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Bolivian Indigenous Activist: We Must Respect Mother Earth, Our Pachamama

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On Monday, the top US climate negotiator, Todd Stern, admitted that a binding agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions may not even be possible at the next UN climate summit scheduled for December in Cancun. Stern’s comments came after the US took part in the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington. While the United States and other nations met behind closed doors on Monday, a very different climate summit began here in Bolivia: the World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth. We begin today’s show with Peregrina Kusse Viza, a member of the Bolivian indigenous group CONAMAQ. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we broadcast from Tiquipaya, a village in Cochabamba, we are in Bolivia.

Representatives from the world’s biggest polluters met behind closed doors in Washington on Monday at a meeting billed as the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. The meeting comes four months after the Copenhagen UN summit ended in failure as world leaders failed to reach a binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

After Monday’s meetings of the biggest polluting countries, the top US climate negotiator, Todd Stern, admitted that a binding agreement may not even be possible at the next UN climate summit scheduled for December in Mexico. Stern said, quote, “There’s still considerable support for the notion of a legal agreement…but I think that people are also quite cognizant of the notion that it might or might not happen,” he said.

While the United States and other nations met behind closed doors on Monday, a very different climate summit began here in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya, just outside Cochabamba. The World Peoples’ Summit on Climate Change and Rights of Mother Earth opened here on Monday.

Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the gathering to give the poor and the Global South an opportunity to respond to the failed climate talks in Copenhagen. Morales is scheduled to address the summit at a large rally this morning in a nearby soccer stadium.

We begin today’s show with Peregrina Kusse Viza, a member of the Bolivian indigenous group CONAMAQ. She served in the constituent assembly that drafted Bolivia’s new constitution. She spoke with Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke just outside the library here on campus at La Universidad del Valle, the University del Valle.

    PEREGRINA KUSSE VIZA: [translated] First of all, let me say hello to all of you, to all the people attending this conference. And let me also say hello to the rest of the world.

    Well, my name is Peregrina Kusse Viza. I’m from J’acha Carangas. I’m part of CONAMAQ. Now I am here as a former member of the constituent assembly. Today we are talking about Mother Earth, which we call the Pachamama. We respect a lot our Mother Earth. She is our earth. We are the sons and daughters of that land. The earth has given birth to us, and the water is the blood of the Mother Earth, of our Pachamama.

    In ancient times, or when I was very young, there was still a lot of respect for Mother Earth. When we started, or before the sowing season, first of all, we respected the Mother Earth with a waxt’a. That could be an offering of a llama or a lamb, or something had to be offered. Then, when you start irrigating the crops, when you start using the water, then, first of all, once again, we had to bless the earth. So, once again, we offered a llama. And after that, we started working on the lands. And then we started harvesting beans, onions, all types of vegetables.

    But today, things have changed. There is no longer the same respect we had before. People, they have forgotten about Mother Earth. They have forgotten about Pachamama and forgotten about respect for the water. And now people — people, they want money. We want to earn money, and we want to have a lot of money. Before, things were very different. That was not so. Before, we had a lot of respect, a lot of respect, so that we would have enough to eat. Now, people, they work in the mines, taking out gold, silver.

    And to take out the gold, to wash the gold, we use a lot of chemicals. And those chemicals, they are doing a lot of damage to the earth and also to the water, because those chemicals, they flow into the rivers and into the sea. And in the sea, those chemicals, they damage the fish, and the fish are now having different faces. We have seen fish that were born with the face of persons, of human beings. So there’s no respect anymore. And that is why the earth and the environment, the sky, they’re all damaged by the transnational companies.

    Those transnational companies, with the smoke, they are contaminating the earth and the Pachamama. There’s holes in the sky, and that is not OK. There’s a lot of damage. So, therefore, all of us, we have to reach an agreement, an agreement to protect the Pachamama, because, otherwise, we will be — goodbye, we will be gone. So all of us together, we have to reach an agreement so that we can put a halt, so that we can stop those transnational companies. They have to stop with that smoke. That smoke is damaging our environment, so we have to stop them. They should not continue contaminating. At least every year they should stop one week, or they should stop working on Sundays, because now they work without stopping, 365 days a year. The whole time they’re contaminating. So we have to reach an agreement for those companies to stop.

    That is what I want to tell the world. Let’s be very much aware of this. Let’s respect our Mother Earth, the air and the water, because there’s also diseases. Few diseases are happening. They’re contagious diseases. And they come from those companies. They’re poisoning us. And then they send us, for example, disposable toys, tires, and everything is disposable. It all becomes waste. And that is contaminating our Mother Earth. So let’s stop that, all of us together. All of us together, let’s reach an agreement, and let’s rise up against this, so that at least the earth can last a bit longer for our children and grandchildren. Otherwise, I think that all of us will die by the year 2070. I don’t know whether the world will explode or what, but something will happen. And we have to stop that, so that we can extend the life of the earth a bit more. This is what I want to tell the whole world. Let’s reach an agreement. Let’s be strong, all of us together, very strong. Hayaya!

AMY GOODMAN: The Bolivian indigenous activist Peregrina Kusse Viza. She is a member of the indigenous group CONAMAQ, and she is one of the members of the constituent assembly that wrote the Bolivian constitution.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. We’re broadcasting from Bolivia, where a major protest is going on outside a silver mine that’s cut off the roads to Chile. We’ll find out about this mine and about lithium extraction. Bolivia is home to more lithium than anywhere in the world, a new source of energy. And we’ll find out the pros and cons of extracting it. Stay with us.

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As Protests Mount Against San Cristóbal Silver Mine, Bolivia Looks to Extract Massive Lithium Reserves, But at What Cost?

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