Small-scale farmers, fishers, peasants and indigenous peoples are living the solution to climate change and ending hunger.
WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program Outreach and Partnerships Coordinator, Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, went to Mexico as part of an international climate justice delegation organized by La Via Campesina to coincide with the official climate talks (COP 16) taking place in Cancun in 2010. To read Tristan’s reports from the field, see:
The connection between global hunger and climate change cannot be ignored in the 21st century. Industrial agriculture is recognized as a major contributor to global emissions and the disastrous effects of climate change will disproportionately affect those already hungry and poor. In support of grassroots efforts to end hunger and poverty, Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau, Outreach and Partnerships Coordinator for WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program, will go on a 10-day caravan across Mexico with La Via Campesina to “bring local struggles against social and environmental injustices into the limelight as the global community convenes” during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change COP16 from November 29 to December 10, 2010 in Cancun.
The current climate meetings are attempting to stop climate change by creating financial mechanisms that will allegedly reduce emissions from corporations over time. However, in practice these mechanisms will place an unfair burden on peasants and indigenous people rather than on industrial economies, and it will give tremendous power to investment banks. The proposed “solution” is essentially to let finance solve the climate crisis rather than democratic governance. This is why the alternative climate justice movement is advocating for “The Rights of Mother Earth” or “Earth Democracy.” Regulating the environment through the economy will not protect it or protect the people who rely on it but will violate the spirit of democratic governance that the United Nations is based upon.
The caravan arrived in Cancun, where La Via Campesina and its allies organized an “Alternative Global Forum for Life and Environmental and Social Justice,” to counter these discussions and proposals inside the UN negotiations. La Via Campesina organized this delegation to show how official “solutions” to climate change actually damage frontline communities. Projects like large industrial pig farms (such as those owned by Smithfield), the production of agrofuels for airplane fuel, large hydro-dams, and new genetically modified organisms are considered “Clean Development Mechanisms” which in fact devastate communities and the environment.
These false solutions are incredibly damaging to human beings and the planet. Nearly 1 billion people are hungry in the world, and more than half are small-scale farmers, 25 percent are landless workers in rural areas, and the remaining 25 percent are urban poor, many of whom were displaced from rural areas. Climate change is only making hunger worse. With their delegation and their presence in Cancun, La Via Campesina and its allies will demonstrate that it is small farmers who are cooling the planet. We do not need UN delegates and international representatives to devise solutions in exclusive meetings. They should instead support small farmers and local communities all over the world, in the rural areas and urban centers, who are already living the solutions.
La Via Campesina has taken the lead on the issue of climate justice because peasants and indigenous peoples from all over the world are already feeling and suffering the effects of climate change. Whether this means that agricultural communities are displaced due to growing deserts in Asia or Africa, whether carbon offset programs — which allow industrial countries to continue polluting — actually take away indigenous land to grow eucalyptus trees instead of food, or whether communities in rural and urban areas suffer rising cancer rates as more companies and governments mine for energy sources and pollute water, it is always the marginalized that suffer the most. These are the people who grow their own food yet are the most likely to not have enough food for their own needs.
WhyHunger created a video entitled “The Food and Climate Connection.” The video and related articles draw the connections between climate change and hunger, and explain how the global industrial agriculture system is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The film’s conclusion: local, small-scale, sustainable and regenerative agriculture is what we need to stop climate change.