Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Climate Change Conference Wraps Up

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(Ruxandra Guidi is blogging from Bolivia’s climate change conference.)

Capitalism. This was the most widely used word at the conference, mentioned over two dozen times by President Evo Morales in his many speeches and repeated by the public and government delegates alike. Then came the phrase climate change, of course; the environment, and mother earth—or Pachamama, as it’s known throughout the Andes.

Among the Quechua and Aymara peoples, Pachamama is a concept much richer than our Western definition of nature. She’s a deity that cares for the soil and everything that grows on it or lives in it. She’s also the symbol of fertility and reciprocity: Those who care for her get to harvest her fruits; those who don’t, face disease and natural disasters.

Planeta o muerte!” chanted Morales, in a play on words from the Cuban Revolution motto, “patria o muerte” (fatherland or death), as he addressed the crowd of thousands at the inauguration ceremony. “We can follow only one of two roads: That of Pachamama, and the other, the road of capitalism.” 

“Capitalism commodifies everything: our ancestral cultures, our forests and justice system,” added Morales. “If we don’t change our capitalist model, any of the measures we take against climate change will be inadequate, at best.”

Quoting the fact that the industrialized world’s current carbon footprint is five times larger than what the planet can sustain, Morales criticized the West for failing to commit to lower emissions. The conclusions by the 17 different working groups at the conference echoed this sentiment, calling for a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2020—an ideal, if not utopian, goal.

They also called on industrialized countries to finance adaptation measures and technology transfers for the developing world along with the creation of an international climate justice tribunal, the development of a so-called Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, and most radically, the “need to change the current capitalist system.”

Vowing to present these popular demands at the next Conference of the Parties (COP16) meeting later this year in Mexico, government delegates and peasant and indigenous organizations closed the conference on Friday after just three days of deliberations. And once again, Morales conjured up Pachamama and mentioned the ills of capitalism before committing to a gathering again next year.

Ruxandra Guidi is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org based in San Francisco, California. She is Communications Director for the San Francisco-based non-profit Amazon Watch, and one half of the collaboration group, Fonografia Collective.


Ruxandra Guidi is an independent journalist and multimedia producer with Fonografia Collective (http://fonografiacollective.com) based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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