The Bolivian Government: “Mother Earth or Barbarism”

Future Hope column, April 27, 2010

By Ted Glick

(Below is one of the blog posts that I sent last week from the incredibly important and historic, April 19-22 World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia. If you would like to see the three others that I did on the 19th, 20th and 23rd, go to

I missed President Evo Morales’ speech on Tuesday at the official opening of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. Asking several friends who were there how it was, they all were surprised by its relative mildness, for Morales. The main things he called upon people to do, my friends said, were to use clay dishes, stop drinking coca-cola and stop eating industrial agriculture-raised chickens.

Perhaps President Morales was holding his powder to allow his Vice President, Alvaro Garcia Linera, to give the rousing speech. This is what he did that afternoon at a major plenary session on the Univalle Campus in Tiquipaya. It was a comprehensive overview of what is happening because of climate change (dried up rivers, melting glaciers, desertification, forest destruction and more) and the cause of it (the economic system of capitalism which turns people and nature into commodities for private gain no matter who and what gets hurt). “Capitalism is ready to destroy nature,” he said.

Linara made clear his government’s belief that we are at the beginning of a certain worldwide catastrophe if humanity does not get serious right now. He used the figures of 260 million people who have been affected already by climate change and 200 million who have emigrated because of it.

Linara went on to put forward a very different solution than many in the United States, including many environmentalists, believe is the solution. For Linara, it’s not new technology that is going to save the world. What will save it, he said, is when “we take the Bolivian Indigenous, the Bolivian peasant model and make it universal. We need a new civilization that’s not about consumerism but about meeting basic needs. Humans must recognize that Mother Earth has rights and we have obligations to respect them. Our new model must be consensus-based, dialogical and rooted in personal relationships with nature. We need new forms of production, and we need new ethics.”

He referenced Rosa Luxemburg, a socialist leader from over 100 years ago, when he called, not for “socialism or barbarism,” her call, but for “Mother Earth or barbarism,” and he put forward five things that we must do:

1) resistance actions by students, workers, peasants where they are, mobilization, personal and community lifestyle changes
2) a Climate Justice Tribunal to bring to account those most responsible for the climate emergency in which we find ourselves
3) new forms of consumption that are consistent with a connection to Mother Earth
4) alternative technologies for energy (and other) development
5) organizing to win political power, to take over government so that it can be used to “defend life and nature.”

We must make a revolution not just in the structures, he said, but in our own lives. And we must make this a universal project, we must be interconnected globally.

With these beliefs, beliefs clearly felt, it is possible to understand the risks that the Bolivian government has been willing to take in response to the bitter results at Copenhagen.

You don’t need to be a socialist, and you don’t have to believe that the Bolivian government is perfect, which it isn’t, to appreciate and salute the initiative they have taken, and the success they have accomplished, over the last few days, with one more to go.
written on April 21, 2010