Monday, November 16, 2009

Copenhagen: Who will speak for the Poor ?

Copenhagen will have to address one really pressing issue and that is that of inequality: inequality between rich and poor, between North and South. It is sad that the current inequity between the  rich and the destitute  is much greater than ever in history. It is the divergence between the Pharaoh and his Slaves by a factor of a million or so. is shameful. This is 2009, there are more than 6.25 billion of us, we need to find a moment of diplomatic enlightenment and throw off our chains to a system that has bred poverty and despair for the vast majority of humans living today. We have to go deeper. Cap and trade is not good enough (at all).

Nations and people often mention the ones that live on 2 dollars a day --realizing the abject poverty that this must bring is clear to everyone else. According to the 'stats' that includes actually 2.6 billion people of which 1.4 billion only have 1.25 or less per day. But how about $10 dollars a day ? Did you realize that 80% of the world population, or 5.15 billion humans live of $10 or less per day ? What many in the west don't fathom is that these people are not just sitting around being hungry.... most of them actually put in an over stressed and overstretched workday for that. Cash payment at the end of the day is often not a given --regardless of the effort made. This has to do with a global system that devours resources while disowning whole communities and any sense of commons.

The lives of the poor are more vulnerable to decease and hunger, and are often cut short due to violence and abuse of the people and land resources by corporate powers. The exposure to toxins that many indigenous communities all over the world have to endure because of toxic dumping,  nuclear experiments, military occupations, petrochemical contamination, drug wars and mining, is criminal. Yet these same communities have no access to media or money or courts to counter their abusers, and victories are at best temporary  -- like the one in Peru's latest confrontations between the (oil interests serving) army and several indigenous tribes. All the cards are stacked against them.

This constant conflict and need to repress is the actual face of inequality, and given the path that we are on, this face will start to distort and contort more and more deamonically. A lot of different capital entities (from drugs to mining) and corporations have interest in destabilization of a strong civil society (as Robert Kaplan laid out in his book: The Ends of the World ).  Even societies like the US itself are not immune: it is destabalizing under the weight of militarism and excessively self serving corporate entities. The US government is arguably fully corrupted by money interests, think healthcare, energy ( think oil), military, and above all Wallstreet, and whereas these entities should be governed by law and regulation --in fact it's the corporations that dictate the laws and demand 'toll' --utterly destroying the middle class in its way. This too is a recipe for undermining democracy and semblance of a civil society. Tensions due to unequality are also rising here. Within this context of corruption and paper money deals, cap and trade is asking for ecological disaster and further disempowerment of common people.

It is high time that we wake up to the ethical dimensions of inequality and the injustices it brings. Why not let ethics be a guiding principle in 'making the deals', rather than the brute power underlying international relationships now ? Who will step forward to lead the world leaders into a whole new 'Gestalt of Politics' -- will it be Obama (or is he bought and sold? --let's root for Michelle!) ? Will it be the young smart Medvedev ? How about maverick Sarkozy ( let's root for Carla Bruni), Or president Hu Jintao (or is it Who ?) ? Or will it be you and me ? Someone will need to address the real issues head on in Copenhagen and speak truth and speak for the poor. The poverty I am speaking of here knows no boundaries and recognizes no nationalities: it is the same in the Laguna pueblo in New Mexico as it is in the sub Sahara or the Amazonian rainforest. It is about people that are going hungry and have lost control over their futures.

In the coming entries I intent to look at what is at stake in Copenhagen in particular cap and trade. Here I like to introduce you to some of the people I met in the makeshift harbour of Pucallpa, on the muddy banks of the Ucayali river in the Amazonian Rainforest of Peru. They haul the resources out of the jungle like you'll see here, day after day.... the wood, the food: they are the ones that live on a few dollars or less per day.
Warning: this is considered to be a 'bad place' but don't feel scared:
                                         ........try to find yourselves.......

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