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Vision: The Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth Is Our Roadmap to a Liveable Future

"It is time for humankind to humbly accept that we have arrived at the precipice of reckless living, exploitation and destruction of Mother Earth."

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Negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change continue to gloss over the role of industrial agriculture in climate change. When agriculture is mentioned, the slant is usually that agriculture contributes so much to climate change. We hardly hear the truth that the culprit is industrial agriculture with its dependence on chemical fertilizers and predominantly monoculture modes. Meanwhile small-scale farmers continue to utilize local knowledge developed over centuries of practice on agro-ecological models that respect the environment, socio-economic and cultural systems.

While the official negotiations on climate change continue to drag, the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth issued "The People's Agreement" at the end of the conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010. The agreement clearly took into consideration the Rights of Mother Earth as the true context for tackling climate change. The people spoke loudly and it is time for governments to listen.

The climate challenge requires binding targets for emission reductions and these cannot be met through the so-called carbon offsetting methods, or through the voluntary emission reduction targets such as what is suggested in the Copenhagen Accord. Those measures merely promote business as usual and set the stage for unacceptable temperature increases. As the Bolivian government consistently states, "the need to establish an adequate limit to global warming and that with an increase in global warming of two degrees Celsius, there is a 50 per cent chance that the damage caused to our Mother Earth would be totally irreversible."

The dominant proposals being officially put forward to combat climate change are all based on market forces. Rather than redirect civilisation from its carbon path and leave fossil fuels in the soil or in the holes where Mother Earth has put them, the world promotes the drilling of oil in pristine and delicate environments and continues to intensify destructive mining activities. By these means waterways are polluted onshore and offshore. Aquatic lives are poisoned with toxic chemicals including crude oil dispersants, smothered under drilling mud, and killed by seismic explosions. The extraction of fossil fuels increases deforestation and destruction of terrestrial habitat. The major factor behind the persistence of this mode of civilisation is profit at the expense of life.

When a slight attempt is made to move from fossil fuel propulsion, it has been into moving within the same industrial logic of refineries, pipelines, gas stations and combustion engines through agro-fuels. We hear talk of ethanol made from crops being held up as a clean and renewable energy source. Little attention is paid to the fact that the entire set up is the same as that driven by fossil fuels. Little attention is paid to the fact that agro-fuels compete with food crops for arable land and remove farm labour from producing food for hungry populations. Even when it is said that the crops cultivated are not staples and are grown on marginal lands, this turns out to be another way of marginalising the poor so as to meet the needs and greed of others. As mentioned earlier, agro-fuel production has triggered land grabs in places such as Africa that reveal the immoral bent of man in seeking to maintain consumption patterns that are unjust, unsustainable and grossly infringe on the Rights of Mother Earth.

Technology is hoisted as the silver bullet that would solve all the evils pushed forward by the carbon economy. This is the logic that speaks of carbon sequestration and even holds forth such an oxymoron as "clean coal." It is also this logic that breeds ideas such as the seeding of the atmosphere to reflect and thereby cool the Earth and seeding of the oceans to create carbon sinks.