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.

As the international and Mexican delegates met on the beach in Acapulco this morning under a towering Mexican flag, representatives from local and state organizations and unions welcomed our participation on the Via Campesina caravan, and wished us well. They told us that by spending the next 2 days in the state of Guerrero we would be lending support and strength to the struggles that these communities faced.

The international contingent makes up 20 activists and independent media journalists from the USA, Holland, England, Ecuador and Canada (me!). Throughout the day we have picked up people joining the caravan, and expect to have a full bus by tomorrow.

Our spokesperson, Mickey McCoy from Kentucky, let everyone know that what we would see and learn during the next few days would inform our actions in Cancun and into the future. He also connected his work to stop Mountain Top Removal in the Appalachian Mountains to the struggle to stop the La Parota dam in Guerrero.

We then boarded the bus and after a short drive joined the community of Puerto Marquez, just outside of Acapulco, in the newly created hotel zone called Acapulco Diamante. On November 10, 150 families were descended upon by 2 levels of police and forcibly removed from their homes, their homes burned and they are still living in crisis and fear for their lives. We met them on the road, above the now fenced off and police ‘protected’ area where their houses stood. Men, women and children told of their experience of being woken, beaten and thrown out of their houses in the middle of the night. One small girl said that her only request was to the Governor: that he allow her family to have a house for Christmas.

We were left with an uncomfortable feeling of the true costs of unchecked ‘development’ driven by tourist dollars. While ocean and sand may cover the postcards and glossy airline ads, we heard today from 150 families whose lives are in chaos as a result of our aggressive sun seeking.”This land is not for sale,” they told us.

Then on to Agua Caliente, the community where the Council of Communal Lands and Communities Opposed to La Parota Dam (CECOP) formed and is fighting against the construction of the dam. It was explained to us that while the government has claimed that the construction of the dam is postponed until 2018, bits of construction continue and the community remains vigilant. They by no means feel that the fight is over. We were taken down to the rushing Papagayo river and a CECOP representative mused about how, with the construction of the dam, the river would cease to flow.

We have heard word of the other caravans’ travels today and as we learn more and more about our convergence in Mexico City and then on to Cancun, I’m in awe of this project that Via Campesina has organized and feel the responsibility that community members have bestowed on us to ensure that their voices are heard in Cancun. As one of my traveling mates remarked today, “makes me proud to be people.”

Throughout the day we have been honored to be joined and guided by Rodolfo Chaves Galindo, a CECOP founders and a tireless fighter to stop the La Parota dam. He has reiterated again and again “this land is not for sale”.

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.

The people create thousands of solutions to confront climate change

Thousands of Cancuns for climate justice

La Via Campesina calls on social movements and all people to mobilize       around the world

Peasants are cooling down the planet

Globalize the struggle

Globalize hope!

Climate activists from around the globe have been planning activities on and around December 7th to unite as a community for climate justice and to denounce false solutions to climate change.

Get involved by participating wherever you are. Mobilizations can take many shapes: direct actions, parties, markets, festivals, discussions or exhibitions…. They can take place in any city, village, school or community. Actions are being posted every day at the Via Campesina webpage. In North America, the Mobilization for Climate Justice and the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance both have resources and updates.

Locally in the Bay Area, Mobilization for Climate Justice West is hosting a teach in on Dec 1. More details on that here. Also on Dec 7 MCJW will be pushing for the creation of a public park in the Mission on publicly-owned land currently used as a parking lot. Everyone is invited to build a garden, celebrate community-based activism and enjoy speakers, theatre and music!

Two more resources:

Via Campesina has created a great 7 minute video about climate justice looking towards Cancun, check it out here (also the Via Campesina call out for action) or here.

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance offers a fantastic action and communications toolkit for mobilizing here.

…And here are links to few principles sheets and documents in case you do not have them:

Cochabamba Accord

Indigenous Environmental Network Four Principles of Climate Justice

IEN Report and Statement on REDD

Global Justice Ecology Project Podcast on Cancun Climate Talks Exposes REDD (click on the 11/20/10 Earth Minute)

I join the Acapulco leg of the Caravans of Resistance and Against Environmental Destruction and Inaction (Caravanas en Resistencia en Contra de la Destrucción Ambiental y la Indolencia) tomorrow and will report out soon!

To support LVC’s actions in Cancun, donate here.

To act locally (Bay Area), support MCJW here.

COP16 starts on Nov 29 and runs until Dec 10 in Cancun, Mexico. COP16/CMP6 is the 16th edition of Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP). After the failure of COP15 in Copenhagen, sights are set both high and low for this round.

Climate justice campaigners, environmentalists and social justice advocates from around the world will be arriving in Mexico over the next week, many joining the three caravans set to depart Acapulco, El Salto (Guadalajara) and San Luis Potosí, arrive in Mexico City and then travel on to Cancun, arriving December 3rd. The international peasant movement, La Via Campesina, has arranged the caravans, which will stop at a variety of communities in struggle and resistance, with the objectives of:

– unmasking the double moral standard on the environment with which the government of Mexico maneuvers itself amidst the world-wide climatic crisis. At the same time exposing its true rapacious attitude towards the environment and its subservient attitude with the United States government.

– opening up a practical path of convergence between diverse social organizations of the United States, Canada and Mexico, which nowadays share, without knowing it and without much contact, an effort to struggle against neoliberalism.

– connecting numerous environmental struggles of Mexico with the global agenda of the movement against the world-wide climatic crisis.

– contributing, nationally and locally, to the global civil society’s enormous effort of denouncing the destructive attitude present in many regions of the world, and which is being espoused by the decisions and greed of the governments of the richest nations of the world and transnational corporations.

– nurturing as much as possible the campesino, indigenous and peoples mobilizations against the indolence with which the main countries and capitalists of the world will make themselves present at the COP-16 in Cancun.

– contributing in the preparation of new networks of international coordination.

The issues to be highlighted on the caravan from Acapulco will be: community struggles against dump sites, water contamination, hydroelectric generation and control of water, resistance and struggles in the mines and will travel through Guerrero, Morelos, and DF.

The issues to be highlighted on the caravan from Guadalajara will be: community struggles against damns and control of water, Indigenous struggles against deforestation, resistance against expropriation of communal agricultural lands for development, resistance against displacement by superhighway development and will travel through Jalisco, Michoacán, México and DF.

The issues to be highlighted on the caravan from San Luis Potosí will be: contamination by export agriculture contamination of local communities and rivers by fertilizers and other chemicals, community resistance to development and industrial contamination, community resistance and struggles against toxic waste sites and will travel through San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Hidalgo and DF.


The caravans are scheduled to arrive in Mexico City and thousands will participate in the protest for ‘Life, Social and Environmental Justice’.

Global Exchange will be participating in the caravans from Acapulco and Guadalajara all the way to Cancun and will be reporting daily from the road. More on what is being planned for Cancun tomorrow!

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 on 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.

Hope to see you in Cancún.

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