The other Cancún…

The following is a recent dispatch from the Climate Reality Tour, a movement-building cycling tour from the coalfields of West Virginia, now present at the UN Climate Talks in Cancún.

12/6/2010 – Seven years ago the world’s small farmer, labor, and environmental movements converged in Cancún to stop the World Trade Organization (WTO) from tightening its iron grip on people and our planet.

The stakes of those talks were so high in 2003 that one Korean farmer, Lee Kyung-Hae, a member of Via Campesina, climbed the police cordon and committed a ritual suicide. Expansion of the WTO agriculture agreement would have meant death for millions of farmers, he said. He made the ultimate sacrifice to express absolute dissent.

Yesterday, with the global spotlight back on Cancún for the United Nations climate negotiations, Via Campesina marched to commemorate Mr. Lee’s heroic act. They honored his sacrifice by continuing in the struggle, demanding an end to climate change attacking its root causes, and to halt implementation of false solutions.

It’s no coincidence that Via Campesina is again in Cancún in 2010. Their organizations are clamoring for the same solutions as seven years ago. Support for rural, autonomous, sustainable development, an end to megaprojects like dams and mines, food sovereignty, land, water and other resource rights for indigenous peoples and small farmers who feed and cool the planet.

We in the global north have some catching up to do.

Movements elsewhere in the world are rapidly organizing, and organizing around root causes. Free from the framework of infinite growth and expansion and as opposed to embarrassingly over compromised legislation in the U.S., the solutions they advocate might actually prevent catastrophic climate change. There’s a near universal understanding that we must tackle the interrelated climate, economic and food crises with holistic new approaches, or humanity just might not make it. There’s a demonstrated willingness to sacrifice not just minor creature comforts or the added monetary costs of sustainability premiums on consumer products, but to literally put their bodies on the line, to brave acts of violence and repression that we can hardly imagine. To really sacrifice, like Mr. Lee.

So let’s not forget there are many Cancúns. 2003. 2010. The Cancún of the tourists and official delegates, and that of the workers and peasants, and social movements present this week. The 1,000s of Cancúns that will rise up in cities worldwide tomorrow, Dec 7th.

Join us tomorrow in demanding Climate Justice, NOW! The spirit of Mr. Lee and countless others will be with you, wherever you may be.


About James


Divinity. Justice. Yoga. Compost. I'm a Buddhist and Unitarian-Universalist seminarian and a life-long organizer for social justice. I'm drawn to transformative practices that heal our society, heal our planet, and heal our own wounds.

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