My favourite media moment at the Copenhagen climate conference came last Thursday when Evo Morales declared: "Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity." Bolivia's president was being interviewed by Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, heard at noon weekdays on CKDU.
Morales, speaking through a translator, described the irrational and unlimited industrialization that destroys the environment. He added that capitalism could only be overcome by ending luxury and consumerism. "So that's why we're trying to think about other ways of living [our] lives and living well, not living better," he said. "Living better is always at someone else's expense."
I chuckled knowing that capitalism's main defenders, Barack Obama and his little pal Harper, couldn't do a goddamn thing to squelch Morales or the leaders of other poor nations who questioned a rampaging economic system based on fraud, ignorance and greed. All Obama and Harper could do---and they did it---was to do nothing about climate change. Both have earned the undying curses of future generations. The US Environmental Protection Agency warns, for example, of far-reaching climate change effects---everything from coastal erosion and flooding, to drought and wild fires. The Natural Resources Canada website carries similar warnings including an ominous one about the threat of serious flooding in downtown Halifax. A recent provincial report on the state of Nova Scotia's coasts predicts an accelerating rise in sea levels over the next century of between 70 and 140 centimetres. Yes, we'll all feel the impact of climate change. No wonder there's such strong public support in both Canada and the US for serious climate change measures, yet Obama and Harper diddle while the world burns.
My second-favourite media moment came last Wednesday as a United Nations security guard escorted the chair of Friends of the Earth International out of the climate change conference centre. Nnimmo Bassey, sporting a well-tailored suit jacket and burgundy scarf, calmly told Amy Goodman that the UN had suddenly revoked all of his organization's security passes. Bassey, a prominent Nigerian environmental activist, said Friends of the Earth had representatives accredited from all over the world. "And today we expected to have about 90 delegates in here, but not one has been allowed in," he said as the security guard kept urging him to leave. "And we are here as ordinary people, grassroots mobilizers, just to speak the mind of the people that want a real climate deal in Copenhagen. But apparently our leaders want to be cocooned away, to listen only to themselves."
As Bassey was led away, he barely had time to describe the "horrendous" effects of climate change in Nigeria. "We have ocean surges. We have desertification for the north, drought, all the evils---the oil corporations burning gas relentlessly." The next day, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein commented that Bassey has been imprisoned because of his activism in fighting the oil companies devastating the Niger Delta. "And he has physically been kept out of this centre, even though he's accredited," Klein added. "And meanwhile, the oil executives are walking free in the hallways. It's the world upside down."
Or, maybe, it's just the upside-down world of capitalism. Leaders of the rich, capitalist countries may wish to cocoon themselves away to discuss climate change. But that's becoming increasingly impossible in our wired global village where most of the villagers have figured out that climate change is about a lot more than rising temperatures. It's also about the stark divisions between rich and poor, haves and have-nots, the 1.1 billion who live on less than a dollar a day. It's also about trade, aid and Third World debt; famine, hunger and untreated disease. It's about violence, prisons, occupation and war; economic exploitation and profits; the heedless destruction of wildlife and forests; the loss of indigenous cultures. But most of all, climate change is about the struggle for justice.