One of the best ways to learn about the politics of different places is to read their newspapers. To that extent, I recently had the pleasure of reading a Bolivian newspaper supportive of, or published by, the government.
The topic was the Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, a conference devoted to fighting global warming. The conference came in with low expectations after the failure of talks against global warming previously. It ended up issuing a vague statement affirming that it was important to fight global warming, but which didn’t actually do anything to further that goal.
This newspaper held very strong opinions about the conference. The conference had started with a proposal (Document Zero), made by developed countries, with strict obligations and a detailed roadmap for fighting global warming. The theme of this proposal was the “green economy.”
Here is how the newspaper viewed Document Zero:
The environmentalism of the green economy is a new colonialism of two types. On one hand, it’s a colonialism of nature by commodifying the natural sources of life. On the other hand, it’s a colonialism of the countries of the South whose backs are burdened with the responsibility of protecting the environment destroyed by the industrial capitalist economy of the North. The so-called environmentalism commodifies nature, converting each tree, each plant, each drop of water and each natural being into a market good submitted to the dictatorship of the market which privatizes wealth and socializes poverty.
The title of this article was: The “green economy” is the new colonialism for subjecting our peoples. The newspaper advocated an alternative – The vision of Bolivia to achieve the paradigm of Living Well. This alternative was described as the following:
It’s the continuous process of the generation and implementation of aspects and social, political, cultural, ecological, economical, productive, and affective processes as well as communitarian methods and actions done by citizens and public management for the creation, provision, and strengthening of conditions, capacities, and material, culturally adequate, and appropriate methods, promoting relations of solidarity, of support and mutual cooperation, of complementarity and strengthening of uplifting community and collective ties to achieve the Living Well in harmony and equilibrium with Mother Earth.
This nice-sounding and extremely vague Living Well was to be implemented through things such as “conserving the components, zones and systems of life of Mother Earth in the framework of an integral and sustainable management.”
The newspaper achieved its goal. The G77+China succeeded in removing almost all the components of the Document Zero envisioned in the rough draft, with their strict obligations for fighting global warming and punishments for not meeting those obligations. They succeeded in making the neocolonial concept of a “green economy” “only a tool – not a model nor a vision of development.” They replaced it with a statement that included such niceties as “recognizing the planet Earth as our home and that the expression ‘Mother Earth’ is common for various countries and regions.”
This is a typical example of the leftism that permeates Latin American thinking, and there is some logic in it. Many poor countries believe that their economic development ought not be stifled by agreements to fight global warming, which might include growth-reducing measures such as carbon taxes.
Sometimes this type Latin American leftism does good. Evo Morales has done a pretty good job of managing the Bolivian economy, as have most of his fellow leftist compatriots. Being the first democratically elected indigenous president of Bolivia is a huge accomplishment which deserves to be celebrated.
Yet Latin American leftism can also do a lot of bad. As this example illustrates, for instance, it can help defeat efforts to fight global warming. Indeed, Western advocates of a “green economy” are not the ones who the ones who would implement a new type of colonialism to subjugate the peoples of Latin America. It’s the Western opponents of a “green economy” who Latin Americans ought to worry about.
The original quotes are as follows.
La “economía verde” es el nuevo colonialismo para someter a nuestros pueblos:
El ambientalismo de la economía verde es un nuevo colonialismo de doble partida. Por un lado, es un colonialismo de la naturaleza, al mercantilizar las fuentes naturales de la vida, y por otro lado, es un colonialismo a los países del Sur que cargan en sus espaldas la responsabilidad de proteger el medio ambiente que es destruido por la economía capitalista industrial del Norte. Este llamado ambientalismo mercantiliza la naturaleza convirtiendo cada árbol, cada planta, cada gota de agua y cada ser de la naturaleza en una mercancía sometida a la dictadura del mercado que privatiza la riqueza y socializa la pobreza.
La visión de Bolivia para alcanzar el paradigma de Vivir Bien:
Es el proceso continuo de generación e implementación de medidas y acciones sociales, comunitarias, ciudadanas y de gestión pública para la creación, provisión y fortalecimiento de condiciones, capacidades y medios materiales, sociales y espirituales, en el marco de prácticas y de acciones culturalmente adecuadas y apropiadas, que promuevan relaciones solidarias, de apoyo y cooperación mutua, de complementariedad y de fortalecimiento de vínculos edificantes comunitarios y colectivos para alcanzar el Vivir Bien en armonía con la Madre Tierra.
Conservar los componentes, zonas y sistemas de vida de la Madre Tierra en el marco de un manejo integral y sustentable.
Se hicieron respetar los principios del derecho al desarrollo y la soberanía de los pueblos:
En este contexto considera a la economía verde sólo como una herramienta más – no un modelo ni visión de desarrollo – en el contexto del desarrollo sostenible.
El documental final reconoce al planeta Tierra como nuestro hogar y que la expresión “Madre Tierra” es común para varios países y regiones, haciendo notar que algunos países le han reconocido sus derechos, en un contexto de promoción de desarrollo sostenible.