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The Durban Climate Talks Were a Disaster, Here's What We Do Next

The good news is that a new framework for global action based on the needs of people and the planet already exists.

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As long as it was accepted that climate change is the problem, it made a lot of sense to turn to international institutions like the UN as the driver for change. This has tethered much activism to seeking concessions in a rigged game of false solutions, because the UNFCC is based not on the root causes of environmental exploitation--but 'market fixes' to the same corporate-led economic model and 'endless-more' value system that have driven us to the cliff's edge.

Like the slow strangulation of a creeping kudzu vine, our activism has been constrained to a smaller and smaller patch of sunlight, options and regulatory schemes that weren't even of our design. In this sense, the utter failure of Durban can be quite freeing--if we chose it--because it means we can actually address root causes of climate change, chiefly, our cultural and legal traditions of dominating the Earth for profit.

Occupy is the other game changer.

Occupiers and revolutionaries from Egypt to Wall Street and around the world have woken up millions of the disillusioned, and inspired them to find their own voice, their own power. Once awakened, we will seize this moment and shift the system itself that places corporate interests above our shared values of justice, equality, good jobs, healthy resilient vibrant communities and ecosystems. In Durban, Anne Petermann and others sat down to remind us that we the 99% do have the power to change the rules. We can chose another way if we believe we can.

The Rights of Nature offers a platform for action to challenge the market-based approach that dominates the UN COP process. "Why bring RON to climate change conference?" Pablo Solon was asked, "Because if we are going to address climate change, we must address the issue of a new relationship between humans and nature. Its not just a problem with how many particles of CO2 emissions, it's a problem of why does this happen?"

Where do we go from here? The Good news

A new framework for global action based on the needs of people and the planet already exists. The People's Accord and the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth are key outcomes of the 2010 People's Summit on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, hosted by Bolivia and led by Indigenous communities and civil society. For more on this from the perspective of Durban see CJN! media release.

Those of us working on the rights of nature framework are seeking to reconnect humanity with the rest of species. We seek to change human law that can only "see" nature as a thing -- separate and apart from us, property to be owned and destroyed at will. We seek to change the law because our own salvation can only come from a cultural mindset that we are a part of nature. Such a fundamental shift will require new laws that enforce and enable those cultural values.

While we take from nature the strength of diversity, we can remain diverse while uniting around the rules set forth by Mother Earth. We have in the past found solace strength and cohesion in broad strokes alignment with peasant farmers, landless workers, unions, Indigenous and non-indigenous communities. That's not going to be easy, but there is a lot of common ground. For example, on the issue of rights of nature versus Indigenous rights, there are many different opinions among native traditions. But there is tremendous Indigenous support for changing the dominant culture, and the fossil fuel economy that UNFCC is based on.

 
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