2011 is finally here.  So now seems as good a time as any to take stock of everything we’ve accomplished in the past year, to draw together our challenges and victories and lay them out there for you to see. Since there isn’t space enough to showcase everything, we’ve selected a few of our favorite highlights from 2010 to share with you:

Climate Change

People's World Conference on Climate Change

This year, Global Exchange attended the People’s World Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where 35,000+ people  called for a dramatic rethinking of our place on this planet.  When it came time for the COP 16 climate talks in Mexico, we knew we would have our work cut out for us.  At the end of the day, the progress we made in Mexico was minimal, and we knew the best bet for real climate change solutions was a renewed organizing effort at home and around the world.  

Shannon Biggs published this on December 12th to Commondreams.org: “It is time to deliver the message of Cochabamba to the people who are capable of creating change, of creating 1,000 Cochabambas…If we want to be heard at the U.N., then we need to go home and build the revolution of change in the places where we live.”

Want to read the rest?  Click here.


Medea Benjamin speaking out

Is it crazy to act a little crazy to stop something you think is crazy?  We think not.  When Jon Stewart announced his rally to restore sanity, we had to say something. This piece written by Medea Benjamin appeared on the Huffington Post on October 27th, 2010.

“CODEPINK has been proposing solutions since the day we started.  Whether under Bush or Obama, our voices of sanity have been drowned out by a war machine that makes billions selling weapons and hiring mercenaries.”

Read the entire article here, then read how Medea was invited to appear on The Daily Show.

Antonia appearing on Democracy NOW! with Amy Goodman

Getting Tough on Big Oil

The oil spill in April opened up a lot of people’s eyes about the horrific dangers of the oil industry.  The lives lost, the ecosystems and livelihoods destroyed, plus the billions of dollars in damage were all testaments to the magnitude of the threat posed by this dirty industry.  When it came time to hear from the experts, our in-house authority on oil Antonia Juhasz weighed in on the debate. She shared her views on Democracy NOW! and in The Guardian, May 24, 2010 article entitled How Far Should We Let Big Oil Go? where she had this to say:

“The communities most directly harmed by oil’s abuse are organized, networked, and ready.  The public is roused, angered, and ready to act.  The oil corporations are on notice: the true cost of their operations is simply too great to bear.”

Click here to read more.

Reality Tours

Agriculture in Cuba

This year,  National Geographic decided to list Global Exchange Reality Tours as one of their 2010 Tours of a Lifetime.  Our Cuba trips, and the unique opportunities they afford travelers to cut through the misinformation and discover things for themselves, caught the attention of this esteemed travel magazine.

National Geographic praised our Cuba trip’s “commitment to authenticity, immersion, sustainability, and connection.”

Click here to read more.

Fair Trade

Hershey’s refuses to go Fair Trade.  Despite years of promises, despite the massive evidence of child slavery and other abuses on West African plantations, Hershey’s still won’t budge.  So, Global Exchange partners with other organizations to apply some pressure.  The result?  A CNBC news story covered far and wide, in which Adrienne Fitch-Frankel, Global Exchange Fair Trade Cocoa Campaign Director, shared:

“Hershey’s demonstrates a commitment to children in the U.S. by funding the Milton Hershey School.  They can demonstrate the same concern for children and families in the African communities that farm their cocoa by using Fair Trade Certified cocoa for their chocolates.”

Want to read the rest?  The article is still cross-posted here.

Speaking Out About Violence in Mexico

Most of us have become all too aware of the gruesome violence that has gripped Mexico over the past year.  What is not as well known is the role played by the U.S. government and its allies in the Mexican government in the problems associated with narco-trafficking and arms smuggling.  Ted Lewis, director of our Human Rights Program, spoke out in the Seattle Times in September:

“…Any effective prescription to pull Mexico back from the abyss will require cooperation as well as introspection and substantive policy changes from the U.S.”

Read more by clicking here.

What’s Next?

Hosting a peace activist in residence, more Reverse Trick-or-Treating, elections monitoring in Mexico, Reality Tours to over thirty countries, Green Solutionaries, Green Festivals, renewable power payments…there isn’t enough room to include everything we’ve got planned for 2011.  But I can tell you this for sure: we’ve got big plans.

Global Exchange’s Carleen Pickard & other delegation members join fellow climate justice campaigners, environmentalists and social justice advocates from around the world for the COP16 in Cancun. They’re traveling with La Via Campesina organized caravans . En route to COP 16, the caravans are visiting communities in struggle and resistance, learning about the local effects of climate change and adding their voices of solidarity to communities working to construct a better future.

Ride along with Carleen and other caravan members as they share stories from the caravan to COP16. Next stop: Alpuyeca:

We join this chant no less than 100 times today. At any moment – a break in speakers, walking along a dusty road to a destination and in the 2 marches we participate in someone will start the call – (Zapata lives!) and everyone in earshot responds ‘la luuuuuucha vive!” (the struggle continues!). Repeat.

It’s a fitting chant for today. We arrive in the town of Alpuyeca and as we step off the bus, women step forward and toss confetti over our heads. 99 years ago the Plan de Ayala was signed here by revolution leader Emiliano Zapata at the end of the Mexican Revolution. We are positioned at the front of the crowd and lead a march into the town, celebrating  the successes of this community.

A small girls begin: “Zaaaaaappppaatttaaaa viiiiiiiive!” and we respond. Recently this community has prevented their land from being expropriated for a new airport, stopped a significant highway expansion, blocked the highway in support of teachers protesting education ‘reform.’ Next we hear about the community’s largest victory – successfully closing a tremendous garbage dump.

But first we enter the outdoor gathering area in a haze of copal and are treated to a Nahuatl welcoming, thanking the four points, the sky and tierra (land) for providing and keeping us safe. As hundreds of folks gather from the town, our hosts then invite speakers to the stage to talk about struggles in their communities. The caravan’s visit to Alpuyeca is a reason to gather and provides an important opportunity to bring the community together to talk of history, struggle, victory and resistance.  Sharing our solidarity in this ‘tierra de Zapata’ feels appropriate as we see three, possibly four generations present and it’s clear that Zapata does live here.

Local representatives take us to a large abandoned site in a residential neighborhood that once operated as a factory producing electrical transformers in the late ‘80s, before closing in 1990. It  re-opened twice but was shut down when workers fell ill. Very ill. Our guide reads out a horrifying list of illnesses reported – rashes, respiratory problems, auto immune infections, nervous system collapse, and pregnancy complications. When the site was finally investigated, a giant slurry of toxic waste was discovered to have been dumped in the basement and was seeping through the building and in the air. Also, toxic components of the electrical transformers were buried behind the building and after two decades they are surfacing to bake in the sun.

We stop at the closed garbage dump on our way out of the city, en route to Cuernavaca. The site is not much to look at: the giant pile of waste has been covered with earth from another location. A community activist tells us how the fight to close the dump united the community to say no to polluting their land with waste from Cuernavaca and yes to learning about recycling, reducing waste generation and “learning to change our bad habits.”

The Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME, the Mexican Electrical Workers), supporting Via Campesina through the caravans, are out hosts for the evening in Cuernavaca.  Upon arrival we march through the streets to the zocalo (town square) and rally outside a palace built for the conquistador Cortez with stones taken from destroyed pyramids. In the rally that follows we hear testimony about the impacts of climate change on communities and frustration with the lack of solution based action from local, national and global leadership. The local SME representative and various other community leaders are joining the caravan tomorrow, while others have asked that we take their words with us to Cancun.

To close, Emiliano Zapata’s great grandson speaks – calling for unity in the struggle and that there is need to remember Zapata in these days. He says that with all of our collective effort we will be successful, save ourselves and the planet. Yes, Zapata vive – la lucha sigue.

Check back here on our Climate Justice blog to continue following Carleen’s journey. If you’re on Twitter, follow @globalexchange for related COP16 updates from Global Exchange, and use hashtag #COP16 for general COP16 tweets.

Global Exchange’s Carleen Pickard & other delegation members are joining fellow climate justice campaigners, environmentalists and social justice advocates from around the world for COP16 in Cancun. They’re traveling with La Via Campesina organized caravans. En route to COP 16, the caravans are visiting communities in struggle and resistance, learning about the local effects of climate change and adding their voices of solidarity to communities working to construct a better future.

Ride along as caravan members share their stories from the road to COP16. Today, Irene Florez reports from the Mexican caravan:

Traveling with the Via Campesina caravan from Guadalajara to Cancun, this delegation is now picking up about 20 additional climate activists at every stop.

Converging through rallies, marches, and civil disobedience actions, the Via Campesina caravan members are meeting with allies in various towns and cities and alerting local populations about the Cancun summit, picking additional passengers up along the way. The first day this caravan added 30 new passengers. There are now over 150 climate activists from five different countries on the Guadalajara caravan.

Throughout the various public demonstrations, caravan participants are sharing information about the summit and working to garner support, while practicing public speaking, civil disobedience tactics, and alliance building.

Yesterday, our second day, the Guadalajara caravan met with the electric workers union who are battling to recover the jobs lost when the state took over their plant and terminated 44,000 jobs. These workers see their energy work as a critical component to climate justice.

The caravan then stopped in the Malinche neighborhood on the outskirts of Mexico City, where over 500 local activists welcomed the caravan with a rally for climate and citizen rights. Activists in Malinche are struggling against the proposed expulsion of 200-300 longtime residents and a green, public space in favor of a superhighway project.

Two young residents of Malinche who may be displaced soon, Kenia and Andrea

In Morelia, activists arrived in the large city on empty stomachs and with little sleep but this didn’t arrest their interest in making noise and vocalizing the importance of climate justice. Within about 20 minutes, a large march formed that quickly filled Morelia’s main streets with people chanting “Zapata vive, la lucha sigue” and “water and energy cannot be sold.”

Here are some related resources:

Visit Indigenous Environmental Network for articles, segments and live broadcasts of COP 16

Join one of the climate justice mobilizations organized around the summit

Listen to The Price of Nature: Buying Our Way Outof Climate Chaos

Check back here on our Climate Justice blog to continue following the caravan delegation members’ journey. If you’re on Twitter, follow @globalexchange for related COP16 updates from Global Exchange, and use hashtag #COP16 for general COP16 tweets.

I’m just about to meet my international and Mexican traveling companions for the next week and board the Via Campesina caravan from Acapulco, Mexico. First stop on this journey today will be to the much disputed potential site of the mega hydro-electric dam called La Parota to meet with community members and the organization Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a la Prensa La Parota (CECOP).

When Vicente Fox came to presidential power in 2000, he aggressively advocated for the La Parota dam, and it was called his ‘crown jewel’ throughout his presidency. Yet International Rivers reports that “as many as 25,000 people would be displaced by the dam, and tens of thousands more downstream would suffer negative impacts because of dam-induced changes to the Papagayo River.” CECOP was founded in 2003 specifically to fight the construction of the dam and has functioned collectively, organizing the community base into forming blockades and challenging the federal approval process in law.

Facing fierce divide and conquer tactics of the state and federal government and the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), CECOP also tragically lost two of its members in 2006: Tomás Cruz Zamora and Eduardo Maya Manrique. The stories of their deaths are told here.

In late 2009 the Mexican government announced that it remained committed to building La Parota, but postponed construction until 2018. Many claimed victory and speculated that this meant the end of the project but as tensions have remained high in the community and threats against CECOP members continue, La Parota remains a possibility. Earlier this year, the human rights accompaniment and observation group SIPAZ reported on the ongoing tensions.

Take Action! Send a letter to President Calderon through Amnesty International’s urgent action tool.

After La Parota, the caravan will continue to Chilpancingo to meet with human rights defenders later tonight.

Thanks to International Rivers for the photos and background info.

Climate justice campaigners, environmentalists and social justice advocates from around the world will be arriving in Mexico over the next week for  the COP16 in Cancun. Those arriving on the La Via Campesina organized caravans, myself included, will have spent the past week traveling through the Mexican countryside, visiting communities in struggle and resistance, learning about the local effects of climate change and adding our voices of solidarity to communities constructing a better future.

In Cancun both La Via Campesina and Dialogo Climatico – Espacio Mexicano are organizing spaces for activist convergence, workshops and panels. The La Via Campesina forum will take place from Dec 3-8. Inviting international delegates from around the world, they state:

“While transnational corporation and complicit governments convene at the COP16 to promote new ways to capitalize off the climate crisis, La Via Campesina and allies will be present to denounce and resist false market-based solutions. Defend the rights of mother earth and build real solutions for a cool planet at the Alternative International Forum for Live and Environmental & Social Justice.”

The Diálogo Climático – Espacio Mexicano forum – International Climate Justice Forum – Community Dialogue – will take place from December 5 – 10 with the “objective of creating a space for information, discussion, analysis and formulation of proposals and strategies from civil society, organizations and social movements and indigenous communities about climate change from a climate justice perspective.”

For information about either of the forums, information is available on the websites listed above.

Shannon Biggs, Director of Global Exhange’s Community Rights Program, will be presenting and participating on the Rights of Nature/Rights of Mother Earth in both spaces with Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Belen Paez of Fundación Pachamama and Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Movement. To see a video report back from the World People’s Climate Conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia where the Rights of Mother Earth/Rights of Nature were codified in the Cochabamba Accords, click here.

And if you have not seen this yet, watch the Story of Cap and Trade.

Stay tuned for more on the global day of action on Dec 7 – ‘Thousands of Cancuns for Climate Justice’ coming up next!

As autumn rolls out, the Rights of Nature roll in with a dynamic movement building across the globe. How can we as humans alter our relationship with nature from that of ownership to one of harmony? We are pleased to share that world leaders such as Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, and 2010 Right Livelihood Awardee Nnimmo Bassey are joining us in a new paradigm shift: the Rights of Nature.

Global Exchange and the Council of Canadians are collaborating on a book on the Rights of Nature to be published this Spring with input from inspirational leaders, activists, and experts.

This September 2010 in Ecuador, the ground breaking international gathering of individuals and organizations promoting Rights of Nature met to form the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.  The Alliance will serve as a platform for the recognition and administration of the Rights of Nature through their declaration, founding council and executive committee.  They will work to foster a network of people and organizations that through collective action will implement this new way to change our current view of Nature, both culturally and legally.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16) this December, will mark another step in the movement towards Rights of Nature with Global Exchange, The Council of Canadians, and Fundacion Pachamama hosting a Panel discussion with Shannon Biggs, Maude Barlow, Tom Goldtooth, and Belen Paez.  There will also be an opportunity for environmental and climate justice activists get involved with workshops that will allow for practical action and a forward building coalition.

Join us in Cancun!
Hopefully you will be following the negotiations through the media, but you can also go there by joining on the CARAVANS TO CANCUN. Via Campesina will be driving through three different routes in Mexico on their way to Cancun making visible the grass-roots environmental struggles while building momentum for their final destination at the international climate talks. It will be an adventurous and incredible way to get to the talks. GX is facilitating the international activists so please let us know because the deadline to join is November 12th!

At the end of November, thousands of delegates representing governments from around the world will meet in the resort town of Cancún, Mexico for UN sponsored climate negotiations known as the Conference of Parties or, COP 16. But governments won’t be the only ones talking.

In Cancún and in thousands of cities and towns around the world, a growing movement of farmers, youth, workers, scientists, religious and other worried peoples of all stripes are fighting for strong, fair, and iron-clad agreements that will give humanity – and the eco-systems we depend on – a fighting chance for survival.

Global Exchange is joining a call by La Via Campesina (LVC) — the international peasant movement — inviting our activist members to consider joining a Caravan for Life and Environmental Justice through Mexico in late November.

Three caravans will travel through ten Mexican states, helping make local grass-roots environmental struggles more visible while building support for major demonstrations scheduled to take place worldwide while climate talks are underway.

These climate talks in Cancún are a critical moment to speak up for climate justice. Join us a Caravan to the climate talks in Cancún and be a part of the movement. Find out about caravan routes, the application process and costs. Caravan capacity is limited and Global Exchange is filling a small number of spots.

We hope to see you in Cancún!

The 10.10.10 global day of climate change action is right around the corner and Global Exchange is calling for your support to help change the conversation around climate change.

In support of 10-10-10 as a global day of climate change action, we are joining with our friends at 350.org and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens around the world in making October 10th the biggest day of climate change action ever! Take part in the Global Work Party, celebrate climate solutions, join an event already happening, get outside and get to work! When the day is done, check out our new 13 minute video – People and Planet First.

Planet and People First: A Global Exchange report Cochabamba, Bolivia 2010 from Global Exchange on Vimeo.

Later this year, we are taking our message to end addiction to oil and ensure real action is taken globally towards climate equity at the upcoming climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico. We want to protect the planet and people living in it and we are asking for your support. Every little bit helps us in our effort to spread the word for climate equity.

The need to address the climate emergency is now. In order to maintain a human-friendly climate on earth, all major GHG-emitting countries must accept emission limits, but that will not happen unless they are all bound to an agreement that all consider fair. The failure at the meetings in Copenhagen in December 2009 proved that the major roadblock to a fair international climate agreement is the peculiar belief held by most of our political and economic leaders that we – the global North, and the United States in particular – deserve to be more wealthy than the vast majority of people in the world. The only basis upon which a fair global climate deal can be built is a more equitable distribution of the world’s wealth and resources.

The most inconvenient truth we must confront in order to reverse climate change is the fact that the wealth of the United States and European countries is built upon centuries of colonial, financial and environmental exploitation. The countries of the global South get this. We don’t. We must not only secure a fair and effective international climate deal, but also convince the US Senate, which must approve all treaties by a two-thirds vote, that the American people favor sharing the world’s resources more equitably. That will be a difficult task, but it is exciting to realize that the solution to climate change is the creation of a world that is more just and equitable.

See our top ten ways to save the climate now and support our climate equity work.

Happy 10-10-10 everyone!

Join Global Exchange, our friends at 350.org, and hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens around the world who are making October 10th the biggest day of climate action ever! Take part in the Global Work Party, celebrate climate solutions, join an event already happening, get outside and get to work! When the day is done, join Global Exchange supporters and host a Party for the Planet & help us raise $10,000. (Find out how you can donate directly.)

Be a part of the movement! Organize a Party for the Planet film screening fundraiser followed by a discussion.  Hosting a great film screening fundraiser isn’t hard!  Just follow these easy steps:

Get the Video: Fill out an online form to receive Planet and People First— a short (13 minute) film from the first People’s Climate Conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia this spring. It is a must-see film for you and your community on the vital work of Global Exchange and communities around the world to end addiction to oil and ensure real action is taken globally towards climate equity.  Receive a copy of the filmYou must order by October 1st in order to guarantee arrival by October 10th.

Invite Your Friends:  Invite your friends over.  You can prepare light refreshments, or have a potluck and share the workload.  Check out our party planning resource page for downloadable invitations and other helpful tips.

Start the Conversation: Once you and your guests have viewed the film, take a moment to have a discussion around the issues of global climate change and climate equity.  See our list of questions and tips.

10 – 10 – 10 Donations: Our fundraising goal for 10-10-10 is to raise $10,000 dollars.  Ask your guests to give $10, $10(0), $10(0)(0) or more.  If you’re shy about asking for donations, don’t worry – our website offers great tips and resources to make you into a pro.

Please join us in making this important day into a success. Even if you can’t host a house party, consider donating to Global Exchange’s work directly.

We look forward in you joining us in this global movement!