Welcome to Cochabamba

Welcome to Cochabamba

There are 20,000 (more) people here...discussing climate and earth rights.

This morning’after an unexpected detour in Fort Myers, three hours sitting on a runway, and a mad dash to Aerosur Flight 558’I arrived in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for the first day of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights (PWCCC). Despite the sleep deprivation and traveling frustrations, the members of the New York delegation were in remarkably high spirits; in fact, everyone in the city seems to be in remarkably high spirits. I’ve already had the opportunity to meet some of the most incredible, passionate people I’ve ever encountered, and it’s only the first day. The New York delegation consists of about 40 people, some of whom are here independently, some of whom are here representing organizations, institutions, and media outlets.

This diverse group of individuals includes a youth organizer from Harlem, a volunteer from Sustainable South Bronx, and a blogger from Brooklyn. I’ve also connected with many people who don’t hail from the five boroughs. It seems that most of the conference attendees are South American’and many of them are indigenous. Word on the streets (of Cochabamba) is that there are 20,000 people registered for the conference. Last evening, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel with two activists from India, members of Beyond Copenhagen (BC). I sat with Ajay Jha, Director of PAIRVI (Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India) and Soumya Dutta (National Convenor of the BJVJ), and discussed the implications of the industrialization of agriculture, for Indian farmers, communities, and consumers. In the two-hour panel, we discussed the growth of the meat and dairy sector; the influence of the United States and other western nations on Indian culture; and the impact of an individual’s daily choices on global climate change.

One of the key messages that each of the speakers’and the audience members who participated in the post-panel Q & A session’emphasized was the importance of supporting local agriculture and building a political system that supports the rights of family farmers. My speech focused on the climate impacts of meat production in India, the globalization that has brought companies like KFC and McDonald’s to the developing world, and the animal welfare issues surrounding factory farming.

I think we built an engaging dialogue around India, even though there weren’t any South Asian delegates in the audience. I learned a lot about India, especially regarding the government’s policies on CDMs’Clean Development Mechanism projects. I also learned that speaking through an interpreter’say one sentence, pause, another sentence, pause’is much harder than one might think. Stay tuned: there’s more to come from Cochabamba.

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor