Archive | October 31, 2010

Finding a Global Balance

Finding a Global Balance

By Hwaa Irfan

The words of Miguel D’Escoto-Brockman brought life to journalism for me which I would not have read if it was not for the excerpt:

“Only by recognizing the rights of all things, and Mother Earth, can humanity hope to find balance amid mounting global challenges.”

I would not have believed such public conviction could come from the pen of a president of the UN General Assembly. These are the words of someone who does not represent the status quo – the status of world affairs that have descended to the status of civil liberties around the world. Only have I seen such sentiment expresses consistently in Islam, a sentiment that is not represented in Europe’s growing populist position towards Muslim women wear, a position that represents the states position in relation to civilian life. D’Escoto-Brockman continues:

“Our indigenous peoples have known this for millennia. Yet, as Western civilization expanded, and brutal capitalism entrenched, the ancient knowledge and wisdom of our indigenous brothers and sisters was more ignored, diminished, and repressed by imperial powers. By armed conquests, colonial powers were able to steal, pillage, enslave and desecrate the lands, goods and peoples of the South. But I believe the greatest tragedy was not the wielding of their economic and military superiority; the greatest tragedy consisted in the all-pervasive and prevailing ‘colonization of the intellect. The gradual assimilation of intellectual elites across the world into a capitalist system of obsessive consumption and pursuit of profit lies at the root of today’s multiple converging crises. It has contaminated us all.” 

It has contaminated all to the extent that of those who are vaguely aware of being poisoned, the dilemma is reflected in the confusion that is brought about by the question “poisoned by what.” It has all come across as being quite natural, to want, and to get. The governments around the world have grown arrogant, and after becoming the worshipped idol that feeds and provides, we have become the slaves that feeds on what it provides, and cries when governments tell us to cry, and laugh when governments tell us to laugh. Our lives have become shaped and determined by the media the pharmaceutical, and food industries to the extent that when governments fail, which they have done severely as represented by the food price and economic crises, the only thing we recognize is our right to food, out right to work, our right to homes not fully paid for when the means for those rights is based on the continual plundering of natural resources, the abuse of our health, the abuse of our mental health, the abuse, the right to find and create work as opposed to being given work which is not really there, and the commitment and responsibility that goes with having a family. Instead governments have taken on these responsibilities to the extent that these governments dare not admit that they are in reality redundant, as the growing dysfunction of the systems they have put in place are unsustainable. 

We do not recognize the extent to which these economic, social, medical systems are failing, yet as Joe Public we continue to want what they want us to want. In pursuit of this better and more advanced world, we have become disconnected from ourselves, and each other, and all the antagonistic self interests are the result of that broken connection with life as it is meant to be lived. Everything has been reduced down to appetites for sex and food as the only two lusts we are capable of perpetuating to extent of annihilating the balance of our bodies, and the balance within our minds. We find ourselves yearning for what we have lost, but unable to define what that loss is! Even when that loss is touched upon, we fall back on the props that sustain how we project ourselves in the world with true passion and commitment amiss. This is because we fail to make the direct correlation between our relationship with ourselves, each other, and the earth that sustains us. How we see ourselves, is how we see the earth!

We must take the time to visualize our lives with nothing, and then from there, ask what we really need to make us happy, and then to truly ask ourselves what we need to do make each other happy! What are the basics, and what is it we do to complicate it all!

The keepers of that illusive connectedness fight the good fight, away from our obsessions with wealth, status, looks and lusts – it is these desires that have led to the exploitation of others for self gain/interest in terms of livelihood, health, and the environment. At the first conference of the People’s World Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Tiquipaya, Bolivia, 35,352 people attended what was ignored by mainstream media April 2010. That is 35,352  people (indigenous peoples, scientists and activists from 130 countries) who are seeking real change and cannot find the likelihood of this happening in the usual international conferences that only seek to maintain the status quo. The U.N which pledges to fight the growing problem of hunger it is short sighted as to the real causes of hunger because to really fight hunger is to replace the very system that perpetuates hunger:

“The principal cause of the destruction of planet Earth is capitalism and, as people who inhabit it, let us respect this Mother Earth; we have all the right, we have the ethics and the morals to say here that the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism.

“The capitalist system seeks to obtain the maximum possible profits by promoting unlimited growth on a finite planet. Capitalism is the source of the asymmetries and imbalances in the world” said Juan Evo Morales Ayma, the president of the pluranational state of Bolivian in the opening speech to the conference.

This might seem threatening to many who have grown to see the system that has shaped the world we know on every level, but take a look around and count how many global problems that have been taking place, and how it connects to one’s life. Take a look and see who is being listened to, and who is not being listened to. It is one planet, yet all the problems are down to a lack of mutual respect, and mutual respect requires understanding and appreciating the “other”. Day needs night, just as summer needs spring, when one part of the world harvests, the other part of the world hibernates – rests for a while until it is time to harvest; instead what we find is that one part of the world wants to claim all the harvests so the other part of the world starves.

And so it is that we all starve emotionally, psychologically, and physiologically! Our global factory education system reflects this usurping the creative mind for the mind that consumes and produces on behalf of the state. The state does not want any distractions away from its goal, and so it is that organized religion, the Divine religions become a threat, especially when the spiritual essence of the religion is practiced, and not the material, for the material only perpetuates the state. This is difficult to see when one is in it, but for those who have taken the mantle of their forefathers as keepers of the earth, this is not so difficult to see. We treat the earth as if it has endless capacity to provide for our unlimited appetite, but we forget:

{Surely We have created everything according to a measure} (Al Qamar 54: 49)

The Pachamama Alliance 

Pachamama means ‘mother world’, and is a term that is used in the Andes of South America. The Pachamama Alliance grew out of the Achuar people of Bolivia 15 years ago, as a call to all people around the world with an initial call to preserve the world’s rainforests. The Alliances vision has grown to encompass an “environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on Planet Earth.” They call this awakening the dreamer, and changing the dream. What a challenge, but a challenge we must meet, and one we would want to meet if we are honest with our own dissatisfaction with our current reality. Over 1024 organizations around the world have joined the Alliance, and  moving towards a collective sense of what is possible as opposed to what is happening now, which is the responsibility of governments which is making our lives impossible.

May Ayma life remain with us to fulfill his mission, for many attempts on his life have been made. Practicing what he believes in drove him to go on a hunger strike in April 2010, demanding that Congress pass legislation allowing for the general elections to take place in December. So what! Thousands joined him, and they included Spain and Argentina so that the new year would start with the right to vote for the indigenous people, and the right for the president to be re-elected. “The words “growth” and “development” do not appear in the new Bolivian Constitution because individual and corporate gain are seen as anathema for a society which seeks to meet its needs based on cooperation, collective distribution and reciprocity” writes Donna Lazarus. When the vision is clear, the commitment is strong! 

Clearly a man who has truly worked for a living with his hands, Ayma a former cacao farmer presented the Pachamama proposal at the conference, and also presented the proposal to the U.N. The proposal is based on four principles:

  • The right to life: this includes all species 
  • The right of the earth to regenerate its bio-capacity
  • The right to a clean life, which includes the earth’s right to live without pollution
  • The right to harmony with all

The initial response was to create an International Mother Earth Day, let us hope that the U.N commitment goes much further than that!

Things and Emotions

Take time out each and every day, and look at what you did, what you used to do it, what was the source of what you used, and what was the process and the result of what you used. Did you really need it, or did you just want it! If it is hurting someone, why do it, and if it is only hurting you, who else are you hurting! 

Juan Evo Morales Ayma’s Speech at the People’s World Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Bolivia April 2010 

“For the planet or for death!  I salute the social movements, unions, government representatives, and many people who have come to Bolivia, the heart of the Americas, to participate in this conference in the defense of pache mama.

“Copenhagen wasn’t a fiasco; it’s a victory for the people and a failure of the powerful nations of the world.  It’s the so-called underdeveloped countries protect who respect Kyoto.   Copenhagen Accord will lead to warming of more than 4° Celsius.  That’s why we’ve called this meeting.  We’re facing mass extinction and other terrible effects.   We need to establish a limit of 350ppm in the atmosphere.

“But underdeveloped countries are only responsible for 5% of GHGs. 

“Developed counties are blocking any kind of progress on this front.  COP15 agreement eliminates the Kyoto Protocol, and responsibilities of developed countries to cut their emissions.

“Capitalism is the major element responsible for the destruction of the Earth.  Capitalism depends on the greatest profit possible.  Yet globalization is manifestly creating poverty.  For capitalism, we’re only consumers or workers.  There is no other aspect to our identities.  Capitalism commodifies everything.  

“We must choose either corporations and death or life.  We cannot live in harmony with Earth when a few people are controlling the vast majority of the planet.  Our new system of collectivist socialism will solve these problems.  We are again unlimited development.

“We are united here to celebrate the role of indigenous peoples a stewards of the Earth and as an alternative to unsustainable development.  Mother Earth belongs to all of us and cannot be sold.  Capitalism is synonomous with the destruction of the planet.

“For example, capitalism persecutes indigenous people for raising coca, a product we used for centuries before European conquistadores arrived.  But today our indigenous communities know that tea made from coca is one of the best medicines available. 

“We have to reverse the illegality imposed on use through the ‘War on Drugs.”  What if we decided that another traditional indigenous food, quinoa, was illegal and went around persecuting health food proponets in the US for eating it? 

“GMOs are another example of how the West’s values are wrong.  We know that eating GMO chicken makes men effeminate (!).  GMOs also create baldness, so if we all eat them soon the entire planet will be bald.

“We also need to embargo Coca-Cola.  This drink only makes us sick.  I know certain plumbers who use it to unclog toilets.

“Another example is the difference between traditional clay plates and plastic plate.  Evo tells UN representative that when he went there for dinner, they gave him food on plastic plates.

“Evo then took a poncho, the type worn by indigenous people in Bolivia, and demonstrated how waterproof it is by pouring water all over it.  He was flanked on both sides by generals, and the water went dangerously close to them as it swirled off the poncho. 

“Evo then says that these small examples show that we need to go back to indigenous ways.

“Capitalism constantly invents wars, he said.  Wars on drugs.  Wars on terror.

“When it can’t sell its products, capitalism manufactures weapons and starts wars in order to sell those weapons.

“If we unite all the people, he argued, we can defeat capitalism and imperialism, and save the planet.  He then advanced a series of five action points:

  • Reduce carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million.
  • Prod the UN to sign the Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth
  • Open frontiers to receive the millions of climate migrants in coming years
  • Help underdeveloped countries cope with effects of climate change
  • Recognize people’s rights to things like water, and recognize their right not to be exposed to things like excessive pollution.

We need, Evo argued, a huge global intercontinental movement in support of the rights of Mother Earth.  We need to indict the countries that don’t support the Kyoto Protocol in the International Criminal Court.  

“We are confronted with two paths: pache mama or the path of the multi-nationals.  If we don’t take the former, the masters of death will win, he argued.  If we don’t fight, we will be guilty of destroying the planet”. 

Speech by President Evo Morales to the G77 at the United Nations regarding the conclusions of the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change

Speech by Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, before the G77 + China at the United Nations 

May 7, 2010

“I have come here to share the conclusions of the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held last April 20th to 22nd in Cochabamba, Bolivia. I convened this Conference because in Copenhagen the voice of the peoples of the world was not listened to or attended to, nor were established procedures respected by all States.

“The Conference attracted 35,352 participants, and of those, 9,254 were foreign delegates, representing movements and social organizations from 140 countries and five continents. The event also benefited from the participation of delegations from 56 governments.

“The debates that took place at the Conference were organized into 17 Working Groups. The “People’s Accord” adopted by the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth is a summary of the conclusions of each of those 17 Working Groups. From among all of the documents, I would like to place special emphasis on the project of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

“We, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, formally presented these conclusions last April 26th, along with a technical proposal, to the negotiation process taking place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 

“The Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia convened this Conference because the so-called developed countries did not comply with obligations to establish substantial commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at last year’s Copenhagen Conference on climate change. If these countries had respected the Kyoto Protocol and had agreed to substantially reduce emissions within their borders, the Cochabamba Conference would not have been necessary.

“I am personally convinced that the only way to guarantee a positive result in Cancún, México is through the broad participation of the world and the ironclad unity of the countries of the G77 + China.

“We in the G77 + China are a group of 130 developing countries that are the least responsible for climate change, and, nonetheless, the most affected by the dire impacts of global warming. We represent two-thirds of the countries comprising the United Nations, and close to 80% of the world’s population. In our hands is the task of saving the future of humanity and planet Earth, and making the voices of our peoples heard and respected. 

“That is why I have come here to address the G77 + China!

“We all know that, within the G77 + China, there is a great diversity of political, economic, and cultural positions. This is our strength: unity through diversity. I know that different criteria exist within our Group, but I also know that, when we agree, there is no force that can stop us or detain us. This strength is like the unity of so many sardines before sharks. This is what happened at the last climate change meeting in Bonn from April 9th to 11th, at which we were slow to reach an agreement, but once we achieved consensus in the G77 + China, the rest of the developing countries had to submit to our consensus.

“I would like to begin by highlighting the points of convergence between the G77 + China and the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. 

“The first point of convergence is the need to preserve and fulfill the Kyoto Protocol. That is to say, the need for developed countries to make substantial commitments to domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions under the framework of the Kyoto Protocol.

“In the G77 + China, nobody is proposing to liquidate or dilute the Kyoto Protocol. We all agree that the Annex 1 countries that are historically responsible for causing greenhouse gas emissions should honor their commitments and obligations under international treaties on climate change.

“The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth demands that developed countries reduce their domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 50% based on 1990 levels for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

“Current offers for reducing greenhouse gases in developed countries would at best only amount to a reduction of 2% based on 1990 levels.

“The Cochabamba Conference does not propose substituting the Kyoto Protocol with various voluntary reduction commitments that are not directed toward global goals, and in which no distinction is made between what the different developed countries must do.

“The People’s Accord states: “The United States, as the only Annex 1 country on Earth that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, has a significant responsibility toward all peoples of the world to ratify this document and commit itself to respecting and complying with emissions reduction targets on a scale appropriate to the total size of its economy.”

“The second point of convergence among the World People’s Conference and the G77 + China is the need for the reduction commitments made by developed countries to be as deep possible in order to stabilize the increase in temperature to, where possible, within a range of 1.5 to 1 degree Celsius.

“We developing countries present here are aware that an increase in temperature will bring grave consequences for the provision of food, for coastal zones, for glaciers, and all of Africa. All of us here in the G77 + China are resolved to avoid letting a single island state fall into the ocean.

“A third point of convergence among the G77 and the Conference is the concept of the climate debt that developed countries owe to developing countries. This concept was much discussed at the World People’s Conference on Climate Change, and it became clear that the concept has the following components:

“The first component is the need to give back the atmospheric space that has been occupied by the developed countries and their greenhouse gas emissions, affecting developing countries. Developed countries should decolonize the atmosphere to allow for an equitable distribution of the atmospheric space among all countries in accordance with the size of their population.

“The second component is the debt with regard to forced migrations due to climate change. The number of forced migrations has reached 50 million worldwide, and could increase to 200 million to 1 billion people by the year 2050. To honor this debt, developed countries, as the generators of climate change, must open their borders to receive the affected migrants. The existence of migration laws like that of Arizona or the Return Policy in the European Union is absolutely unacceptable.

“The third component is the debt to our Mother Earth. This is because not only have human beings and developing countries been affected, but so has nature. To honor this debt, the First World People’s Conference considers it fundamental to discuss here in the United Nations a proposal for a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth that establishes obligations for all human beings with regard to nature and that recognizes, in the form of rights, the limits that human activity must have if we are going to preserve planet Earth.

“Some of the rights of nature that it proposes are:

– The right to life and to exist

– The right to regenerate its bio-capacity and to continue its vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions;

– The right to be free from contamination, pollution and toxic or radioactive waste;

– The right to not have its genetic structure modified or disrupted in a manner that threatens it integrity or vital and healthy functioning

“We hope that this proposed Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth will begin to be discussed and analyzed within the General Assembly of the United Nations.

“Finally, we have the fourth component, the economic component of climate debt, which is comprised of the adaptation debt and the development debt that the industrialized countries have to developing countries. 

“On the topic of financing, the World People’s Conference considers that, to confront climate change, a budget should be designated similar to the budget that countries allot for military and security spending. 

“The amount of 10 billion dollars that developing countries are currently offering is less than 1% of the total amount of their defense budgets. It is simply not possible to dedicate 120 times more resources to war and death than to preserving life and our Mother Earth.

“Developed countries should commit to annual financing from public sources in addition to the Official Development Assistance in order to confront climate change in developing countries. This financing should be direct and without conditionalities, and should not violate the sovereignty of States.

“It is necessary to establish a new financing mechanism that functions under the authority of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and with significant representation by developing countries to guarantee compliance with the financing commitments of Annex 1 countries.

“The World People’s Conference proposes the creation of a multilateral and multidisciplinary mechanism for technology transfer. These technologies should be useful, clean, and socially appropriate. The Cochabamba Conference considers it essential to create a fund for the financing and inventory of appropriate technologies free from intellectual property rights, particularly by moving patents from private monopolies into the public domain for free access.

“The People’s Conference notes that developed countries increased their emissions by 11.2% in the period from 1990-2007 despite having claimed that reductions would be assisted by market mechanisms. 

“The carbon market has become a lucrative business that commodifies nature, favors a few intermediaries, and does not significantly contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

“The recent financial crisis has demonstrated that the market is incapable of regulating the financial system, and that it would be totally irresponsible to leave care for and protection of the very existence of humanity and our Mother Earth in the hands of the market. 

“In this regard, the Conference considers it inadmissible that the current negotiations attempt to create new mechanisms that broaden and promote the carbon market. 

“The first Conference proposes the substitution of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) by a new mechanism that is not based on the promotion of the carbon market, and that respects the sovereignty of States and the right of the peoples to free, previous, and informed consent. This new mechanism should directly transfer technologies and economic resources from developed countries for the restoration and maintenance of forests and woodlands.

“The topic of agriculture and climate change was also widely discussed, and the concept of food sovereignty was adopted. This goes beyond food security by implying not just the right to nourishment, but also the right of the peoples to control their own seeds, lands, water, and technology for food production in harmony with Mother Earth and at the service of the whole community, not just the sectors with the highest income.

“In this regard, it was put forth that, to confront the climate change crisis, it is necessary to bring about a profound shift away from agriculture solely based on business and profit, strengthening instead agriculture for life, communities, and equilibrium with nature.

“In the negotiations and in the application of the accords on climate change, it is necessary to fully guarantee the rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

“The Conference also proposes a new theme to be discussed in the climate change negotiations and more broadly in the General Assembly of the United Nations: the establishment of a Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal to try developed countries that fail to meet their commitments and sanction States and corporations that negatively affect the vital cycles of the Mother Earth.

 “Among our peoples there is much worry because the international accords to which we have subscribed are not ultimately complied with. For this reason there is an interest in creating binding mechanisms that guarantee compliance and are capable of sanctioning violations to international treaties relating to climate and the environment.

“Another proposal has to do with the need to convene a Referendum on Climate Change so that the world’s population can decide what should be done about this important issue. 

“The Cochabamba Conference challenges us to begin to imagine and to promote a kind of global democracy in which the major issues facing humanity can be decided by all peoples. 

“To bring about all of these proposals, the Conference resolves to initiate the construction of a World People’s Movement of the for Mother Earth.

“The Cochabamba Conference places special emphasis on analyzing the topic of development and what kind of development it is that we want.

“Some of the principles agreed upon were:

– There cannot be unlimited development in a finite planet

– The model of development we want is not that of the so-called developed countries, which is unsustainable in a planet with limited natural resources

– So that developing countries might satisfy the needs of their populations without affecting planet Earth, it is essential that developed countries lower their levels of consumption and waste

– To achieve development in harmony with nature, we must also seek harmony among human beings through an equitable distribution of wealth

“The First World People’s Conference proposes that the climate change negotiations analyze the structural causes of global warming and develop alternative proposals of a systemic character. 

“For the First World People’s Conference, the root cause of the climate crisis is the capitalist system. What we are seeing is not just a climate crisis, an energy crisis, a food crisis, a financial crisis… but also the systemic crisis of capitalism itself, which is bringing about the destruction of humanity and nature. If the cause is systemic, then the solution must be systemic as well. For this, the People’s Conference discussed the theme of alternatives for living well in harmony with nature.

“To conclude, the Conference considers that to construct the future we must learn from the past, which remains present among us in the example of indigenous peoples that have in all parts of the world preserved their forms of living in harmony with nature.

“Esteemed ambassadors of the G77 + China, I believe that the best way to strengthen our unity and our actions in the negotiations is by strengthening our consensus and discussing our different positions in a frank and sincere manner.

“On this path, it is fundamental that situations like that of Copenhagen last year not be repeated. We should respect the position agreed upon in the Bali Plan of Action and defended by the G77 + China, and ensure that climate change negotiations continue through the two established channels of “Long-Term Cooperative Action” and the Kyoto Protocol.

“Our unity gives us the strength to guarantee that the negotiations will be broadly participatory, transparent, and respectful of the equal rights of all member States of the United Nations, whether large or small, and to ensure that the voice of our peoples is heard and respected. 

“In the unity of the developing countries lies our potential to forge a new world in which harmony exists among human beings and with our Mother Earth.


“The response to global warming is global democracy for life and for the Mother Earth. Let us choose to be clean and active today for the sake all of humanity, not toxic and reactive tomorrow, against nature. Esteemed ambassadors, we have two paths: to save capitalism, or to save life and Mother Earth.

“Thank you very much”.  


D’Escoto-Brockman, M. “It is Not All About Us”. Al Ahram Weekly. Issue 1021.

Lazarus, D.  “Evo Morales Presents Mother Earth Proposal at U.N.”

Morales, E.  “Evo Morale’s  Speech”.

Speech by President Evo Morales to the G77 at the United Nations regarding the conclusions of the First World People’s Conference on Climate Change 

The Pachamama Alliance.

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