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Update from COP-16 in Cancún: Settling in for a long trip...

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Leaving at 6am on December 3rd from Huehuetenango and getting into Cancun at 7pm last night made for a bit of a long trip, but I am happy to be here!  I just found internet access, so I am posting an entry I wrote on the bus yesterday morning (which now seems like forever ago....)

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The music is coming back on in the bus as the sun is rising, and after a break for breakfast (with much-needed coffee!), the atmosphere on our bus is once again festive and alive. 

It is 7 am on December 4, and we have been driving straight through the night, having left San Cristobal at about 6pm yesterday.  Somehow, with all the stops – the road blockages, the car accidents that needed to be moved, the countless bathroom breaks – we still have anywhere from 5 hours to 14 to go (the reports are mixed).  Getting on the bus last night, I resounded myself to not count hours, and instead go with the flow and enjoy the trip.  And, aside from wishing I hadn’t packed my toothbrush in a bag that is under the bus, I am having an amazing time celebrating my birthday with countless others who also want to live on a living planet.

I am travelling in a caravan with about 250 other people spread out over 5 busses, organized by Friends of the Earth.  With large banners hanging out the windows of each of the busses, anyone who sees us go by will read statements like: “Los bosques no se venden, se aman y se defienden” (the forests are not for sale, they are to be loved and defended), and "Cambia el sistema, NO el clima!" (Change the system, NOT the climate!) 

With the main issues on the table at the COP-16 this year being the continued advancement of REDD (the Reduction of Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries) – a plan that could see the privatization of the world’s forests without any prior consultation or consent – alongside the promotion of false solutions like the expansion of biofuels and the carbon market by governments and corporations alike, I continue to have my doubts that our voices will be heard in what are being referred to as the “official” climate change meetings. 

But as I head to the International Forum on Climate Justice, I am reminded that there will be scores of people who refuse to go away or be silent, and instead, over the next 5 days and beyond will continue to develop their own strategies to confront the false solutions being advocated at the global level.  They will advocate against false solutions based on disaster capitalism; false solutions that continue to violate the rights of Indigenous Peoples and those living in the Global South; and false solutions that have been shown to not only not work, but significantly worsen the effects of climate change.

As I am handed a conference agenda on the bus, I read about the upcoming panel discussions and workshops I will be able to attend over the next several days: panel discussions on the structural causes of climate change, free trade agreements and the roles of international lending agencies in financing these false solutions; permaculture and food sovereignty, including successful regional alternatives and indigenous economies as alternatives to climate change; the Rights of Mother Earth, and the impacts of the climate crisis on Indigenous Peoples; panels discussing the role of forests as merely carbon stores, or instead as generators of life for the natural world and communities; debates on the ineffectiveness and danger of REDD and REDD+ programs already being implemented without consultation; mining, megaprojects and the widespread militarization to protect corporate interests; and panels on urban planning, sustainable cities and mitigation strategies.  

Other activities during the week include documentary screenings and side talks – including several related to fighting the expansion of the tar sands – as well as an enormous march on December 7th as a Day of Action, as the main event in the global movement of A 1000 Cancuns with parallel activities planned across the world the same day.  Throughout the week, there will continue to be strategy sessions on building movements for social change, particularly leading up to the next conference in South Africa in 2011, with the summit wrapping up with the reading of the Final Declaration on December 10th. 

It is going to be a busy week!

Having said that, I figure I have typed long enough and should instead turn around in my seat and participate more in the bus atmosphere.  We still have a long way to go, but I am looking forward to setting up my tent with several hundred others in Super Manzana 21, Cancun’s baseball stadium - hopefully, sometime before tomorrow morning.  Hasta pronto!


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