagen in December.
Those talks produced a weak political agreement, the Copenhagen Accord,
instead of a strong, legally-binding set of limits on greenhouse gas
emissions to take effect at the end of 2012, as Bolivia and many other
countries had hoped.
Named "World Hero of Mother Earth" by the United
Nations General Assembly last October, today, President Morales warned
of dire consequences if a strong legally-binding agreement to limit
greenhouse gas emissions is not reached.
A new agreement is needed to govern greenhouse gas emissions
after the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires at the
end of 2012. This year's round of international negotiations towards an
agreement began earlier this month in Bonn, Germany, and the next
annual United Nations climate conference is scheduled for Cancun,
Mexico from November 29.
"Global food production will be reduced by approximately 40
percent and that will increase the number of hungry people in the
world, which already exceeds a billion people," Morales warned.
"Between 20 and 30 percent of all animal and plant species could
Global warming will cause the melting of the polar ice caps and
the glaciers of the Andes and the Himalayas, and several islands will
disappear under the ocean," he warned.
The convocation this morning included a multi-cultural blessing
ceremony by indigenous peoples from across the Americas. Speeches by
representatives of social movements from five continents focused on the
urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold action that
protects both human rights and the environment.
The delegates are meeting in working group sessions this week to
develop strategies and make policy proposals on issues such as forests,
water, climate debt, and finance.
President Morales has pledged to bring these strategies and proposals to the UN climate conference in Cancun.
"We have traveled to Bolivia because President Morales has
committed to bring our voices to the global stage at the next round of
talks in Cancun," said Jihan Gearon of the Navajo Nation in Arizona,
who is a native energy organizer with the Indigenous Environmental
"Indigenous rights and knowledge are crucial to addressing climate
change, but the United States and Canada have not signed on to the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and are pushing
corporate climate policy agendas that threaten our homelands and
livelihoods," Gearon said.
"President Morales has asked our recommendations on issues such
as REDDs [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation]," said
Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel for the International Indian Treaty
"REDD is branded as a friendly forest conservation program, yet it is
backed by big polluters," Saldamando said. "REDD is a dangerous
distraction from the root issue of fossil fuel pollution, and could
mean disaster for forest-dependent indigenous peoples the world over."
"We are here from the far north to stand in solidarity with our
brothers and sisters of the South," said Faith Gemmill, executive
director of Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands
(REDOIL), who spoke from the stage at the invitation of President
Morales. "We have a choice as human kind - a path of life, or a path of
destruction. The people who can change the world are here!"