Eco-so­cial­ism to fight cli­mate change

With Lima fail­ing to tackle crit­i­cal is­sues on global warm­ing, Bo­livia out­lines so­cial­ist project to save the planet


Tim­ages from Peru are the melt­ing HE EN­DUR­ING glaciers. In the run-up to the 20th Con­fer­ence of Par­ties (cop20) on cli­mate change in Lima, TV chan­nels had sent re­porters to cap­ture the most dras­tic im­pacts of cli­mate change on the host coun­try which is a bio­di­ver­sity hotspot.Some had fo­cused on the melt­ing of glacial ice high up in the Peru­vian An­des and its fall­out.

The pic­tures were stark. The ice cap on Quel­c­caya, a vol­canic plain some 5,500 me­tres above sea level, had re­ceded dramatically,show­ing jagged swathes of the dark rock in the frozen land­scape. In just 35 years, the glacial ice that was formed around 1,800 years ago to make the world’s largest con­cen­tra­tion of trop­i­cal glaciers had re­treated as much as 20 per cent due to a 0.7° C rise in tem­per­a­ture in the An­des be­tween 1939 and 2009.

But even more wor­ry­ing were other re­ports of the Peru­vian gov­ern­ment’s re­gres­sive poli­cies on pro­tect­ing its en­vi­ron­ment un­der Pres­i­dent Ol­lanta Hu­mala.This is a con­cern that has res­o­nance in In­dia where the new bjp regime of Naren­dra Modi is rapidly dis­man­tling en­vi­ron­men­tal safe­guards. In Peru, there have been vi­o­lent clashes be­tween the in­dige­nous peo­ple re­sist­ing land grab by oil and log­ging com­pa­nies. There have been many deaths. In In­dia, land is be­ing given away for in­dus­try and devel­op­ment at an alarm­ing rate. At about the time Lima was seek­ing an elu­sive agree­ment, a min­is­ter in the Modi Cabi­net dis­closed that as much as 1,35,000 hectares of land had been given away for var­i­ous projects in the last three months alone. Speak­ing at a sym­po­sium on the sig­nif­i­cance of for­est foods for adi­va­sis, Min­is­ter for Women and Child Devel­op­ment Maneka Gandhi dis­mayed the gath­er­ing by say­ing that is­sues re­lated to forests were never dis­cussed in the Cabi­net. She also feared that it would be dif­fi­cult to let the forests be.

The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in Lima as in Delhi is the same: en­vi­ron­men­tal laws have to be whit­tled down to at­tract in­vest­ment. It is against this back­drop that we have to view the in­abil­ity of cop20 to fix bind­ing com­mit­ments on emis­sions,leav­ing each na­tion free to de­cide what it wants to do to re­duce emis­sions—if at all.

What can be done to save the planet? Per­haps, Bo­livia has an an­swer. Its ex­tra­or­di­nary Pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales, who be­lieves that eco-so­cial­ism is the only way out of the mess cre­ated by the greed and plun­der of the cur­rent eco­nomic sys­tem, has an al­ter­na­tive to fight the cli­mate cri­sis. He has pro­posed a joint mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion (jma) ap­proach for “the in­te­gral and sus­tain­able man­age­ment of forests that would take into ac­count the holis­tic views of in­dige­nous peo­ples,lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and lo­cal re­source users about the en­vi­ron­ment and Mother Earth.” Women will be the keystone of this project since the aim was to achieve “gen­der equal­ity and em­pow­er­ment of all women and girls”.

Most gov­ern­ments and econ­o­mists are likely to dis­miss this out of hand as utopian or mere so­cial­ist twad­dle. Terms such as eco-so­cial­ism, Mother Earth and in­dige­nous peo­ple tend to have this ef­fect on con­ven­tional think­ing.

Even if the Bo­li­vian plan “to save life and hu­man­ity” sounds ro­man­tic, can we af­ford to be dis­mis­sive? Some, for­tu­nately, are tak­ing Mo­rales se­ri­ously. A sum­mit of alba lead­ers meet­ing in Ha­vana on De­cem­ber 14 en­dorsed his pro­posal to host a global as­sem­bly of so­cial move­ments in 2015 with the aim of adopt­ing a united strat­egy to fight cli­mate change. alba is a group of just nine Latin Amer­i­can and Caribbean coun­tries.It’s a small be­gin­ning. But af­ter the fail­ure of Lima, the world needs to look for hope—and so­lu­tions—in un­likely places.


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