Wednesday, April 21, 2010

World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth

(Click on image to visit conference site.)

It appears that Bolivian President Evo Morales has been able to stir up more interest and excitement about meeting the challenge of Global Warming (and the related issues of indigenous peoples' rights) than his relatively impotent, spineless northern counterparts were able to do at Copenhagen.

The first World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth has kicked off in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

This week, Democracy Now is broadcasting from the site of the conference near in nearby Tiquipaya. I found this segment with Canadian Pat Mooney to be particularly interesting:

In many ways, this conference takes the climate debate to ground zero as it draws direct cause-and-effect lines from our demands for "ever more" to the consequences: rampant exploitation of poor nations by the wealthy nations, environmental degradation, and the resulting climate change and threat to all life on this planet.

While the conference is underway, protesters are blocking access to a silver mine in the city of Potosi, Bolivia. The Japanese company operating the mine has failed to deliver on its promises to local communities. The same mining company is under attack for plans to develop lithium extraction operations on the Salar de Uyuni, one of the most popular destinations in South America. Among other things, lithium is used to power batteries in our computers, portable electrical devices and electric vehicles. With the emphasis on electric vehicles, demand for lithium is expected to skyrocket.

Elsewhere, protests are drawing attention to the northeast, near Altimira on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil, where up to 40,000 indigenous Brazilians may be displaced or seriously impacted by the proposed Belo Monte Dam, the third largest dam in the world (and only one in a series of proposed dams to be built in the Xingu River system - thus effecting many more indigenous peoples and destroying even more of the Amazonian rain forest.) Bel Monte is being developed largely to supply power for the mining of bauxite and other minerals in the Amazon Basin. Bauxite is the raw material for aluminum. Not only will these projects lead to the initial displacements, destruction of forest and damage to the river system, but the construction and mining jobs will draw further migrants (and hence, settlers) into one of the Earth's most important ecosystems, only exacerbating an already dire situation.

The conference also spotlights the sad fact that only the United States and Canada have maintained their opposition to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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