Cochabamba, Bolivia, April 19, 2010

At the end of my third day in Cochabamba and after the first day of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, it has become very clear that “walking on two legs” is very much what is taking place and will be taking place.

This is the case as people have been walking from venue to venue in the part of Cochabamba where this historic conference of many thousands is taking place. I must have walked at least 3-4 miles today, but it was a joy to be doing so, exploring this town and seeing all my companeros and companeras doing the same thing, all of us, seemingly, in high spirits, glad to be here standing up for Mother Earth and all its life forms.

I was reminded today of the experience I had at the U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007: many thousands of people, a hot climate, a large majority of people of color (in this case, primarily Latin and Indigenous peoples of Bolivia and other South American countries), a palpable feeling of solidarity and interconnection, and realistic hope that this gathering will advance the climate justice movement.

But there’s another way that people who are here will have to be “walking on two feet.”

One foot is the work of continuing to build a climate movement that is about solutions at the scale necessary if we are to have any chance of avoiding worldwide catastrophe, building a movement that is about a rapid, jobs-creating shift from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency, that demands payment for the climate debt owed by the industrialized countries of the North to the formerly colonized and developing countries of the global South, those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis but who are being and who will continue be hit the hardest. This movement needs to keep growing stronger and stronger, sinking deeper roots in communities and workplaces. This is essential work.

The other foot is the work of interacting with those allies who we have within the governments of the world—Evo Morales is a leading example–to support their resistance to the false solutions that transnational corporations and the governments they dominate are attempting to impose upon them through the international climate negotiation process, and in other ways.

There are very real indications that this conference could achieve a critical strategic objective: bringing together a significant number of governments, aligned, more or less, despite differences, with many hundreds of movement groups and climate groups around the world. This tactical alliance has the potential to seriously undercut the plans of the U.S. government and others aligned with them. Their intention, made clear at Copenhagen and since, is to seriously undermine the efforts for an international treaty that is fair, just and binding, and to move away from the false solutions of wide-open carbon trading, offsets and all the rest.

I had hopes coming down here that something like this could happen. Based on what I’ve seen and heard today, it looks like this is a real possibility. That is very good news.

Ted Glick is the Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (www.chesapeakeclimate.org). He can be contacted at usajointheworld@igc.org.