Monthly Archives: December 2010

Another Cop, Another Cop-out


Real sorry I didn’t do a better job of daily updates at the COP16 considering I hear there was very little in the Irish media on it, although I was happy to see Aljezeera and The Guardian had good daily updates, and even hourly ones on the last night.

A week has passed since the end of COP16 official and counter-summits and before things fade more in my mind I’m going to put down some last thoughts and summaries of things that most stood out to me.

Well, last I left ye, it was the day after the big split march. Disillusionment reigned high in my mind at least, as it did in many of the other younger folk in our Chiapas Caravana at least, and some of the other community campaigners who like me, felt unconsulted about this unwanted unnecessary split.

Wednesday I finally managed to attend some more talks at the Dialogo Climatico but things were generally starting to slide quite a bit, with many workshops cancelled or rescheduled and everything slowly descended into more random chaos on Thursday and Friday, with Friday I think being an almost complete cancellation of everything that was scheduled ( I went to the beach for myself that day….twas time!). What a disaster this was as much for the participants, as the speakers…..I bumped into some of the Canadian folk from the Indigenous Environmental Network who’d been at the UK Climate Camp in Edinburgh this summer and their workshop had been cancelled….CRAZY….all that way,…huh…well, luckily they were presenting at some of the other alter-summits….the vastly numerous ones…Klimaforum10 and Villa Climatica (run by the government directly)…not sure if they spoke a Via Campesina.

One of my favourites was Casey Camp-Horinek , a Ponca Pa tha-ta Indian woman from the States (Nebraska I think). She spoke from the soul reaching across languages and cultural divides, and touched the audience which included many indigenous folk from Mexico, Bolivia, Guatemala and more. She spoke of her tribe’s experience, and her personal family’s ordeal, how all the US treaties with her people had been broken, and to not trust REDD in the least. ” This REDD treaty is not ready…. They will take your territories, your land, they will contaminate it. They always do.” she said in her steady wise voice. And as she reached out her hand to grab a fistful of air she added, “See this carbon I just grabbed from the air, it is not mine, the trees are not mine, neither are the waters. They cannot put a price on these things which do not belong to us.” She spoke from the heart and even though I know everything she talked about it, she made me feel it to the bone, and that’s worth a thousand scientific facts and reports and articles.

There was mostly strong oppostion to anything to do with REDD and opposition to the large NGOs who were supporting this….Greenpeace, Oxfam and others. Those NGOs are seen as completely in cohoots with the corporations, and out of touch with reality. As Camila Moreno from FOE Brazil, said “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres ” (A person is know by the company they keep). And that’s basically it….if these big NGOs are prepared to rub shoulders with the very culprits who’ve caused the vast amount of damage to our planet, they can’t really be trusted in my book at least. She called for agrarian reform on a planetary level, which is Via Campesina’s main call too…..that redistributing land into the hands of small farmers worldwide would be one of the most effective methods of cooling the planet. She mentioned that REDD had divided organisations in Brasil, that those who were attracted to its possible financial gains were being blinded by these trivial crumbs being thrown down from the corporate elite table.

On Thursday Dec. 9th, Evo Morales made an appearance at the Via Campesina camp and gave only a regular enough speech for my liking. He said the usual stuff , no to REDD, no to Capitalism blabla, but nothing much either inspiringly poetic or strong or symbolically captivating. Nimmo Bassy on the other hand, head of Friends of the Earth International, was on just before him and he was way more powerful and emotive. Some representative from the Cuban government was also there (didn’t catch his name) and he also gave the usual old socialist speech with a lot of hailing to Fidel and Chavez by him and Evo. That was not my cup of tea at all. I don’t hail any government or political leaders, only the people who self-organise and take their power back. But what was much more inspiring than the actual speeches was the build-up with andean music playing beforehand and many indigenous Bolivians and many others all dancing energetically and proudly before Evo arrived.  Shortly before Evo took to the stage, a glorious rainbow appeared in the sky. This was an amazingly important sign for the Andean community, with their communal flag being the ‘arco iris’. It was a symbol of something great going down….

Thursday night rounded off with a great street jam party which the younger contigents of the separate camps (Anti-C@P, Diálogo Climático, Via Campesina, and Klima Forum) decided to organise (me being one of them) to spite the ‘leaders’ who hadn’t been able to work out their differences even for the march (we advertised it on the radio, net and flyering). So, we took to the streets after Evo’s speech with a jenny-powered sound system owned by two cool Danish lads, and set up residence in a wee plaza up the road. We had a full free show for all to join in on with political clowns doing a fab performance, Canadian rappers, a short theatre piece in ‘theatre of the oppressed’ style depicting the COP with governments, corporations and activists, and well, a lotta lotta dancing! And hey presto, the cops stood off till 1am which is when we roughly had agreed that we’d finish. It was definitely the best night of all….unity in dancing at least I tells ya!

And the official COP? Well, there’s many an article written up about the ins and outs of the negotiations….no targets for emissions were set, REDD wasn’t exactly agreed but is still very much on the cards, Bolivia was the only country to object strongly against the loose agreement signed by 194 nations. At least China seems pretty determined to take some lead on the issue now, indicating that it would be interested in renewing the Kyoto Protocol.  Most stuff hase been deferred till next year. All in all, I really wonder what the UN COP is ever going to offer us in the small timeframe we have to stop runaway climate change. It’s desparately daunting and I have less and less faith in it. But what real alternatives have we? Cochabamba and the people’s accord? It’s all nice inspiring wording but there’s no techinical anything to back it up at all…… how do we measure emission reductions etc…it’s very complex. It’s enough to make my brain tumble round a while. I’m a science-head, so without reasonably exact measuring mechanisms, I don’t see how we can really stop climate change. It’s a long road we have to travel….these massive international negotiations have many flaws, but do we the grassroots movements have the capacity to really develop an alternative independent of the UN, without access to paid experts who can flesh out how an alternative system would mean?  I hope, I really hope we can…..


Two marches , divided leaders, united peoples


Yesterday was the big march which was supposed to be the only co-ordinated effort between the different alternative spaces here in Cancun, but unfortunately 24 hours before, according to Dialogo Climatico Via Campesina decided to not march with them and do their own route.  We were all terribly distraught, sad and angry by the news! We didn’t really get a clear explanation as to what the differences were, but rumour has it, that it’s mostly  a history of old divisions between networks and groups here in Mexico which infuriated us the general participants all the more… could these national issues between organisations be put in the way of such an internationally important event!!! But, that’s the context of these lands and in some strange way, we had to accept it, if not really understand or repect their decision.

On a practical level , it was explained to us by some of those in the Dialogo Climatico(DC), that the two groups disagreed on the marching distances.  Dialogo Climatico marched 10km yesterday around the centre of Cancun as far as the start of the hotel zone, while Via Campesina and Anti-cop marched about 20km as far as the start of the red zone where the first police blockades are.  With a the heat here in Cancún, DC did not see it as wise to march for so long especially with children and older people in our ranks, with possiblilities of conflicts at the police barriers, which still were 10km from the Moon Palace where the official COP16 is being held. However, word through the grape vine has it that the divisions are stronger than this…..that Via Campesina has openly criticised Dialogo Climatico and some other alternative spaces for ‘selling out’ to the green capitalist solutions being offered at COP16 via REDD+ and green technology transfer mechanisms. These basically opens up new green markets of selling our forests, rivers and who knows what else in the near future! I for one have heard most organisations here at DC speak very strongly against REDD+ but like I mentioned before, Greenpeace and Oxfam are seeing this as a good interim solution, which I see as a fatal mistake! Hence, as Greenpeace and Oxfam are involved in DC, the entire other lot of hundreds of participants and groups have been bad-mouthed by Via Campesina Mexico. Yet Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) and Via Campesina International have strong alliances which leaves FOEI is a precarious position of trying to attend both spaces.

Our Chiapas Caravana had a long heart-felt discussion the night before, about the division in the march and it was really inspiring to hear what many campesinos, activists and indigenous people had to say who had travelled so far to this event..not just Chiapas, but from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, not to mention many foreigners from Europe mainly (though some are travellers in these parts at the moment).  Those who spoke voiced their reasons for coming and that we shouldn’t get overwhelmed by these divisions, that we should transcend them, and remember our common cause and common ground between us.  Despite there being this division, we should be bigger than these supposed leaders that caused the split, and continue with our march with conviction.  And so we did…..

What really pained  some of us though, is that there seems to have been  little communication about the different working groups in the DC on who decides what. There’s been hardly any open decision-making meetings where all the participants can attend…..but not necessarily out of a lack willingness to let everyone participate, but more perhaps out of a lack of people behind the scenes putting in the hard slog.  The core group who put this together, despite the many-named groups on the webpage were very few and worked very hard to get this space together for the past year.  However, there seems to have been a big oversight in my view, in not creating a daily space for the participants to take decisions together… does one do this with a few thousand participants though? I think it is possible like I’ve seen done at UK Climate Camps.  Is it down partly to lack of experience of the organisers in being unfamiliar with non-hierarchical structures for organising? Moreso I think it’s the context we find ourselves in.  Grassroots Latin America in what I am seeing here at CO16 has a very different history to us in Europe to state the obvious.  Not only in the organisation but also in the talk styles that are taking place, I feel things are very much in an old-socialist school mode….big long speeches which can be inspiring, but incredibly non-participative, and quite repetitive.  Not only are the leaders unfamiliar with more participative techniques, but also the participants, so having efficient spokes meetings like one might have in Europe, isn’t something that people can learn over night.  It frustrates me endlessly, but there’s something to be learnt in this too. And how people organise and communicate is something I’m passionate about.  This is probably all pretty basic for anyone who’s been here a while, but there are just some small personal insights that I’m living and sharing with you the reader!

So, we marched, we numbered about 3,000 in my opinion. Some said about 5,000, who knows. We marched with many groups (photos laters, can’t download em now eeek!) and local Cancún groups too for worker’s rights, women’s rights, indigenous rights….more than I can remember now.  It was a good energetic march, with the usual speeches at the end, and some nice touches of typical local music and dances.  Some of us wanted to join the Via Campesina and Antic@p marches after ours, but soon found out that they’d blocked off access to that part of town and there was no way in.  However, we all knew that despite the momentary energy we might feel in seeing the cop-lines and the face of those with power, there was never a chance in hell of reaching the Moon Palace considering there was around 10 police blocks in between, police helicopters overhead and word of an unmanned military aircraft also monitoring us from somewhere! We also knew that changing the minds of the COP16 government delegates wasn’t going to be achieved by a march either. So, we returned back to base and later met our compadres who had gone to the Via Campesina march and the AntiC@p one.  They had numbered probably 5,000 they said and there was good energy though they were wrecked after having walked twice what we did in quite some heat.  They reached the front of the restricted red zone about 100m from the first police barricade and that’s where Via ended without any police conflict.

Our friends told us that Anti-c@op numbering about 200, went a tad further to the police line but little enough was done as hundreds of police were in typical kettling formation on 3 sides of the protestors, with 2m high barricades ready for anything! So they didn’t get up to much.  Most of them retreated around 4pm (having started at 10am!) leaving a small group of radical ‘punkies’ still wishing to keep watch over the cops.  Supposedly nothing much more happened.  In one worrying report, some greek participants heard that some Greek tv stations reported that one of the marches here turned violent with windows broken on the route, but none of us saw any of this happen.  It’s complete bullshit if you hear any of those stories.

Another interesting thing for me in the prep for the march was the different forms of organising the groups here have to protect against possible infilrators/police agitators etc.  For example, we cordoned ourselves off as a group with a rope on 3 all sides and all kept watch for unidentified folks just in case! Luckily nothing happened but tis a good to know for the future! We have many experienced groups among our caravan who have suffered from government and military repression here in Mexico, like the Abejas from Acteal Chiapas who suffered a terrible massacre in 1997 and have incessantly campaigned and protested for those who killed their families and friends to be brought to justice.

All in all, it was a disappointing turn out of maximum 10,000 between the two marches, compared to 100,000 in Copenhaguen. Reasons for this? Cancun is further for those in the rich nations to attend, and we might be in Latin America, but again, there’s huge distances and costs for these poorer peoples to reach Cancun to voice their concerns.   What of COP17 which will be in South Africa? Who can afford to attend from the world’s poorest continent? What hope have we really of  COP16 reaching any good decisions without market-reliant solutions? What alternatives have we other than the this UN platform? Will there be a continuation of the Bolivian initiative for an alternative platform? What can we do in the meantime to strengthen our possiblities of taking back power from those who abuse it with COP and green capitalism being only the latest manifestation of the same problem.  As Colin Rajah from Grassroots Global Justice USA, said in a talk today “Climate change is a symptom of a much larger disease, the neoliberal global economic system which is the agenda of the rich and powerful people and governments both in the north and south which do not suffer the consequences of climate change”.  We need to really face up to this challenge in the north….no more tippy-toeing around these issues…..the system has got to change, reformist solutions like green capitalism only leave us with another set of similar or worse problems…. it’s up to all of us to debate and decide how to do this.

good footage from an indy collective here reporting on COP16 – KOMAN ILEL

Divided Alter-summits – egos or wha?


Monday Dec. 6th

Quick short update…..looks like tomorrow’s march is now split, Via Campesina and Dialogo Climatico had made a pact to have a common march despite having different spaces over god knows what differences, but the latest now is that there will be 2 separate marches tomorrow which is the main one. And Anti-cap will probably have their own due to security stuff… they are more the black-blockers, which is grand enough….

But I’m peeved…seems there’s little enough to be done. I don’t know the folks in charge of the Dialogo Climatico and even though some of the ground are saying this is all bullshit and we should join the two marches, it looks quite difficult how to do this.  We’re gonna meet this eve in our Caravana Chipas and see.  There are no collective meetings for the Dialogo as a whole, and all this hidden hierarchy is doing my head in.

I know little enough about klimaforum10….we hear there are few enough out at the fancy polo club they’ve set themselves up in. They are probably joining the Via Campesina march it seems…

Will keep you updated!

Cancún – 25hrs later…heat, sun, and compas!


Ok, so net ain’t as simple as I’d thought….this is yesterday’s account…

Sat Dec 4th

25 hours after we left Chiapas, after a road block from some campesinos on route protesting against their leaders having been imprisoned, some dodge trecks of messed up road from the recent floods and a couple of military check points upon entering Cancun, we finally arrived at the Diálogo Climático in just about in time for dinner, though the food ran out before we’d all eaten which wasn’t at all pleasant for some of our indigenous compas.

Open camping with some large communal tents was the order of the day for our possie and most of us were only too happy to have space to stretch our legs after the semi-hellish bus ride.

Sunday December 5th

Breakfast took off a wee bit late this morn around 8.30am and after a brief group meeting to talk some logistics we all took off to participate in the inauguration and other discussion panels scheduled for the day.   The inauguration kicked off enthusiastically with Ricardo Navarro FOE Salvador saluting the crowd with cry of ‘ Zapata vive’ (Zapata lives) to which the crowd replied ‘La lucha sigue’ (the struggle continues).  I soon realised during the day that this is a pretty emblematic cry at many talks.

Ricard Navarro from FOE Salvador at the inauguration of El Diálogo Climático

However, I didn’t really get to see much as I was still sussing out logistics for our group, like registering folk, and helping to suss out the community kitchen run by volunteers which needed a washing area and more signage for people’s donations.  Between one thing and another the day mostly flew.  How is it I always get stuck more in organizing rather than just plainly participating? 😉

Anyhows, at 5pm I finally sneaked off to go see the other camp where Via Campesina and the Anti-C@p crew are.  It’s about a 30min walk from here (supermanzana 21 beside the Casa Cultural ) and made it in time for an interesting meeting to plan a possible march tomorrow which included many colourful actions like possibly throwing some shit at the department of the environment.  As foreigners it’s illegal to engage in any political activity here in Mexico, but I wouldn’t mind taking some photos of this.

The Via Campesina space seems to have more people there though their space is smaller. Both camps seem to have opted for many large old-school type panel sessions with a couple of hundred at them, but it doesn’t make for very participative stuff.  Some speakers are inspiring, but it seems harder to meet and network with people.  This old-school huge socialist-type panel versus audience crap.

And then there’s Anti-C@p which would be more like what I’m used to.  They are camped right beside Via Campesina sharing food, toilet, sleeping logistics.  The crew are mainly Mexico City-based and more radical and participative than the other two camps.  They are also younger, and less racially mixed, but lots of Via Campesina are looking on at their activities.  Anti-C@p don’t seem to have a specific programme going as yet but there’s lots of room for spontaneous workshops and talks so to me that’s a bit of a bonus.  There’s a mural workshop and a ‘pequeñas acciones’ workshop there tomorrow. Beats getting talked at all day long!! Hopefully I’ll get to some of it.

And what about the official COP? Well word has it that Japan are pushing away from wanting to sign a new treaty, whenever it may happen, as they feel it unjust with them only producing 4% of the world’s emissions.  REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation ) is the big thing on the agenda and this mostly being seen as a false solution by most speakers hre at DC, though I heard the head of Greenpeace, Kimu Naidoo, said here yesterday that REDD could be a good intermittent solution…. EEEEK! The ins and outs of REDD seem like an interminable maze for even the experts, but the basic premise is that it opens up forests, rivers, mother nature to being new capitalist markets and being bought and sold more so for carbon off-setting by rich-nations, with many crazy usual consequences….throwing indigenous off their lands for their ‘preservation’ instead of the real translational culprits.  With the corrupt level of governments and rich individuals in these countries, market solutions are in no way ever going to work.

Click here for Live radio in spanish from Dialogo Climatico

Caravana Chiapas a COP16 Cancún – Fuímonos!


Last night I met the guy behind Submedia TV.  He was at the Palicate Centro Cultural presenting his new flick END CIV which was a true blast of in-your-fucking-face reality of how crazy those who are running the show really are.  Like in The Corporation flick, there’s a diagnosis that considering the actions of the world’s most powerful corporations and first-world government in the light of the overwhelming scientific evidence that climate chaos is just around the corner and this is the make-or-break moment for the human race and much of planetary life; that they are all stark raving PSYCHOPATHS and it’s not possible to ever reason with them or convince them otherwise. Conclusion: it’s time to put all plans into action to save our asses.  Obeying the law never changed anything! WATCH THIS FLICK if yer looking for motivation to rise to the challenge 🙂

This flick was our second wee local kick-off here in San Cristobal before setting off to the COP16 tomorrow afternoon on our 5 bus Caravana Chiapaneca.  Last week Dimitri a Greek activist presented a short documentary he made about COP15 which definitely put us all in the mood to engage in all the great talks, workshops, marches and other events which await us during the week at the Dialogo Climatico.  There are a couple of different alternative spaces this year at the Mexican COP16 because, well, there were some differences between organising groups (clicheé divided left?….don’t know specifics).  So, Via Campesina also have their own space, while the successors of the Klimaforum in COP15, Klimaforum10 seem to be a right wad of gangsters charging $8 a day to participate (and $1,200 to have a stand for NGOs/green businesses!!)  in their semi-luxurry setting about 40km out of Cancún. I’m not sure why exactly Klimarforum09 gave em the rights to the name, but again, it seems like complicated crap not worth getting into now.

So, our road to Cancún is going to be an adventure in itself. If things were simple, it would take us around 18 hours drive to get there, but heck, we’re in Latin America..things aren’t straightforward; they are colourful and full of the spice of life! We are 200 odd folk on our 5 buses, from many local indigenous communities here in Chiapas, plus some randomers from all walks of life.  Our route takes us via Palenque as we’re picking up a group there, but reports says with the latest heavy rains, there has been more landslides and the already-damaged road from heavy floods in the recent rainy season, is now even more blocked up.  With the heaviest rainfall in decades in Chiapas this year (damaging many crops), climate change may well be make our trip all the more meaningful and relevant. And then theres some police check points to greet us on our way into the great tourist metropolis that is pricey-land Cancún.  I’d give us about 27 hrs to get there. I’m gonna need a swim in the sea after that for sure….but wait a sec…most of the Cancún beaches are privately owned by the big mega-hotel resorts….FUCK THAT SHIT! I say we reclaim a beach y’all. 🙂

The official COP16 began Nov. 29th.  Word from the inside ain’t exactly inspiring, but we all knew not to expect much from the usual crew of wine-ing and dining government officials rubbing balding-heads and starched shirts with corporate lobby groups.  So why bother going to COP16? So they know we haven’t forgotten, that we’re all watching as are so many around the world participating in the 1,000 Cancuns events, like my crew back in Eire (Climate Camp Ireland), because NO DEAL IS BETTER THAN A BAD DEAL…to strengthen our grassroots connections, to share grassroots solutions and organising techniques, to energise and cross-pollinate from the ground up.

Still got some packing to do, photocopying info for the bus folk in the moro, so I better hit the sack.

Oiche Mhaith. See you on the other side….i’ll be doing daily updates from Cancún, so watch this space 😉

oh..and some interesting videos getting posted from Cancún: