Pablo Solon Calls for a Grassroots Global Movement to end the Apartheid against Nature and to end all the Apartheids
On December 2, 2011, at the People’s Space of the 17th UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, Pablo Solon, the former UN Ambassador from Bolivia and former primary Bolivian negotiator on climate change, called for a change to the global capitalist system to end humanity’s exploitative relationship with other human beings and Nature. Solon’s call, during his presentation on the Rights of Nature, echoed the Bolivian President Evo Morales’s speech one year before in Cancun (2010) at the La Via Campesina People’s Forum at the 16th UN Climate Change Conference, when President Morales called for an end to the global capitalist system and the creation of south-south institutions to finance education, health care and development of the people to replace the current global capitalist institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank which sacrifice the people’s development.
In South Africa, the home of the former infamous racial apartheid government, Solon called for a global grassroots movement to end the apartheid against Nature as well as to end all the apartheids. Apartheid in South Africa, he continued, separated and treated people differently and badly based on their race. We also have apartheid towards indigenous people, Nature, women, and economic or class apartheid, he said. We have apartheid between science and spirituality, towards youth and towards old people, he continued. Solon said, “[W]e have treated Nature much like white people have treated black people in the 20th century—as a slave.”
Solon was in essence calling for a grassroots global ecological and justice movement that would neither exploit the earth nor human beings in any way, and in particular, in any of the ways human beings had historically exploited each other. He called for this movement in response to the abject failure of the world’s governments to constructively address global warming in Durban at the 17th UN Climate Change Conference.
Pablo Solon called for the rights of Nature to replace the current capitalist global economic system. The Rights of Nature, he said, challenge the current rights of capitalists to exploit humanity as input and nature as an object. Solon stated that capitalism had a similar relationship with humans and nature, exploitative, but that our relationship with nature was worse which was simply to exploit it to have more profit.
Solon stated, during his presentation, that when he first started promulgating the rights of Nature, the opposition, feeling threatened, argued that creating rights for nature was going too far and countered with a more conservative approach of balance and integrity. The rights of nature doctrine created conflict between the rulers of the economic world, Solon stated.
Capitalism is based on man, profit and private property and there is an entire legal system set up for this, said Solon. But the question says Solon is whose private property.
Solon continued that we need to change not only our legal system but install in it a concern for the rivers and fish and all of nature. Before the capitalists proceed, they must ask how this work or project affects the cycle of nature and the interrelation between nature and humanity. Environmental impact has up to this point measured the impact on humans, but what about the impact on nature itself, stated Solon.
Solon pointed out that, last year, the UN passed a resolution, guaranteeing human beings the right to water. This took 60 years. “The next battle,” he said, “is for the rights of water itself.” “This is science, he said. “[W]ater has cycles, the disruption of which, water suffers consequences. Snow has memory, as do glaciers,” he continued. “The memory of our world is in glaciers.”
Solon stated that we all have indigenous ancestors. We need to treat nature with respect. It is our home, not just a place. He opined, we can go back to our ancestors for guidance on how to do this.
Solon continued, the capitalists want to develop a new market of “ecosystem services,” a green market, a green capitalism and put a price that is negotiable on Nature. [But, he seemed to be arguing, that some things, including Nature, have no price. What price would you put on your children for example? Furthermore, it has been argued that the air we need to breathe, the water we need to drink and the ecosystems upon which we depend to live are priceless and not tradable. What will happen to us if we trade them away? As the saying goes, we cannot eat, drink or breathe money—or something to that effect. We cannot bargain them away or replace them with money simply like any object. Rather they are essential to us and we are infact part of them and they are priceless, and in order to preserve them and ourselves we need to recognize that, like ourselves, they have rights, was what Solon appeared to be arguing.]
Capitalism has failed, said Solon, because it has tried to put a price on ecosystem services and to create a green economy. They haven’t taken care of our ecosystem and it doesn’t have a price. Environmental services are not owned. He is against the commodification of nature in this way. The rights of nature must be separated from economic compensation. Human beings are part of nature.
He continued, we need a clear and new paradigm, a new system that promotes a new relationship with nature and with other human beings. The Rights of Nature is this new paradigm, he was suggesting.
Solon continued to say that the result from Durban will be yet worse than Cancun. The current level of emission reduction will not stop global warming at all. The suggested cutting of emissions by 30% by 2020 is nothing. Under this scenario, Africa alone will experience an increase of 4 to 8 to even 12 degrees. [With even an increase of 4 to 8 degrees Africa’s agriculture capacity will be reduced by 80%.] Said Solon, we have to stop the world powers from locking in these numbers or it will result in ecocide and genocide of 80 % of the world’s people.