Members of La Via Campesina and other groups condemn market-based solutions
— Photo: AP
Protesters from environmental groups hold up a banner against the REDD plus proposal, outside the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, on Tuesday.
CANCUN: Hector Rodriguez, who runs an alternative radio station in Cancun called Reptil, decided on a novel way to protest the commercialisation of forestry.
As hundreds of people marched to the venue of the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Tuesday, Mr. Rodriguez walked up to the posse of Mexican policemen with riot shields and launched into an impassioned plea to help Mother Earth.
“Help, help me,” he pleaded to the policemen, who quickly moved back, unsure of how to react. Hector’s clothes literally made a statement. The white cloth that barely covered him screamed: ‘No to REDD’ and ‘No to capitalism of forests.’ The protest, organised by La Via Campesina and other groups with an estimated 3,000-5,000 people, was against market-based solutions to climate change and opposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) plus, a proposal that seeks to help people manage forests and sequester carbon, among other things.
The heavily guarded road leading to the venue, Moon Palace, was barricaded. A helicopter circled over the march. However, small groups protested along the road. Posters reading ‘The Earth is not for sale,’ ‘life or death,’ and ‘No to REDD,’ reflected some of the themes of the protest. ‘Let’s change the system, not the climate,’ said the others.
Social movements and civil society representatives, together with Bolivian Ambassador Pablo Solon and Chief Paraguayan Adviser Miguel Lovera, joined the small farmers, indigenous people, women, environmental groups and other activists who marched for hours in the blazing sun. The march ended in a meeting of sorts. The Mexican authorities had lined up large numbers of federal policemen along the way to Moon Palace.
Meanwhile, at a press conference at Moon Palace, La Via Campesina, Mr. Solon, Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Ricardo Navarro of Friends of the Earth International and others condemned the “false solutions and backroom deals” in the negotiations currently under way. They called for worldwide actions for climate solutions based on traditional indigenous knowledge, community-based practices and human rights.
The press conference ended with Luis Henrique Moura of MST, the landless workers’ movement of Brazil, leading the group in the chant: ‘Globalise the struggle, globalise hope!’ The group staged a small protest there, shouting ‘No REDD, no REDD.’
“We have called for 1,000 Cancuns around the world today,” said Josie Riffaud of La Via Campesina, referring to the need for grass-roots communities to take the lead in proposing solutions to the ecological crisis. “The first of these took place this [Tuesday] morning inside the Moon Palace.” A small tableau was created at Cancun Messe, also a conference venue, highlighting the consequences of not addressing climate change.
Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project referred to Lee Kyung Hae, the South Korean farmer and La Via Campesina member, who took his life during protests against the World Trade Organisation here in 2003, wearing a sign saying ‘The WTO Kills Farmers.’ “Then we were fighting against the World Trade Organisation,” she said. “Today, we have to fight the World Carbon Trade Organisation.”
Representatives of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America which comprises nations of South America and the Caribbean (ALBA) countries also expressed their solidarity with the people.