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“We Can’t Take Crumbs from the High Table”: Global Activists Hold Their Own Climate Justice Summit

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Activists from around the world have been meeting in a convergence center in downtown Warsaw, holding their own meetings to strategize about how to address climate change. Many of them also attended the U.N. climate summit, but walked out in frustration for the first time in 19 years on Thursday. Democracy Now!’s Amy Littlefield and Hany Massoud visited the activist center to file this report. “This has been a beautiful, valuable space,” says Kenyan activist Ruth Nyambura. “If nothing comes out of this COP, what the youth constituency of the UNFCCC has done has really, really changed the game.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: Roma musicians in the streets of Warsaw. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting from Warsaw, Poland, from the U.N. climate summit.

For the first time in 19 years, hundreds of members of civil society walked out of the United Nations climate summit Thursday. They wore T-shirts reading “Polluters talk, we walk,” but they also said ”volveremos,” “We will return.” One of the spaces where these activists from around the world have been meeting is a convergence center in downtown Warsaw. Democracy Now!’s Amy Littlefield went there and filed this report.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: We’re not far from the United Nations climate change summit here in Warsaw, Poland, but there’s a very different kind of summit taking place in this building. It’s become a hub for activists who are organizing for climate justice. It’s on New World Street, and they play around with the name.

MONIKA MATUS: My name is Monika, and I work for Global Call for Climate Action.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of this building?

MONIKA MATUS: So, this building was for many, many years known as a cafe for artists, a very nice place for cultural events. Then, a couple of years ago, it was occupied. It started to be like a place for liberal leftists, a cafe, publishing house, convergence space, etc. Unfortunately, they were kicked out by the city from here, and then it stayed empty. And right now we are kind of reviving the whole thing. It used to be named Brave New World after Huxley book. And today, for the two weeks of COP, we named it New Green World.

GRAHAM THURSTON HALLETT: I’m Graham Thurston Hallett. I’m with a group called Earth in Brackets, a student organization out of College of the Atlantic in Maine. And I’m also from the U.S. I’m here tonight because I was debadged on my first day of my first COP in Poland. We were kicked out for an act of solidarity with the Filipino delegation after the—after Yeb Saño made this heartfelt speech right after—coming right after the tragedy, the tragedy of the typhoon. Upon his invitation, we walked with Yeb and held a banner that read: “How many more?”

AMY LITTLEFIELD: “Debadged” means that Graham was banned from the conference, along with María Alejandra Escalante Rubio. She’s from Colombia.

And how is climate change affecting people in Colombia?

MARÍA ALEJANDRA ESCALANTE RUBIO: I would say that there are two drastic changes in the recent years. One is the impact on the Pacific coast because of El Niño and La Niña phenomenon, so impressive floods, impressive floods to especially towns of—that are really scarce in resources. That is becoming a yearly problem, and the government has been absolutely unable to fix that problem, to adapt to that problem, to send resources in order to—for people to survive there, literally.

ADRIÁN FERNÁNDEZ JAÚREGUI: My name is Adrián Fernández Jaúregui. I came with Earth in Brackets, and I am from Bolivia.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: And what are the key ways that climate change is affecting people in your home country of Bolivia?

ADRIÁN FERNÁNDEZ JAÚREGUI: One of the ways climate change is affecting is we are losing our glaciers. So, Bolivia gets a lot of its water from—well, it’s called tropical glaciers, or glaciers that have been formed in the last Ice Age and—at the end of the last Ice—well, in that process. So, it’s melting at a very, very fast rate, and that is the source of water for like thousands and thousands of people, all the people that, especially in the highlands, depend of this water for their livelihood.

RUTH NYAMBURA: My name is Ruth Nyambura. I come from Kenya, and I work with the African Biodiversity Network. Already in parts of Kenya, we have—we already have climate refugees. And especially pastoralist communities are the worst affected by climate change. Just to give a—just to give an example, in Kenya we have two rainy seasons—the long rains and the short rains. And this is one—the short rains, which are supposed to begin late September, early October, one of the most important planting seasons. And the rain delayed 'til 1st of November. And at this particular point, it stopped raining. We already have a drought alert for next year. In Turkana, we already have people who are starving. So, we're already going into 2014 knowing full well that we’re going to have serious problems with regards to food.

But at this particular COP, I’ve seen the youth really taking a lead. To be very honest, if nothing comes out of this COP, what the youth constituency of the UNFCCC has done has really, really changed the game, the working—the working relationship and the ideas and just that saying that enough is enough. We can’t take—we can’t take crumbs from the high table anymore. So this has been a beautiful, valuable space for everyone—I, as a young African woman here, for my friends who come from Latin America, those in Asia, and also our comrades and allies in the Global North—to come together to sort of try and—I don’t know, I don’t want to say solve the climate crisis, but actually do something.

AMY GOODMAN: That report from Democracy Now!’s Amy Littlefield here in Warsaw, Poland.

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