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14.12.2019 – Madrid, Spain – Democracy Now!

Greta Thunberg Slams COP25, Says Response to Climate Crisis Is “Clever Accounting and Creative PR”
(Image by Democracy Now)

At the U.N. climate summit in Madrid, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed world leaders Wednesday, hours after she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Thunberg came to the talks after a trip to meet with climate leaders across North America in anticipation of the scheduled climate conference in Santiago, Chile, before the talks were abruptly moved to the Spanish capital. In her address, Thunberg warned that the planet’s carbon budget is down to just eight years, and urged bold action. “I still believe that the biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from inside the United Nations Climate Change Conference here in Madrid, Spain, where 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addressed the plenary on Wednesday. She spoke just a few hours before being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

GRETA THUNBERG: A year and a half ago, I didn’t speak to anyone unless I really had to. But then I found a reason to speak. Since then, I have given many speeches and learned that when you talk in public, you should start with something personal or emotional to get everyone’s attention, say things like, “Our house is on fire,” “I want you to panic,” or “How dare you!” But today I will not do that, because then those phrases are all that people focus on. They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place. We no longer have time to leave out the science.

For about a year, I have been constantly talking about our rapidly declining carbon budgets, over and over again. But since that is still being ignored, I will just keep repeating it. In chapter two, on page 108 in the SR 1.5 IPCC report that came out last year, it says that if we are to have a 67% chance of limiting the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, we had, on January 1st, 2018, 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit in that budget. And, of course, that number is much lower today as we emit about 42 gigatons of CO2 every year, including land use. With today’s emissions levels, that remaining budget will be gone within about eight years. These numbers aren’t anyone’s opinions or political views. This is the current best available science. Though many scientists suggest these figures are too moderate, these are the ones that have been accepted through the IPCC.

And please note that these figures are global, and therefore do not say anything about the aspect of equity, which is absolutely essential to make the Paris Agreement work on a global scale. That means that richer countries need to do their fair share and get down to real zero emissions much faster and then help poorer countries do the same, so people in less fortunate parts of the world can raise their living standards.

These numbers also don’t include most feedback loops, nonlinear tipping points or additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution. Most models assume, however, that future generations will somehow be able to suck hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 out of the air with technologies that do not exist in the scale required and maybe never will. The approximate 67% chance budget is the one with the highest odds given by the IPCC. And now we have less than 340 gigatons of CO2 left to emit in that budget to share fairly.

And why is it so important to stay below 1.5 degrees? Because even at 1 degree, people are dying from the climate crisis. Because that is what the united science calls for to avoid destabilizing the climate, so that we have the best possible chance to avoid setting off irreversible chain reactions, such as melting glaciers, polar ice and thawing Arctic permafrost. Every fraction of a degree matters.

So there it is again. This is my message. This is what I want you to focus on. So please tell me: How do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic? How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this, without feeling the slightest bit of anger? And how do you communicate this without sounding alarmist? I would really like to know.

Since the Paris Agreement, global banks have invested 1.9 trillion U.S. dollars in fossil fuels. One hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. The G20 countries account for almost 80% of total emissions. The richest 10% of the world’s population produce half of our CO2 emissions, while the poorest 50% account for just one-tenth. We indeed have some work to do, but some more than others.

Recently, a handful of rich countries pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by so-and-so many percent by this or that date, or to become climate-neutral or net zero in so-and-so many years. This may sound impressive at first glance, but even though the intentions may be good, this is not leadership. This is not leading. This is misleading, because most of these pledges do not include aviation, shipping, and imported and exported goods and consumption. They do, however, include the possibility of countries to offset their emissions elsewhere. These pledges don’t include the immediate yearly reduction rates needed for wealthy countries, which is necessary to stay within the remaining tiny budget. Zero in 2050 means nothing if high emission continues even for a few years; then the remaining budget will be gone.

Without seeing the full picture, we will not solve this crisis. Finding holistic solutions is what the COP should be all about. But instead, it seems to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition. Countries are finding clever ways around having to take real action, like double counting emissions reductions and moving their emissions overseas and walking back on their promises to increase ambition or refusing to pay for solutions or loss and damage. This has to stop. What we need is real, drastic emission cuts at the source.

But, of course, just reducing emissions is not enough. Our greenhouse gas emissions has to stop. To stay below 1.5 degrees, we need to keep the carbon in the ground. Only setting up distant dates and saying things which give the impression of that action is underway will most likely do more harm than good, because the changes required are still nowhere in sight. The politics needed does not exist today, despite what you might hear from world leaders.

And I still believe that the biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when in fact almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel around the world. And my experience is that the lack of awareness is the same everywhere, not the least amongst those elected to lead us. There is no sense of urgency whatsoever. Our leaders are not behaving as if we were in an emergency. In an emergency, you change your behavior. If there is a child standing in the middle of the road and cars are coming at full speed, you don’t look away because it’s too uncomfortable. You immediately run out and rescue that child. And without that sense of urgency, how can we, the people, understand that we are facing a real crisis? And if the people are not fully aware of what is going on, then they will not put pressure on the people in power to act. And without pressure from the people, our leaders can get away with basically not doing anything — which is where we are now. And around and around it goes.

In just three weeks we will enter a new decade, a decade that will define our future. Right now we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well, I’m telling you there is hope. I have seen it. But it does not come from the governments or corporations. It comes from the people, the people who have been unaware but are now starting to wake up. And once we become aware, we change. People can change. People are ready for change. And that is the hope, because we have democracy. And democracy is happening all the time, not just on Election Day, but every second and every hour. It is public opinion that runs the free world. In fact, every great change throughout history has come from the people. We do not have to wait. We can start the change right now. We, the people. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. Right after her address, scores of youth activists rushed the stage as security tried to escort them off. They stood, immovable, fists raised in the air, chanting, “You can’t drink oil! Keep it in the soil!” Their final chant as they walked off the stage was “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!”

YOUTH ACTIVISTS: We are unstoppable! Another world is possible! We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!

AMY GOODMAN: Outside the U.N. summit plenary on Thursday afternoon, we’ll hear voices from the protests that took place that afternoon, and speak with Uganda’s first Fridays for Future climate striker. She was there on the stage in the morning, and she was pushed outside as she protested with others in the afternoon. We’ll be speaking with [Fridays for] Future climate striker Vanessa Nakate. Stay with us.

12.12.2019 – Claudio Rossetti Conti

This post is also available in: SpanishItalian

Rediscovering the Mayan Tzeltal culture
(Image by Claudio Rossetti Conti)

Claudio Rossetti Conti, a young Milanese psychologist fascinated by cultural diversity, is active in Chiapas and Guatemala in various indigenous communities as a community psychologist. As a scholar and friend of several women and men of traditional Maya Tzeltal medicine, he is interested in rediscovering the cultures of the original peoples threatened by strong oppressive systems. In a series of articles Claudio will give voice to some representatives of the Tzeltal culture, relaying their cosmovision and the struggle for survival against an aggressive globalization.

The Maya come from southern Mexico, while the Nahua (Aztecs) trace their descendants back to the mythical land of Aztlan, in the centre-north, described by the Boturini Codex (a 16th century AD Aztec bark paper sheet depicting historical events – Translator’s Note) as “an island in the middle of an expanse of water”. Both people had a great interest in preserving the memories of past events considered important. The different historical codices, of which only a few survived the devastating fury of the conquistadores, together with the annals of the pre-Hispanic Mexican world, were taught to students in pre-Hispanic centres of education so as not to lose the memory of what had happened year after year.

The articles on the Mayan Tzeltal culture are set in postmodern Chiapas. We will dive into the syncretic cosmovision of Tzeltal, seeing how a socio-cultural group called Indio Theology tries to redeem its cultural roots torn apart since the invasion of the conquistadores. An invasion that continues in different forms and partly in the guise of the projects of past and present Mexican governments, causing welfarism and a progressive and implacable loss of their traditions.

Culture is a dynamic system and by definition changes its form, but this “western” system clashes strongly with the indigenous reality threatened by aggressive globalization and causes a severe disharmony that affects the daily lives of local populations: continuous discrimination, diseases of “poverty”, cultural identity crisis, increased alcoholism and drug addiction are just some of the consequences of these ongoing cultural clashes, which the Indio Theology tries to mitigate through its meetings.

We will talk about the Mayan Altar and how this channel connects the Earth with the Cosmos, helping the indigenous community to receive advice from the Ancients and to prosper through offerings and dialogue with different entities.

We will see that corn is the constituent element of the Tzeltal culture and the sacred basic element of community life and we will get acquainted with the vision that humanity was created by the gods through the cob.

We will get to know some women and men of traditional medicine: the curanderos, parteras, hueseros and hierberos will enlighten us with their wisdom telling us how they receive their gifts and how the guiding entities teach them through dreams to identify medicinal plants, to intervene in individual cases of bone fractures or complicated childbirths and to recognize spiritual diseases.

We will then explore the relationship between health and disease and see how the search for this balance forms the basis of the daily lives of these indigenous peoples.

Photo: The thirteen candles are one of the fundamental elements during the healing rituals. Thirteen is a sacred and recurrent number in the Tzeltal culture: for example, thirteen are the points of our body that relate us to the universe or thirteen are the secret words used by the curanderos during their prayers. 

Translation from Italian by Thomas Schmid

11.12.2019 – Cristina Mirra

This post is also available in: Italian

Afghanistan: 18 Years of War On Its Shoulder

Interview by Cristina Mirra and J Jill

Afghanistan told by Dr. Hakim who left the tranquillity of Singapore to help the Afghan people to rise again: 18 years of war, 100 million landmines, 40% of the illiterate population

Could you share with us your vision of Afghanistan as you see it presently?

On most days in Afghanistan, I’m thinking, “Humans shouldn’t have to live this way.” Sadly, I see Afghanistan as an example of how foreign and local governments should not organize society. Afghans have a proverb which says, “The river is muddy from its origins.” The current foundations of Afghan society are a ‘muddy’ copy of the profit-driven and militaristic practices of elitist global systems. Afghanistan’s environmental, economic, socio-political, educational and healthcare systems are unsustainable and breaking down. The US/NATO ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan, waged since 2001, was a pretext, with Afghanistan ranked the worst on the Global Terrorism Index 2019 and civilian casualties reaching record numbers.

Afghans joke that, in different years, their country has been number 1 in various areas: ‘terrorism’, corruption, heroin and marijuana production, highest number of drug addicts, infant mortality, maternal mortality, largest unemployed workforce, largest protracted refugee population in the world, most air polluted city in December 2018, most depressed people, one of twenty countries most vulnerable to climate change.

So both the soil and the people of Afghanistan are have suffered psychological violence and hurting. Surviving war and poverty is a demanding daily obligation, which has imposed a heavy toll on the people’s relationships with one another. Afghans have to cope with cyclical revenge, distrust, psychological stress, grief and anger.

For many, life in Afghanistan is untenable. So, they flee. They leave to seek refuge.

But, I have hope in the estimated 64% of the Afghan populace who are below 25 years of age. Like young people across the world, I’ve seen how they choose to heal, and to live differently. The Afghan Peace Volunteers who interact with one another at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul readily and resiliently begin their journey towards nonviolent relationships and practices.

What are the fundamental issues and problems that exist in today’s Afghanistan?

The three major crises which the Afghan Peace Volunteers are trying to address in their voluntary work are: climate change and destruction of the natural world water crisis including drought, malnutrition, food insecurity, de-forestation, desertification, depletion of healthy soils and carbon sinks, the future of destructive extraction industries minerals including copper, iron, uranium, rare earth elements and fossil fuels.

Elitist-driven inequalities, including economic and socio-political inequalities: poverty, rising GINI coefficient of inequality gap, endemic corruption, farcical government of armed, religious narco-warlords who serve themselves while ignoring and trampling on “the 99%” Militarism and war international use of unaccountable violence, violence which can sometimes be psychotic, turning people from all sides of the conflict into hated, dispensable objects. Afghans sometimes describe this de-humanization as, “We’re being killed like flies.”

The fundamental issues and problems of Afghanistan and the world share the same human roots are our dysfunctional relationship with money and power.

Money has replaced food, water and shelter as the basic human need, so we are less concerned about consuming nutritious food or protecting water resources than we are about getting money.

We search for significance and meaning in life, but get distracted by the alluring ‘feel-good’ decoy of status and power, believing as individuals and as societies that attaining status and power makes us ‘successful’ human beings, when in reality, this artificial status and power places us above fellow human beings in fundamentally unequal and un-natural relationships.

In Afghanistan or impoverished, war-torn countries, this dysfunctional relationship is further complicated by the strong will to survive through acquiring money and power, often violently. Our dysfunctional relationships with the natural world and one another.

Industrialization, urbanization, materialism, commodification, digitalization and other developments have steered us away from our relationships with and care for the natural world and one another.

You have organized the youth of Afghanistan from refugee camps of yesterday to the Afghan Peace Volunteers of today.  Can you describe that journey, the hardships and achievements?

Afghans and internationals I have met in this journey have turned my life upside-down, in that I have been encouraged to focus on the essentials of life, to be the sensitive as all of us can be, and to love passionately.

I have experienced threats, psychological violence, corruption, distrust and the breakdown of family and societal ties. At various times, these challenges had ‘broken’ me, but from my ‘broken-ness’, I look for healing, clarity and composure.

I have learned from everyone about the importance of relationships, and wish to direct my life ad passions through working with the Afghan Peace Volunteers and members of the human family to further develop the science and humanities of relationships. We are developing the Relational Learning Project and Relational Learning Circles, and the next project will be an Encyclopedia of Relationships. We’re now working to establish an Institute of Nonviolence in Kabul, through which we can further develop Relational Pedagogy.

I began taking care of my emotions. I distrusted emotions because I grew up in the common ‘males-shouldn’t cry’ belief but now I can express them the way I want. I’ve seen how frail and strong we can all be. Like in Eric Fromm’s quote, “I am the criminal and the saint”.

I learned not only to think outside the box, but to live outside the box: an Australian doctor who also working among Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan had this advice, “You not only have to be flexible. You have to be fluid!”

I no longer feel a need to measure achievements. Being able to walk with the Afghan Peace Volunteers along a saner in the midst of an Orwellian, heavily militarized world is fulfilling enough.

What elements in Afghan community do you appreciate most?  What are Afghan people like?

I appreciate their ‘raw’ humanity, their resilience and the value they place on relationships.

Afghans are survivors. Their survival instincts have been honed by decades of war, and while it keeps them alive, the pitfalls of this drive to survive is that some Afghans can develop a misplaced sense of entitlement, and an ugly competitiveness.

Afghans have suffered psychological violence and hurt, so can empathize, comfort and be in human solidarity with others.

You have begun The Relational Learning Project which offers participation and connection with interested educational, advocacy and activist groups around the world.  Can you give us a brief outline of the project and what you hope to achieve with the data collected?

The focus of the Relational Learning Project is to encourage the pursuit of deeper and more meaningful relationships across the world.

The Project has two components: a “Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices” online Survey, which will provide data on how participants across the world are relating with the natural world and the human family.  One-hour online conversations through Relational Learning Circles. The Survey will provide data on how participants across the world are relating with the natural world. For example, the Survey data will include participants views on including nature’s rights in a country’s laws and their views on gender differences in income. These data can help activists in their advocacy, and encourage everyone to examine and improve their environmental, economic and socio-political relationships.

The Relational Learning Circles provide a more personal opportunity for learning by conversing and relating with participants from different parts of the world.

What strategies do you use to continue striving for peace and justice in so difficult a world? 

Nurture resilient, supportive and loving community relationships. Love through nonviolent relationships is the ‘super-power’, the unseen ‘fusion atomic power’.

Individual and community healing and self-care, including care for our emotional and psycho-social health. Small, local and concrete alternatives need to be intentionally and passionately established to give avenues for another world to be ‘born’. No alternative is too small or too insignificant. No light is too little in darkness.

We continue telling each other: Never give up! Plans, programs, and even life itself often don’t work out in Afghanistan. But when things don’t work out, it shouldn’t be because we gave up.

We continue telling each other of having timeless patience. Many of the Afghan Peace Volunteers say that they are working for future generations as they don’t expect to see results in their lifetime.

We continue telling each other that we should have fun and play in our activism. This energy could be called joy. I personally tend to give this priority.

We would enjoy inquiries through our email:

We have no money to pay for the second year and so we have change website.

Best regards

11.12.2019 – Madrid, Spain – Democracy Now!

The U.S. Has Almost No Official Presence at COP25 But Is Still “Obstructing Any Progress”
(Image by Democracy Now)

This week, Democracy Now! is broadcasting from inside the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Madrid, Spain, where representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered to negotiate solutions to the climate crisis. Known as COP25 for “conference of parties,” the summit offers a rare opportunity for all countries, especially those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, to have an equal say in negotiations. It comes four years after the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below 2 degrees Celsius,” or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the summit heads into its final days, representatives from the Global South say that the United States and other rich countries are obstructing the talks and trying to avoid their obligation to assist poorer countries already facing the worst effects of the climate crisis. We speak with Harjeet Singh, climate change specialist at ActionAid, and Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want. He has worked on climate change issues for over a decade. “The U.S. is in all streams of discussions that are happening, be it finance, be it loss and damage,” he says. “They’re everywhere. And everywhere they are obstructing and not allowing any progress to happen.”

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we’re broadcasting from inside the U.N. Climate Change Conference here in Madrid, Spain. That’s the U.N. climate summit, where representatives from almost 200 countries have gathered to negotiate solutions to the climate crisis. The climate summit, known as COP25 for “conference of parties” over the last 25 years, offers a rare opportunity for all countries to have an equal say in negotiations. The Madrid summit comes four years after the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius — that’s 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But as the summit heads into its final days, representatives from the Global South say the United States and other rich countries are obstructing the talks and trying to avoid their obligation to assist poorer countries already facing the worst effects of the climate crisis.

We’ll be joined in a minute by Harjeet Singh, climate change specialist at ActionAid from New Delhi, India, but first we want to turn to a clip from his speech here at the COP, COP25.

HARJEET SINGH: This process was designed to deliver global justice. This is a place where Tuvalu is as powerful as European Union or United States. But the constant bullying of these big countries are making this process worse than useless. Their bullying hasn’t stopped. They’re not letting us make any progress in this space. There is no substitute for action. And what rich countries are doing, they are creating an illusion of action by just talking. When we demand action, they offer reports. When we demand money, they offer workshops. That is not going to help people who are suffering right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Harjeet Singh joins us now, along with Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want. He has worked on climate change issues for over a decade.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! It seems every U.N. climate summit we get to speak to each of you. Harjeet, you were speaking here at the climate summit on Monday. But I think for people to understand around the world what is taking place, especially as in the United States people understand that President Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, that they may think they have nothing to do with these negotiations. But, in fact, isn’t it true that they are central to these negotiations?

HARJEET SINGH: Absolutely. So, at this very moment, what negotiators are discussing is how to deal with climate emergency. And what we call climate emergency on the outside is basically defined as loss and damage, as a third pillar of climate action. And this is a very crucial moment where they are putting concrete proposals on the table to help people who are suffering climate crisis. As we sit here, 45 million people in Africa are facing the wrath of climate change. And that is the reality. Women and children are far more vulnerable and are facing food destabilization situation at this very moment. And the drought that they are facing is worse than 35 years.

Now, this system, United Nations system on climate change, is broken, has not been able to help these people. And this particular COP is about creating that system so that money starts flowing in. And United States, which is not yet out of Paris Agreement, so in a way is serving the notice period, is obstructing any progress that we could have made here in fixing that broken system. It’s not allowing any process that can take us closer to mobilizing money to help people who are facing climate emergency.

AMY GOODMAN: According to the climate news source Heated, the United States is circulating a “loss and damages” proposal here at COP that would make it even more difficult for poorer countries to receive financial support to recover from droughts, floods and other climate emergencies. What exactly is the U.S. proposing?

HARJEET SINGH: The proposal that U.S. is right now only sharing with heads of delegation and not putting it formally is a way to arm-twist developing countries, that if you want any decision on loss and damage process which can help people, you have to agree that we will continue to have a seat at the table, even when we are out of Paris Agreement. And even more worse is that you have to make sure that the liability waiver is extended to United States and its polluting industries. This is worst I have seen in the last 10 years of me attending negotiations. It can’t get worse than that. It’s arm-twisting and bullying at the highest level, where United States, which is not meeting its emission targets, is not giving any money to Green Climate Fund and not now even letting a system to be created that can help people who face climate emergency now. I mean, look at the audacity of United States, the way they are behaving in these negotiations.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Mozambique was struck by two cyclones, Idai and Kenneth. Over a thousand people were killed, millions displaced. This was the first time in recorded history the country was hit by two powerful tropical cyclones in the same season. Cyclone Kenneth was the strongest storm ever to make landfall in Mozambique. In the wake of Idai, the International Monetary Fund loaned Mozambique $118 million for reconstruction. Sarah-Jayne Clifton, director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, blasted the international community for forcing Mozambique to borrow money to cope with a disaster brought on by climate change. She told Climate Home News, quote, “What’s happening to Mozambique is going to happen to other places more frequently. Unless there is a more systematic approach for tackling debt problems of poor countries, there is going to be a climate debt trap spiralling out of control.” A climate debt trap. Harjeet, explain.

HARJEET SINGH: Absolutely. Let’s look at what happens when you are hit by a climate crisis. One incident can wipe out development gains over the last decades. They don’t have money to invest into development because all their money gets diverted in providing relief. So they will always — and then they are forced to take a loan from the same system that is responsible for the climate crisis. So they will always remain in debt. Poor people will end up repaying that debt that their governments are forced to take, because there is no system that exists that recognizes that climate crisis is making it worse for these people who are not even responsible for this emergency situation. And the money that should have gone to education, to health, to better their infrastructure is now going to provide food, is now going to provide relief material and reconstruct their homes over and over again. So, these poor countries will never be able to come out of that debt trap that they are put in.

AMY GOODMAN: But what does this have to do with the United States? Explain. I mean, in the past, the United States was running all sorts of side panels here. Now there is almost no obvious presence in terms of that to the outside public. But explain what it is they’re doing behind the scenes. And then, next year — well, I think it’s a day after Election Day — the U.S. is formally out. We’ll see who will be the president then, but they won’t be president yet, which means next year in Glasgow, COP26, will the U.S. not be present at all? And would you say that’s better than what they’re doing right now?

HARJEET SINGH: Absolutely. Right now U.S. is in all streams of discussions that are happening, be it finance, be it loss and damage, be it adaptation. They’re everywhere. And everywhere they are obstructing and not allowing any progress to happen, and particularly on finance. Now, when we talk about this system that should provide money to climate survivors, they don’t want that system to be created. And this demand is not a new demand. Vanuatu, on behalf of small island states, made the demand for the first time in 1991. It took us 22 years to set up a mechanism, called Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, in Warsaw in 2013, which had a very clear function: to mobilize finance and help these countries. Last six years, constant bullying and blocking by United States, joined by Australia and even European Union, did not allow even a group to be created that can discuss what the needs are, what the gap is, how money can be mobilized. And that bullying continues at this very moment.

So this year is important. That body, Warsaw International Mechanism, is being reviewed. There is a critical opportunity to relook at whether it is fit for purpose. The disasters that we are facing is because of 1-degree Celsius temperature rise. And we are going towards 3-degree, which does not mean three times the impacts. The impacts are going to be much more. Is this body fit for purpose? Is it able to help people, for people who are suffering climate emergency right now in Mozambique and other parts of Africa? No, it’s not. So, how do we relook at this body? How do we bring in finance which is much more needed for these communities? But U.S. is busy protecting the interest of its own administration and polluting industries, so that they can never be held liable for the crisis they have caused. And U.S. is the biggest historical emitter, which means the largest country responsible for this crisis.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Harjeet, Article 6, explain what this is. I think so often the jargon here prevents people from having access or understanding the very real consequences of climate catastrophe in the world.

HARJEET SINGH: So, to put it simply, Article 6 is about how to get private sector involved and how markets are going to play in reducing emissions. This is the only piece that is hanging from the Paris rulebook that was finalized last year. So the interest of developed countries is, mobilize money from private sector in a manner where they don’t have to invest money. But from the developing country side, it’s really important to see much more public financing coming in, and the rules that are set for private companies are robust enough so that there is no leakage or loopholes. And there is a danger of these emission reduction targets being double counted, if we don’t put the right rules in place.

And there is also a bigger challenge of human rights. You know, today is a Human Rights Day, and we see how these companies have been continuously violating human rights. So, we really have to make sure that people’s human rights are not violated by these private companies. For them, the sole motive remains making profit. And we have seen how these corporations have ruined the planet, that they always have profit over planet. So, it’s really important to make sure that the so-called carbon markets or carbon trading is fair.

AMY GOODMAN: Asad Rehman, say more about these carbon markets.

ASAD REHMAN: So, as you said, often we talk about all of these terms, and there’s a lot of jargon. So let’s break it down very, very simply. Right? We know what the climate scientists have told us. We now see it with our eyes about what’s happening around the world. That’s all happening at 1 degree. Climate scientists have told us we can’t breach the 1.5-degree guardrail, and they say that there’s a certain amount of carbon that’s left that we’re allowed to pollute. Actually, if you look at the climate science report, it says, really, there’s about five years of budget left — right? — if you want prevent that breach — 10 years, if we want to be generous.

And what’s happening here now is rich developed countries, not just the United States, but Australia, Canada, backed by the European Union, not only don’t want to cut their own emissions, not only don’t want to provide finance that they promised, not only don’t want to help the most impacted people, but now want a get-out-of-jail card. And this is what Article 6, the carbon markets are, because what it basically says is, “I won’t have to cut my emissions, but I can pay somebody else, and you cut your emissions, and I will count it as if I cut my emissions,” as if there is a never-ending magic box of carbon pollution that we’re allowed to do. It is not possible. If a country like, for example, the United Kingdom or the United States, their fair share of effort would be at something like minus-200 by 2030, there is simply no carbon that you can use for an offset. And that’s taking away the issue around the environmental integrity, because 10 years ago we had an argument, in these very negotiations, about carbon markets, and developing countries and civil society absolutely rejected them. They said they do not deliver emissions reductions. They’ll lead to huge human rights violations. They allow profit for private companies and nothing to ordinary people.

But what’s most pernicious here is that as the United States and other developed countries block any progress on the finance conversation, on the help on loss and damage, what they’re saying to developing countries is, “If you agree to the carbon markets, maybe in there we will give you some share of the profit.” And so, what developing countries are left with is that is the only thing that’s left on the table. They know it won’t deliver emissions reductions. They know it will be devastating the planet. But for much-needed finance, that’s the carrot that’s being dangled. It is an absolutely outrageous decision. And ministers, as they are meeting here, will hold developing countries to — hostage, because they will say, “We will only allow conversations about much-needed loss and damage if you allow us to have the carbon markets decision go through.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to our discussion. Asad Rehman is executive director of War on Want, usually in London. Harjeet Singh, global lead on climate change at ActionAid, usually in New Delhi, India. When we come back, Asad Rehman will also talk about the explosive Washington Post series on the history of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, and we’ll talk more about what’s happening here and what’s happening in Britain. The elections come up on Thursday there, and, well, we’ll find out what’s happening and also the major players there, the candidates’ position on the climate crisis. Stay with us.

10.12.2019 – UN News Centre

Inequality Threatening Human Development, New Global UN Report Warns

Despite global progress in tackling poverty, hunger and disease, a “new generation of inequalities” indicates that many societies are not working as they should, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) argues in its latest report released on Monday [9 December 2019]. 

The 2019 Human Development Report (HDR) states that just as the gap in basic living standards is narrowing for millions of people, inequalities surrounding education, and around technology and climate change, have sparked demonstrations across the globe.

Left unchecked, they could trigger a ‘new great divergence’ in society of the kind not seen since the Industrial Revolution, according to the report.

“This Human Development Report sets out how systemic inequalities are deeply damaging our society and why,” said Achim Steiner, the UNDP Administrator.

“Inequality is not just about how much someone earns compared to their neighbour. It is about the unequal distribution of wealth and power: the entrenched social and political norms that are bringing people onto the streets today, and the triggers that will do so in the future unless something changes. Recognizing the real face of inequality is a first step; what happens next is a choice that each leader must make.”

‘Inequality not beyond solutions’ 

Mr. Steiner added crucially that “inequality is not beyond solutions”.

The human development approach views “richness” as going beyond the idea that economic growth will automatically lead to development and wellbeing.

It focuses on people, and their opportunities and choices.

UNDP research shows that in 2018, 20 per cent of human development progress was lost due to the unequal distribution of education, health and living standards.

“What used to be ‘nice-to-haves’, like going to university or access to broadband, are increasingly important for success, but left only with the basics, people find the rungs knocked out of their ladder to the future,” said Pedro Conceição, Director of the HDR Office at UNDP.

Invest in education, productivity, public spending 

The report recommends revamped policies in the areas of education, productivity and public spending.

As inequality begins even before birth and can accumulate through adulthood, investing in young children’s learning, health and nutrition is key. These investments must continue throughout life as they have an impact on earnings and productivity in the labour market.

UNDP observed that countries with a more productive workforce generally have a lower concentration of wealth at the top, which is enabled by policies that support stronger unions, the right to a minimum wage, social protection and which bring more women into the workplace.

The report further highlights the role of taxation, which cannot be looked at on its own.  Rather, fair taxation should lie behind policies that include greater public spending on health, education and greener energy alternatives.

Beyond today 

As the UNDP chief noted, “Different triggers are bringing people onto the streets — the cost of a train ticket, the price of petrol, demands for political freedoms, the pursuit of fairness and justice. This is the new face of inequality”.

Looking to the future, the report asks how inequality might be viewed years down the line, especially in relation to  “two seismic shifts” that will shape the next century.

Those are the climate crisis, and the progress of the technological transformation that includes renewables and energy efficiency, digital finance and digital health solutions.

The report calls for opportunities to be “seized quickly and shared broadly”.

08.12.2019 – Redacción Barcelona

This post is also available in: SpanishCatalan

The March for Climate in Madrid

Greta Thunberg was “the guest star” with all the media potential that follows. But the most striking event was the extraordinary mobilization in the streets of Madrid.

The massive Climate March on Friday, December 6, brought together some 500,000 people.  The participants came from different latitudes, at the foot of the street it was evident the great cultural diversity, of races and ages. The march coincided with the social climate summit, COP25, which has been held in Madrid since last Monday.

Translation Pressenza London

In order to raise awareness of the global emergency in which we live, faced with the inaction of governments, various organizations, platforms and social movements, trade unions and environmental groups, came together in a common feeling, idea and action. The slogan of the demonstrators was the climate emergency, they want to pressure world leaders and tell them that it is time to act.

A time has come when technology virulently penetrates nature with a power never seen before. It’s not just about making the business of the century by selling electric cars, it’s a real turnaround. Faced with the pollution and destruction of the planet’s ecosystems, in a proportion never seen before, a new paradigm is needed.


08.12.2019 – US, United States – Waging Nonviolence

Is it time to put the Baby Trump blimp to bed?
The debut of the Baby Trump blimp at London’s Parliament Square (Image by Flickr/Michael Reeve)

By Erica Etelson -This article was originally published on Waging Nonviolence

It began as an irreverent stunt during Donald Trump’s 2018 visit to London, a helium-filled swirl of yellow hair atop an obese, orange, diaper-clad Trump, his small hands clutching a phone. After a brief nap, Baby Trump has been pressed into service as the unofficial mascot of the anti-Trump resistance, with at least nine appearances in the United States so far.

It’s easy and gratifying to insult Trump. He offers a daily smorgasbord of contemptible flaws to feast upon. And he dishes out as good as he gets, his Twitter feed a virtual firing range of baseless, crude and bigoted put-downs. Mocking him as a fat, tantruming baby may seem a fitting and well-deserved counterattack, one that is orders of magnitude less terrible than the many acts of cruelty Trump has perpetrated.

The Baby Trump blimp, however, is emblematic of the counterproductive manner in which the left too often registers our very justified outrage.

To start with, there’s the body shaming. Hardly a day goes by without Trump’s body size, shape and color being ridiculed as grotesque. Body shaming is a form of bullying that isn’t any less cruel when done to people we don’t like. Even though Trump is the target, the blimp stigmatizes every person with bodies deemed too fat by our thinness-obsessed culture, much like the atrociously cruel and classist — yet wildly popular — People of Walmart website, which lampoons unsuspecting shoppers with shabby clothes, fat asses and other “white trash” offenses. Sizeism is one of the few forms of bigotry still tolerated by mainstream society. Why do we perpetuate it?

Spectacles of leftist schadenfreude paint us into a hypocritical corner, as was pointed out to me by a conservative woman I met at a cross-partisan dialogue. To put it in crass, realpolitik terms, cruelty damages our brand. It prompts the public to fixate on our ugliness instead of the dastardly policies of the Trump administration. Furthermore, it perpetuates the us-versus-them divisiveness that adult Trump so masterfully leverages to his advantage. (One of his supporters recently slashed a Baby Trump balloon with a razor blade in a self-proclaimed act of “good versus evil.”)

Like any skillful demagogue, Trump has forged a counterfeit bond with his base, a bond premised on a shared victimhood narrative of lost honor and wounded pride. What I’ve learned from conservatives over the past two years is that Trump supporters perceive an attack on him as an attack on themselves — those high and mighty liberal elites are not only smugly self-righteous, they’re mean, they hate us, we are under siege and must protect our tribe and our leader Trump.

Conservative journalist Rod Dreher has written that, when Trump goes off the rails, his voters justify their support by saying to themselves, “He may be a fool, but he’s our fool.” Liberal mockery of Trump’s copious flaws only serves to entrench their loyalty and bolster Trump’s persecution narrative.

As has been amply documented, partisan (some call it “tribal”) polarization has reached a deleterious extreme in the United States, leading people to form knee-jerk partisan opinions instead of reflecting on the merits of contentious issues.
Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt told National Affairs that, when we attempt to rationalize our partisan bias, we get rewarded with a highly pleasurable hit of dopamine. It feels good to belong to our team, our party, our tribe, and if tribal membership requires that we denigrate the “other” tribe and publicly humiliate their leader, we do it, and we do it gleefully. And when we do so, we prompt the right to hate and fear us back. For this reason, humiliating Trump plays into Trump’s us-versus-them strategy of rousing his supporters to battle against the common enemy: us.

There is, to be sure, a long tradition of satire aimed at undermining the authority and respectability of the powerful. The question is, what, if anything, does the public learn from it? Literary critic Tim Parks distinguishes effective satire, which points toward positive change, from failed satire. “[W]itty mockery of a political enemy can be hilarious and gratifying and can intensify our sense of being morally superior. But as satire it has failed,” he writes in the New York Review
of Book
. “The worst case is when satire reinforces the state of mind it purports to undercut, polarizes
prejudices, and provokes the very behavior it condemns.”

Baby Trump falls short of Park’s standard, for it is no more enlightening than playground taunts — such as “you’re a baby,” “no you are” and “I know you are but what am I?” The overarching problem with Trump isn’t that he’s immature (or fat), it’s that he’s created what Ralph Nader calls a “cocoon of falsity” in which he smashes and breaks democratic and cultural norms and governmental functions that keep people safe, healthy, fully included and respected.

Poking fun at a degenerate figurehead is not automatically effective. If mocking Trump turned fence-sitters against him, late night comedians would have successfully blocked Trump’s candidacy before it ever gathered steam. For all the ridicule Trump’s endured, it doesn’t seem to have undermined his brazen abuse of power.

Perhaps if our national culture were one of reverence for politicians, then the mere act of mocking one would have some shock value and jolt us into seeing them in a new and unflattering light. Perhaps if Trump attempted to present himself as a dignified head of state, we would need Baby Trump to expose the contradiction between his pretend and actual disposition. At this point, anyone who doesn’t already see that the emperor has no clothes is not likely to be enlightened upon seeing him in diapers. It’s simply meanness for meanness sake.

The creators of Baby Trump said they wanted to boost the morale of Trump’s foes and to “get under his skin.” As one of the organizers wrote in the Independent, “Trump has repeatedly shown that he doesn’t respond to reason, to facts or to science. What he does respond to is humiliation.” Yes, he sure does, and that’s precisely the problem.

Evelin Lindner, a psychologist and founder of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, or Human DHS, has documented cycles of humiliation met by violent reprisals met by more humiliation, until the society spirals into genocidal violence. “Humiliation,” she writes, “is the nuclear bomb of the emotions, perhaps the most toxic social dynamic of our age.” It reinforces the tyrant’s self-serving rationalization that they are valiantly fighting the evildoers who are attacking them.

Linda Hartling, a community psychologist and director of Human DHS, emphasizes the boomerang nature of humiliation. “If you use humiliation as a shortcut to attack an opponent, it will come back in some way, if not at you then at someone more vulnerable,” she said. Hartling sees Trump as a “humiliation entrepreneur” who is constantly retaliating against those who pierce his thin skin.

Trump has already been ratcheting up his incitement of violence, calling for his persecutors to be tried and executed for treason and warning that civil war could break out if he’s impeached. Dozens of preeminent psychiatrists have raised red flag warnings about Trump’s anti-social, narcissistic, sadistic and sociopathic behavior. “Trump’s sociopathic characteristics … create a profound danger for America’s democracy and safety,” retired Harvard psychiatry professor Lance Dodes told the Washington Post. “Over time these characteristics will only become worse, either because Mr. Trump will succeed in gaining more power and more grandiosity with less grasp on reality, or because he will engender more criticism producing more paranoia, more lies and more enraged destruction.”

Ridiculing Trump achieves nothing and risks provoking him to even more outrageous attacks and counterattacks. That’s what narcissists and demagogues do when their fragile egos are threatened. Psychiatrists warn that someone with Trump’s malignant narcissism and anti-social personality is vulnerable to a total psychotic breakdown and that, by the time the warning signs are evident, it may already be too late.

Criticism of Trump and vigorous efforts to remove him are vitally necessary, no matter what the risk of further destabilizing his mental health. But piling on personal insults adds unnecessary fuel to the fire. A deranged Trump is incredibly dangerous.

For all the grievous harm Trump has done, I cannot and do not respect him. But withholding respect and diminishing his humanity are two different things. At a minimum, I feel obliged to treat Trump with the basic decency I extend to every human being, no matter how awful I find them. To do otherwise, to dehumanize them as the “enemy other,” is to set in motion a vindictive spiral that cannot end well. Human dignity is sacred and, when it’s violated, our ability to negotiate and tolerate discord erodes, and hate and violence reign.

“Humiliation is the most destructive force on the planet,” Hartling said. “It leaves a wake of destruction, disrupting relationships in ways that are extremely difficult to repair.” Why risk so much collateral damage just for the sake of inflicting suffering on a man who is already seemingly one of the unhappiest on earth, his
inner life its own perpetual torment?

“Speak the truth but not to punish,” Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh counsels. What that means to me is that, when I criticize Trump’s rampant misconduct, I focus on the actions, not the person, and contextualize the actions in systems and structures of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, militarism and the resource extraction mindset. I also want to contrast Trump’s nihilism with my vision for an equitable and sustainable future, a beautiful, inclusively-interconnected sacred place where humans and all living creatures bow to each other in the great dance of life.

During the Sept. 25 Climate Strike in San Francisco, artists and activists from 10 environmental justice and human rights groups transformed two downtown blocks into a series of street murals representing “community-oriented and earth-based solutions” to the climate crisis. Taken together, the murals invited viewers to envision a more beautiful future that celebrates the interconnected lives of people, plants and wildlife. To me, honoring what’s sacred is worlds more inspiring than denigrating what we already know is awful.

Diné (Navajo) land and water protector and poet Lyla June Johnston suggests that the struggle of resistance against Trump and fossil fuels shouldn’t be one of hate-driven revenge against but, rather, a movement for life in all its sacred beauty. It’s not about winning, Johnston said in an interview with the podcast “For the Wild,” it’s about sustaining, diversifying, protecting and, above all, loving life.

So long as I attempt to implement my vision by denigrating those evil people who stand in my way, I am taking one step forward and two back. Aggressors usually rationalize their behavior as serving some higher purpose; seldom is that the case.

Trump must be held accountable but accountability need not take a vindictive cast. I don’t believe murderers should be executed or rapists raped. I don’t want Trump hung in effigy or body shamed, I simply want him gone and, potentially, imprisoned where he can do no further damage. And I want his supporters to feel that they have a rightful place in a post-Trump America, a place where they are treated with the same basic decency and respect as everyone else. If they don’t feel this way, brace yourself for President Donald Trump, Jr. or whatever other humiliation entrepreneur is waiting in the wings.

Hating on Trump incessantly isn’t going to be any more effective in 2020 than it was in 2016. The more we hate and humiliate him, the more his supporters will be inclined to defend him. Even if we win, we’ll be sowing the seeds of a vicious backlash. And our hatred could trigger an adult Trump tantrum of existential dimensions. Our desperately sick culture needs to heal, and more poison isn’t what the doctor ordered.

06.12.2019 – Paris, France – Countercurrents

Thousands of workers march in France

By Countercurrents Collective

A countrywide union strike against pension reform has brought transportation across France to a standstill. Thousands of workers marched in what has been described as the largest protest of its kind since 1995. The protest dwarfed the weekly Yellow Vests demonstrations that have been happening every Saturday for over a year now.

The massive worker walkouts and marches were called in the hope of forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his plans to overhaul France’s pension system.

Police, lawyers, hospital and airport staff, and other professions for the general walkout joined teachers and transport workers.

In Paris, 11 of the city’s 16 metro lines were shuttered and schools in the capital and across the country closed down.

The strike, which is expected to continue until Monday, also paralyzed 90 percent of the country’s trains, and forced Air France to cancel 30 percent of its domestic flights.

1.5 million people join protests

The interior ministry said: More than 800,000 people had joined demonstrations in more than 100 cities across France.

The CGT union said: 1.5m people had turned out, including 250,000 in Paris.

Photographs of Thursday’s demonstrations show public workers carrying banners and flares as they march through France’s largest cities.

Riot police mobilized

In Paris, 6,000 riot police were mobilized as the capital braced for street protests.

Oil refineries blocked

The CGT also said workers had blocked seven of the country’s eight oil refineries, potentially causing fuel shortages if the strike continues.

Eiffel Tower did not open

The strike also forced France’s most iconic tourist spots to shut their doors. The Eiffel Tower and the Orsay museum did not open on Thursday due to staff shortages, while the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre and other museums said some of its exhibits would not be available for viewing. The Palace of Versailles was also shut for the day.

Yellow Vest

According to local media, Yellow Vest protesters were blocking fuel depots in the Var department in the south and near the city of Orleans.

Petrol stations out of fuel

As a result, on Thursday over 200 petrol stations had totally run out of fuel while over 400 were almost out of stock. The group has been demonstrating against Macron’s austerity measures for over a year.

Experts say that the strike, described as the largest of its kind in decades, could spell trouble for Macron. Building on ongoing demonstrations by the Yellow Vests, the strike could paralyze France and force Macron to rethink his planned reforms.

Demonstrators and police clash

Riot police and demonstrators have clashed in some cities amid the ongoing general strike by labor unions against proposed pension reforms.

Dozens arrested

Dozens have been arrested in Paris alone as over a million people marched across the country.

One report said: Police in Paris had arrested 71 people, officials said.

Footage from Paris shows protesters hurling objects at police, and riot-geared officers charging in response.

Stun grenades

As flares light up the night, stun grenades can be heard exploding. There is also what appears to be tear gas.

Sporadic violence

Reports from across France during the day spoke of sporadic violence on the sidelines of the protests, including the smashing of shop windows and security cameras and setting fire to bicycles and effigies. Demonstrators blocked buses in Marseille.

Police fired tear gas in Nantes

Violence was reported in Nantes, Bordeaux and Rennes.

Police have fired tear gas at protesters in Nantes participating in a nationwide strike, according to local media.

Videos taken at the scene show demonstrators fleeing as large tear gas clouds obstruct the marchers’ path.

In one clip, shots can be heard coming from the police as demonstrators chant and jeer.

French BFM TV also reports that tear gas has been used to quell the rally.

Largest strike in years

BBC report headlined “Macron pension reform: France paralyzed by biggest strike in years” said:

France’s largest nationwide strike in years has severely disrupted schools and transport.

“What we’ve got to do is shut the economy down,” said union official Christian Grolier of the Force Ouvrière (Workers’ Force). “People are spoiling for a fight.”


The BBC report told about the extent of affect of the strike on transport. It said:

  • Some 90% of high-speed TGV and inter-city trains were cancelled
  • In Paris, just five of the city’s 16 metro lines were running
  • Train operators Eurostar and Thalys cancelled at least half their services linking Paris with London and Brussels. Eurostar will operate a reduced timetable until December 10
  • Hundreds of flights were cancelled
  • Air France cancelled 30% of internal flights and 10% of short-haul international flights amid walkouts by air traffic controllers
  • Low-cost carrier EasyJet cancelled 223 domestic and short-haul international flights, and warned passengers to expect delays.

Sabotage by Extinction Rebellion

The Extinction Rebellion group said it had sabotaged thousands of e-scooters by painting over the QR codes that smartphone users scan to unlock the vehicles.

The group said this was because e-scooters – despite being widely viewed as an ecologically-friendly form of transport – actually required large quantities of energy and resources during their manufacture and had short life cycles.

How do French workers view the reforms?

The BBC report said:

Train driver Cyril Romero from Toulouse told France Info he would reconsider his job if the reforms went through.

“I started in 2001 with a contract that allowed me to leave at 50. But like everyone else, I got the reforms which pushed back my early retirement age to 52-and-a-half and then, in reality, 57-and-a-half for full pension. Now they want to make us work even longer.”

An unnamed history teacher, writing in HuffPost, was planning to strike on Friday as well as Thursday.

“For me, the pension reforms are one punch too many. We’re fighting not to lose hundreds of Euros of pension a month – after more than 40 years in a job.

“How can you even think of ending your career in front of pupils beyond the age of 70, in worsening conditions and on what for many of us is just a minimum wage?”

How much support is there for the strike?

The report said:

Some trade union leaders have vowed to strike until Macron abandons his campaign promise to overhaul the retirement system.

One opinion poll put public support for the strikes at 69%, with backing strongest among 18- to 34 year olds.

Single, points-based pension system

Macron has proposed making a single, points-based pension system, which he said would be fairer to workers while also saving the state money. The planned scheme would replace current system, which has 42 different pension schemes across its private and public sectors, with variations in retirement age and benefits.

The official retirement age in France has been raised in the last decade from 60 to 62, but remains one of the lowest among the OECD group of rich nations – in the UK, for example, the retirement age for state pensions is 66 and is due to rise to at least 67.

The move would remove the most advantageous pensions for a number of jobs ranging from sailors to lawyers and even opera workers.

Meanwhile, those retiring before 64 would receive a lower pension. For example, someone retiring at 63 would receive 5% less, so unions fear it will mean having to work longer for a lower pension.

Labor unions oppose the move, arguing that the changes would require millions of people to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 in order to receive their full pension.

The unrest could signal dark days ahead for Emmanuel Macron’s pro-austerity government.

However, farmers, whose pensions are among the lowest in the country, are not taking part.

Since coming to power, Macron has pushed through other reforms including relaxing labor laws and cutting taxes for businesses.

07.12.2019 – Madrid, Spain – Democracy Now!

COP25: Alternative Climate Summit Honors Those “Suffering the Crimes of Transnational Corporations”
(Image by Democrarcy Now)

We broadcast from Madrid, Spain, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, began Monday and will continue through next week, as environmental leaders from around the world gather to negotiate global solutions to the climate crisis. Activists have converged on Madrid for the conference and are hosting an alternative summit of their own: Cumbre Social por el Clima — the Social Summit for the Climate. The alternative summit has been organized by social justice and environmental groups to draw attention to the ongoing political repression in Chile, corporate influence on the climate summit, Spain’s own failure to address the climate crisis and the Eurocentrism of the climate conference. This is the third year in a row that the conference is being held in Europe. We speak with Tom Kucharz, one of the organizers of the alternative climate conference. He is a journalist and activist with the group Ecologists in Action.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting from Madrid, Spain, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, began Monday and will continue through next week as environmental leaders from around the world gather to negotiate global solutions to the climate crisis. The summit was supposed to be held in Santiago, Chile, but the country’s right-wing president Sebastián Piñera canceled the summit just over a month ago amid massive protests against economic inequality and austerity. Spain’s president Pedro Sánchez then offered to host the summit.

Activists have converged in Madrid for the summit and are hosting an alternative summit of their own, Cumbre Social por el Clima, the Social Summit for the Climate. The alternative summit has been organized by social justice and environmental groups to draw attention to the ongoing political repression in Chile, corporate influence on the climate summit, Spain’s own failure to address the climate crisis and the Eurocentrism of the climate conference, which is being held in Europe for the third year in a row.

The alternative summit begins Saturday morning—that’s tomorrow—at the University of Madrid and will kick off tonight with a climate march through the city center. We are broadcasting from the convergence space that activists are using as a hub for their organizing. It’s a union hall and former monastery that today is covered in colorful protest art and bustling with organizers that have pulled the alternative summit together with only a few months notice.

So we are right here in the Cumbre Social, in the Social Summit for the Climate, with one of the organizers, Tom Kucharz. He is a journalist and activist with Ecologists in Action.
It is great to be with you. Welcome to Democracy Now! Tom, as we sit here, this place is surrounded by posters. Maybe we could do a broad view of the walls. It says “Plaza de los Pueblos”—the Plaza of the People. “Salvemos la Tierra”—Save the Earth—as well. “Let’s Decolonize.”

TOM KUCHARZ: That is a very important issue. We have a huge historic debt with millions of people who were slaved from Africa to America and never have been justice about that. So the issue of antiracism and anticolonialism is very important for the march also today at six in the afternoon. So hopefully, thousand of people will gathering in this very important march.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about this place that we are in. It is a former monastery?

TOM KUCHARZ: Yes, it was built more than 400 years ago, but it was a trade unions building since the ’80s. Fortunately, the trade unions, UGT, said we can have it for two weeks to make gatherings, assemblies and prepare the march and actions of the different groups who are involved in the preparation of the activities these two weeks, like Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and many environmental and human rights groups, trade unionists and many international solidarity groups also fighting all around the world for justice, both environmental and social justice.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about this Social Summit for the Climate, where it will be held, from the university to here to where else? And talk about the 850 groups who organized this space in a very short period of time, since you guys just got the summit a few months ago.

TOM KUCHARZ: Actually, the social summit was organized in less than four weeks. First of all, it is a solidarity action with the people in Chile, with all of the people in the world who are suffering crimes against humanity, who are suffering repression, who are suffering the crimes of transnational corporation and corrupt states, who are only doing business and doing politics in favor of a very small minority, which are the big businesses, who are also gathering here in the official climate summit. So it’s a complete unjust world. We have heard that in your news at the beginning.

And also in Spain, we have a huge situation of injustice, unemployment. So for us, the issues of social injustice, the problem of corruption, the problem of huge economic and social and environmental crisis all over the world brings us together. Social movements, trade unions, environmental groups, but also social justice groups from all over the world.

And it’s first of all a denouncement also of the repression of the right-wing government of Chile against the people in Chile. And that is very important for us. We are very connected with the movement in Santiago de Chile. And today, the march actually will be at the same time as the march in Santiago de Chile. We will be marching together. And we are connecting also with the organizers of the civil society space held at the same time in Santiago de Chile, also criticizing the farce and the theater is done in the official summit because they are not the solution to the huge climate emergency. We, the people, are the solution.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how Spain ended up getting the U.N. Climate Summit. Originally it was Brazil and the far-right president, when he was elected, one of his first actions in office, canceled the COP. Then Chile took it. Then because of those protests, the right-wing president there canceled it. And President Sánchez of Spain picked this up very quickly. Talk about the significance for him, and now the right-wing government that runs Madrid, what it means for them, who actually campaigned against climate regulations, its major campaign focus in the last weeks.

TOM KUCHARZ: Exactly. We should know that Spain is one of the European countries which is most responsible for the increase of greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades. So Spain has a huge ecological and historical debt with the Global South, completely dependent on imports of fossil fuels. And the big transnational corporation from Spain are committing crimes and human rights violation all the time and are very responsible for the natural destructions all over the world. So Spain is very responsible for the climate emergency.

And we have had social democratic governments and conservative right-wing governments who are very irresponsible. They were not caring sufficiently about the climate emergency. And even if they bring the official climate summit from the U.N. here to Madrid, it was a kind of political shift to help them to get some votes towards the last elections we had very recently on the 10th of November. Actually, the Spanish social democratic governments have shown in the last year that they were not increasing their willingness to fight climate emergency. They are not really willing to change the economic and also energy policy in Spain, and that needs also a completely shift, a paradigm shift of the development model in Europe, which is completely irresponsible and a root cause of the climate emergency all over the world.

That is why we are feeling that it’s a greenwashing both of the national very gray and dark fossil fuel policies of the Spanish government. It’s a greenwashing of the right-wing government in Madrid. Because only some months ago, this Madrid major from the right-wing party who was denying climate change, who was saying he will eliminate all the environmental policies which the municipal left-wing government put in place only some months ago, like a low-emission scheme to try to stop entering many cars into the Madrid center.

We should know that Spain is one of the most polluting countries also in the world. We have nearly 40,000 people who are dying, so we have premature deaths, 40,000 a year. That means in Madrid, it’s about more than 3,000 people dying prematurely because of the air contamination. And that is mostly because of this huge traffic. So we have unsustainable transport system.

AMY GOODMAN: So you have the previous mayor, Manuela Carmena, a socialist mayor, who pushed for the Madrid Central, this low-emission zone—


AMY GOODMAN: —so you don’t have this mass traffic jam all day—

TOM KUCHARZ: We still have them, unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: —as much. And then you have the new mayor, Almeida—


AMY GOODMAN: —who actually made his total campaign about getting rid of these restrictions.

TOM KUCHARZ: Exactly. And just before the climate summit, he says that is the best thing he have ever done. So now he is trying to greenwash completely his very unresponsible campaign he did. And actually the popular party is very responsible to filling the most polluting companies in Spain with public money. That is why Spain gives hundreds and thousands of millions of euros to the energy companies, to the oil companies, to the gas companies over the last years. That is why we have a real problem that it’s very difficult to get out of this fossil feel industry right now.

AMY GOODMAN: So you stopped—Ecologists in Action, your group, stopped the mayor from getting rid of the low-emission zone?

TOM KUCHARZ: Not alone. We have a very interesting platform created of many people here in the city center. So there are dozens of organizations involved in the platform to defend Madrid Central. And it was collective work, and tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in summer just after the local elections to ask to not eliminate Madrid Central, this low-emission scheme.

And that is very linked to fight for climate justice not only in Spain but over the whole world. That is why those people who are fighting to get Madrid rid of car traffic and air contamination is also fighting together with many people in the world against air contamination, but the whole silly system of putting public money into the car industry and the oil industry which then are also very responsible for the mining and human rights violation all over the world. We have that in Middle East and also Latin America.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about nationally. We have just arrived in Madrid from Stockholm. The prime minister won a snap election recently, Pedro Sánchez. He is in the midst of negotiating with Podemos.

TOM KUCHARZ: Unidos Podemos, yeah, which—it’s currently [inaudible] Podemos Together.

AMY GOODMAN: But talk about the role and the increasing power of the extreme-right group Vox and how that plays in here, whether we are talking about the environment or gender violence.

TOM KUCHARZ: The extreme-right party is coming out actually on the split of the right-wing scheme which was the Popular Party. Because there’s a huge problem of impunity in Spain, so the crimes against humanity committed by Spanish fascism of the Franco dictatorship was never been judged, and we have still hundreds of thousand of people in graves all over Spain and people are looking for the bodies of their families. So that is a very anxious system. And still from this we have a very fascist legacy in the judicial system, in the political system.

But because of the corruption scandals, because [inaudible] Popular Party of Spain is one of the most corrupted party in the world, the right-wing political party split it up to neoliberal Ciudadanos, to Vox, the extreme right, and still the PP is the Popular Party. So there is also a growing vaulting towards this extreme-right party, which is very dangerous and very similar to things happening with Trump in the U.S., with Salvini in Italy, or Le Pen in France, or Alternative für Deutschland in Germany.

So it is very dangerous because it’s giving oxygen to the right-wing groups, trying to make attacks on migrants, on refugees, and maybe there is a new fear towards these very extreme fascist groups to make attacks against migrants like we had this attack with a bomb this week.

AMY GOODMAN: A grenade was just thrown into a residential center of mainly unaccompanied minors, refugees from other countries, and also orphans here in Spain.

TOM KUCHARZ: In Madrid, yeah. That is an attack which we can explain that there is a growing institutional racism which is legitimized both by the right-wing Popular Party and the social democrats, because unfortunately the social democratic government is talking about human rights in the official climate summit, but at the end, they are responsible for migration policies which brings the deaths of thousand of people in the Mediterranean Sea. You just mentioned the example in Mauritania, migrants and refugees trying to get to the Canary Islands.

AMY GOODMAN: Sixty-two people dying yesterday.

TOM KUCHARZ: Exactly. And that is happening all the time.

AMY GOODMAN: As they tried to make it to what is Spain’s Canary Islands.

TOM KUCHARZ: To Spain, exactly. But this is happening all the time because the Spanish government, together with the European Union, are pulling hundreds of millions of public money to finance the militaries and the police in Morocco, in Libya and also Turkey to stop refugees and migrants getting to Europe, and then they are responsible for these very criminal policies which makes people dying all the time in the Mediterranean Sea. That’s why we are talking about one of the biggest mass graves in the world. So very similar to the very criminal migration policies of Trump in the Mexican border.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom, very quickly, we only have about 30 seconds, but we started by you talking about decolonization and how that relates to climate. I’m sitting in front of a big sign that you have here at the Cumbra, at this Social Summit for the Climate, that says “Let’s decolonize.” Explain that more fully.

TOM KUCHARZ: “Let’s decolonize” means there is a deep, historic impunity of the crimes committed by Europe in colonial time, both with the slave trade, but also with the assassination of millions of indigenous people in America. And these historical crimes against humanity was never been judged. And this is still impugn and we will not accept it. That’s why for us it is so important that indigenous people, migrant and refugees are on the forefront of the demonstration today at six. But those indigenous communities and the frontline communities all over the world are also fighting against fossil fuels, megaproject, of these same Spanish and European transnational corporation who are financing the official climate summit. So this is completely injust policies. And unfortunately, the European Union and the Spanish social democratic government are very responsible for those very unjust situations.

AMY GOODMAN: Tom Kucharz, journalist, activist with Ecologists in Action, one of the leading environmental groups organizing the alternative climate summit, thank you so much for welcoming us into your space, rapidly put together in the last few weeks since Spain took on the U.N. Climate Summit. When we come back, we will be joined by two Fridays for Future youth activists from Chile and Uganda who are here in Madrid for the U.N. summit. They will join activists from around the world today in the climate march. Stay with us.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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