Michelle Cook, Navajo, arrives at the La Paz airport in Bolivia, along with Jose Matus, Yaqui, ready to participate as grassroots delegates to the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. Michelle arrived from Maori territory in New Zealand, with a night over in Chile, and Jose from the US/Mexico border where he is director of the Indigenous Alliance without Borders. Photos Brenda Norrell.
Bolivia's Morales slams capitalist debt to global warming
Bolivian President Evo Morales opened a "people's conference" on climate change on Tuesday with an attack on capitalism's debt to global warming, before participants booed a UN envoy.
Environmental activists, indigenous leaders and Hollywood celebrities were scheduled to take part in the three-day summit focusing on the world's poorest, which they say were largely ignored at official United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen last December.
"Either capitalism dies, or it will be Mother Earth," leftist Morales said to a crowd of some 20,000 people.
"We're here because industrialized countries have not honored their promises."
The Copenhagen meeting was widely criticized for failing to produce a new treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Critics said the deal it produced will not avert a climate catastrophe.
The "People's World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights" will draft new proposals for the next UN climate talks in Mexico at the end of the year.
But the UN representative in Bolivia struggled to make her voice heard over a chorus of booing on Tuesday.
"We came with all respect to hear the people, you invited us to be here. If you don't want us to be here we can leave," said Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sought dialogue, inclusion and transparency in the world climate debate, according to a message distributed by Barcena.
The colorful assembly, dotted with Andean flags and ponchos, met in a small stadium surrounded by mountains in Tiquipaya, in the suburbs of Cochabamba.
"We have a choice between two paths: one is a path of life, one is the path of destruction," said participant Faith Gemmill, an ethnic Gwich'in of the Alaska inter-tribal council.
Morales, of Aymara origin, said that the lifestyle of indigenous peoples, including their harmonious relationship with nature, should be "the only true alternative."
Morales sought to refine proposals he had presented in Copenhagen, including the creation of a world tribunal for climate issues and a global referendum on environmental choices.
Developing nations have resisted a legally binding climate treaty, arguing that wealthy nations must bear the primary responsibility for climate change.
This week's gathering was expected to give a megaphone to a left-leaning bloc of Latin American leaders, including presidents Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Nearly 130 countries, including many of the world's poorest, were to be represented in Cochabamba.
Anti-globalization activists Naomi Klein of Canada and Jose Bove of France were also on the guest list, while James Cameron, director of the blockbuster film "Avatar," and US actor Danny Glover were notable by their absence on Tuesday.
The conference followed a preparatory meeting between representatives from the world's leading economies in Washington ahead of the December UN summit in Cancun.
The US-led Major Economies Forum comprises 17 countries responsible for the bulk of global emissions and excludes smaller nations such as Sudan whose firebrand negotiators held up sessions at December's Copenhagen summit.