Monday, April 19, 2010

A Little Ash Here, a Little Water There

As ash from an Icelandic volcano continues to blanket the skies of Europe, canceling tens of thousands of flights for the 5th day in a row, I can’t help but wonder what will happen when several natural disasters of this mag-nitude happen simultaneously.

There is no place to run to. All we can do is hope that the movement started by Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, to defend the planet against climate change, will spread faster than the disasters in store, galvanizing massive resistance to the world as it is threatened today.

Ten years ago, while Americans nodded in front of TVs that extolled the benefits of commercially owned pure water, rural Bolivians rose up to protest the privatization of their lifeline. It was a bloody fight, but they won, setting the stage for the eventual coming to power of an indigenous small coco grower.

This week, President Morales is hosting a week-long World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth; government representatives from 54 countries will join thousands of grass roots organizations from all over the world near Cochabamba, where the Water Wars took place. They aim to make the next UN Conference on climate change, due to take place in Mexico later this year, more meaningful than December’s Copenhagen climate summit.

Bolivia’s ambassador to the U.N. (the U.S. and Bolivia no longer have reciprocal representation), Pablo Solon, explained on today’s Democracy Now, that the developed nations, though representing only 20% of the world’s population, “occupy” with their toxic emissions, 80% of the earth’s atmosphere. In that context, the idea of a Mother Earth is not a primitive image.

Listening to Amy Goodman interview the sister of the slain leader of the water wars, Oscar Romero, tell how the Andean peasants won the water war, it occurs to me that part of the reason for their success was that they were free from a ubiquitous media that claims all is well in the best of worlds. Unlike citizens of the developed world, they believed in their own understanding of right and wrong, and acted upon it.

Americans will never have free water, but what about a government that winds down military involvements in favor of better health care? In this week’s Nation, Michael Klare tells us that the Pentagon is planning for “Two, Three, Many Afghanistans”, increasing its ability to combat “sub-versive insurgencies”. Under the heading “subversives” are people fighting for equal access to the basic underpinnings of life: clean air, water, food, fuel.

As a first step in that war, President Obama announced it was cutting the $3.5 million dollars of aid Bolivia was slated to receive to help it combat climate change.

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