Daves Diary – SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE – the journey from WTO @ Geneva to COP15 @ Copenhagen

December 9, 2009 at 8:39 am 1 comment

There are some things that happen that make us good to be alive, even in these times of fear and greed. The Trade to Climate Caravan is one of those moments. People have come from around the world from the worst of environmental and social situations to demand and claim a better world save our planet from those that wish to profit out of the death of the biosphere.

We have learned about and shared important struggles that shine a light on our collective dignity. We make tell each other about not only of our resistance but of our hopes and movements and dreams of a better place.

This is more than a friendship but borne of political solidarity, labour and land ownership, climate justice, the exploitation of the south by the north, even knowing that you can find pockets of the south in the north and the north in the south. It is a world out of balance where absurdity passes for logic and the cry of humanity and mother earth is ignored at best, and people are shot and disappear at worst.

We have invitations and choices to fight for our humanity and planet in these times. There is no middle ground. We will defy them. We will build our links and resistance and polish them with deep respect and commitment to our diversity and our common bonds.

Western Caravan Day One, Dec 3

After another feeding from the generous and gifted food preparation group in Geneva we left for the World Wildlife Fund office. Hearing small farmers and fishers speak from many regions of the world it we learned that the WWF is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It works with discredited institutions like the World Bank to further isolate and eliminate small local producers in the name of large aqua and agriculture projects which do nothing to their local economies but does lot’s to help large monocultures.

Interestingly, WWF officials saw that those affected by their policies would not remain hidden in the far corners of the earth. They would deliver their grievances to the doors of the institution itself. The WWF claimed to be happy to see us. They wished to thank us for coming and wanted to have a “dialogue”. In fact, these same officials ignored the bulk of the speakers who had come so far and strategized an exit strategy as farmers and fishers were trying to talk to them. This further revealed the misleading and dishonest practices of an organization that does not even consult with those most devastated by their policies and practices. It was a short stop. Integrity was not to be found there.

As one fisher said “this is not an NGO for the environment – it is a NGO to pacify in the name of protecting animals and the environment but it is, in fact, an instrument of international finance institutions to apply capitalist models to human life.”

Leaving the WWF the Caravan broke up. This report is about the western route. The next stop was Dijon. The WWF officials were left, as always, to talk amongst themselves.


In Dijon we were met by local farmers and once again we were treated to real organic and tasty before making our way to an evening assembly that was packed. This crowd seemed more hospitable and more interested in our survival as peoples than the WWF did. Local residents graciously took us into their homes and fed us.


Our entry to Paris was accompanied by a veteran of the Paris Spring of 1968 who, like a kind of revolutionary tour guide, pointed out some of the more significant landmarks of that time.

Passing by Avenue General LeClerc he explained that trees were cut down on this boulevard for barricades and that the cobblestones had been pulled up and used as defence against the police.

And then we found ourselves in the French Senate for meetings with a senator and delegate to the European Parliament. Many of our delegation were featured speakers in two series of discussions on food sovereignty and climate change.

It appears that we may have been followed by French security forces across the country. Perhaps they are nervous as a result of the security breach that occurred two days ago where activists posing as fire fighters were able to enter the French Assembly through the roof, causing alarm and chaos for the insulated political class. We had left our fire fighting gear at home on this occasion. The authorities have nothing to fear but the truth.

We were welcomed by Jacques Muller of the French Senate.

He said it was important that people be present as part of the force that will make meaningful change. Two discussions will occur. The WTO goes against good of planet. With regard to food sovereignty he said “If people cannot eat the climate does not mean much.”

Francine Arubo, a farmer from the Congo and part of Via Campesina, said “we have come to show our opposition to the WTO. As small producers it is not for us. They are not there to assist our needs. The WTO makes the weak weaker and the strong stronger. Now in Copenhagen to say also that the climate is changing in the Congo and we are no longer able to reap harvest in a normal way. The planet is heating up and us small farmers don’t know how we can satisfy people’s needs. The WTO wants us to develop plantations and will give us money for that. We want our seeds and our local production and markets to remain. We wish to produce and consume locally.”

Jorge Galliano of Movimiento Agrario Popular (MAP) of Paraguay said “How do we produce and what do we consume? Life is at the centre of the production of our food. In our experience, there are similarities between us. Earth must be at the centre of this discussion and access to land and other resources and infrastructure that serve the needs of our indigenous communities. That could benefit enough production of food for our people. Several communities are represented here and have been denouncing the situation that farmers and indigenous face world-wide. These recipes cause several consequences to farmers. They are orientated to mono culture, genetically modified organisms. Fisher folks are also being forced out of their communities.”

Regarding France one speaker said “multinational law is imposed everywhere.”

There was a network of peasant seeds that was created in France. A farmer today does not have the right to give seeds to his neighbour. They are fighting for the right to decide for themselves what lands and seeds they wish to use.

Pablo Rosales of Sea Fish for Justice in the Philippines said “there is a spiral into poverty because fisher resources have been decreasing. This situation is made worst by the importing of foreign multinational fishing. There is a continuation of destruction of mangroves and coral to create monocultures. These are foods used for export, not to feed the people. This has worsened the situation for communities in coastal areas. There has been an increase in violent storms. We don’t want WTO or free trade pushing the market on us. We want an end to this. We know longer wish to be victims.”

The French senator added “I am happy to see people from all continents of the planet. Liberalization of trade promotes destruction of agriculture, first because northern agriculture industries conduct totally unfair competition with small farmers. This system of agriculture dramatically climate change.”

Regarding climate change, fuels from plants are a great threat to food security. Plants are fuel for human beings, not cars. They try to call it BIO fuel. The struggle for food sovereignty and climate change are inseparable.

DAY THREE – Western Caravan – Dec 5, 2009

The Western Caravan folks attended a climate change demo sponsored by a number of French organizations in central Paris where some of our delegation spoke. All spoke passionately about the impacts of climate change on their communities and were received very positively by the 800 or so attending.

An hour so later we converged at Stalingrad station for beginning of demo where Caravanistas were served free lunch by Algerians in solidarity with our struggle. There we marched in a huge demo which included unions and popular organizations in support of precarious workers. This march for dignity in work included several kilometres through the city and involved tens of thousands of people including trade unions and undocumented and underemployed workers.

We have a proposition for you. We want what happens here to be relayed all over the world and it is known everywhere.”

That evening the Caravan participants were guests of a most amazing and impressive squat and diverse collective of people at the “ministry for the regularization of the undocumented”. This experience highlighted that the only borders are those that are in your mind.

Three thousand people from 25 nationalities occupy and thousands of others support this squat. It is an impressive 4,500 square metres, 3 buildings, including one six stories tall. It is 4,500 square metres and 3 buildings including one that is six stories high.

It is a symbolic occupation, many have other places to go and so they occupy in rotation to show the unity between so many people from many places facing the same exploitation and injustice. They are together in asking for papers.

More evidence and testimony was provided that climate change introduced by northern countries is affecting southern countries in horrible ways. Most were environmental refugees, not economic ones. And the situation is much worse. Only a very small minority of people from south that are affected by loss of arable land and water have migrated. This did not use to happen – it is something happening over the past several years. One Senegalese person said he had to leave home because of a lack of water. This did not use to happen – it is now something accelerating over the past several years.

This movement of undocumented workers has existed fourteen years now. The last campaign started about two years ago when undocumented workers occupied offices of central union leadership for five months with union support to politicize and publicize their situation. Finally unions got a little exhausted of this kind of solidarity and asked them to leave. It is then that the “Ministry” occupied this complex in north Paris.

It was also reported that:

  • The Philippines have 11,000,000 documented and undocumented workers. The majority are farmers and fishers who came from rural areas. Poverty in rural areas resulting from private and commercial uses of land and sea, forces fishers and farmers to leave their livelihood for commercial reasons.
  • This problem exists because now the entry of foreign investors is increasing and a land grab results. Working overseas has become the last resort. In addition, global warming and climate cause land to become unproductive. The local fishery is depleted and a loss of livelihood results.
  • Filipinos don’t want people to leave and work abroad but they have no choice. We call on governments to treat migrant workers not as outsiders but as citizens.

If we really manage to do the work of information and political work it could be possible to change things so people would not need to migrate. We want you to understand our situation here. Is it correct or normal that people should work for years and years and have no rights?”

The Ministry for the Regulation of Undocumented Workers coordinated another assembly where more dialogue occurred.

The laws on foreign workers are more and more severe. There are between 400,000-600,000 undocumented workers in France. In this assembly it is important that the climate justice caravan be able to meet the immigrants in Europe who emigrate because of the climate problem more. It is logical that these two movements should meet.

A delegate from the Ministry welcomed us. He is also involved in “Coordination 75” (region of Paris) of undocumented workers. “We sleep here, we work here and all the continents and 25 nations are represented here.”

He told us that: “I come from Mali close to frontier of Guinea which had lots of moisture and rainfall. Today this is no longer the case. I was forced to make the decision to come here to feed family…. In 1975 no member of the village had emigrated. Today more than 200 from his village have emigrated to France. We are in constant danger of expulsion. We have the right to documents and the same rights to workers here.”

Two hundred years after slavery there is a new form of slavery where we have to pay but not get a benefit. The question is what can you and we do about this situation together?”

We have a proposition for you. We want what happens here to be relayed all over the world and it is known everywhere.”

My name is Jabril, also of “Coordination 75”. He said: “we should be in contact with popular movements. Climate affects everyone. We are confronted and must struggle on this question of climate all the time. Things must change in the United States and Europe and the north generally who pollute the most. This is what is required from the peoples of the world. The Presidents and heads of state must understand they have been elected and they have to listen and answer to the needs of people. In all the northern countries the polls show they are concerned about the climate. Governments must be forced in Copenhagen. We wish you well in this struggle.”

Jelo (?) said “We have some questions to have of you. Does your struggle concern only Europe or does it include Africa and Asia? In France in 1972 people died of cold while in France in 2003 many died of heat. In the beginning of the 1980’s there were trees and waters everywhere in our lands and now they7 are disappearing.

If we really manage to do the work of information and political work it could be possible to change things so people would not need to migrate. We want you to understand our situation here. Is it correct or normal that people should work for years and years and have no rights?”

We don’t want food security but food sovereignty.”

People reported from different continents:

Africa (Congo):

  • There has been an incredible amount of deforestation where now you can go kilometre after kilometre and there is not a tree to be seen in my land. The small framers their business is the local market and they don’t have the means, even if they wanted, to get into international finance. There is a plot against farmers in Africa, offering a lot of money to plant aloe vera for cosmetics. Fortunately farmers were warned. Their goal is to put farmers in debt and then place them under control of multinationals. We want to feed local people with local food. We don’t want food security but food sovereignty.

Asia (Korea)

  • In Korea we are already harmed by global warming. In most Asian countries people in rural areas are forced to go to other countries. Transnational corporations are a big problem. Via Campesina decided the main target would be Monsanto. Monoculture cannot solve the hunger problem. We insist small scale productive farming can feed the world.

South Asia (Philippines)

  • There is a direct link between migration and climate in Philippines resulting in Intensified rural migration to urban areas and internationally. Our agriculture and industries in rural areas remain undeveloped. Agriculture and fishing production is geared toward export and not to feed our citizens. In the Philippines it is not only the poor but professionals that want to emigrate because there are no jobs. This includes our doctors and nurses which leaves health service providers very poor. We cannot provide health service work for our people. The number of Philippine migrants is more than 10 per cent of our population. Fifty percent of migrants are women and often they land in low skill jobs. Often they are the victims of illegal recruiters. They are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.. Migration will be the only option our people will take unless there will be a national developments of agriculture, fisheries and industry in the Philippines.”


  • Spokesperson for Kurdish and Turkish undocumented Turks are not here as a result of climate change. Most are Kurds, oppressed in Turkish society, Turkish workers looking for work, or political activists facing persecution. Despite different reasons than African workers we found ourselves here. We must admit that climate change has not been a main objective until now. The people responsible for repression of Turkish workers and Kurds are the same ones that cause climate change so we are in solidarity with your struggle.”

A spokesperson and member of the Ministry spoke:

  • Everyone agrees that climate is one of the factors affecting migration today. In Senegal the French government made us grow peanuts. It was not something we ever planted and local farmers couldn`t afford to buy this product. Today when the WTO was meeting in Geneva and the big polluters are meeting in Copenhagen it is clear these problems are a source of immigration. The President of Senegal says they will make it so everyone can come back to Senegal. How that is possible when there is no rain? What we heard elsewhere corroborates our experience. We cannot solve it with inequality between people in North and South. Climate and social justice cannot be separated. I would like you take away from here the knowledge that the people struggling here know what they are doing – yet a French minister said we can`t take all the misery of the world. When in fact they are responsible for the way they have treated nature. Today in France 90 percent of migrants were farmers of undocumented workers. They could not deal with farming anymore because of the lack of water. The Ministry for the Regularization of Undocumented Workers thanks the caravan for being here in the name of climate urgency. We are providing a meal to us in thanks and there will be a night of music and celebration following.”

This event was a beautiful celebratory climax to the Paris stop on the way to Copenhagen.


Entry filed under: caravan, english, solidarity. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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