The World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held April 20-22, 2010, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, will undoubtedly be remembered as a major historical turning point in the struggle over climate change. Over 35,000 people from 142 countries attended (including official delegations from the United Nations and forty-seven countries, and spokespersons from indigenous communities). For perhaps the first time, the issue of the planetary environmental crisis was wrested entirely from the ideological control of the rich countries of the North in a major international forum, leading to the development of a radical South-based perspective.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia opened the conference with the words “Planet or Death, We Shall Overcome” and emphasized that there were two possible paths: “either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies.” The final declaration of the conference on April 22, known as The Cochabamba Protocol, or The People’s Agreement on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, stated:
The capitalist system has imposed on us a logic of competition, progress, and limitless growth. The regime of production and consumption seeks profit without limits, separating human beings from nature and imposing a logic of domination upon nature, transforming everything into commodities: water, earth, the human genome, ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, the rights of peoples, and life itself….
Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. (World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth)
Some of the demands adopted in the People’s Agreement included: (1) Creation of an Adaptation Fund to help poorer countries adjust to climate change. (2) Commitment of at least 6 percent of GDP in the developed countries (roughly equivalent to the share of real military spending in national income in the United States) to addressing the climate change needs of developing countries. (3) An amendment to the Kyoto Protocol for the second commitment period from 2013 to 2017 that would require that developed countries reduce their domestic emissions by at least 50 percent from 1990 levels. (4) Establishment of an International Climate and Environmental Justice Tribunal to hold polluters responsible for their emissions and their climate debt. (5) Rejection of the current structure of free trade agreements and intellectual property rights arrangements, particularly with respect to biotechnology and the transfer of climate-change related technologies. (6) Condemnation of the REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) mechanism as a destructive market-based approach not aimed at protecting forests and the customs of people. (7) Creation of an International Tribunal of Conscience to ensure justice for environmental/climate migrants and refugees. (8) Full recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And (9) “Recognition of the right of all peoples, living beings, and Mother Earth to have access to water…as a Fundamental Human Right.”
We were proud that Monthly Review had a significant presence in Cochabamba. Monthly Review Foundation director Fred Magdoff and our friend and MR author Jeff Jones both took part. Eduardo Galeano, author of The Open Veins of Latin America (Monthly Review Press), was unable to attend but sent an inspiring message to the conference. In a fiery address, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela held up a copy of a pamphlet version of Albert Einstein’s article “Why Socialism?” from volume 1, no. 1 of the magazine (May 1949), mentioning that it was from Monthly Review, and declaring: “If the hegemony of capitalism continues on this planet, human life will one day come to an end.” Fred Magdoff gave a presentation on capitalism and the environment at the conference (and felt deeply honored that Evo Morales sat in the front row). Fred wrote in a letter to the rest of us at MR from Cochabamba on April 22: “So many people from Latin America…told me how much MR has meant to their education. Also many of the young people from the U.S. (and there are a lot) are aware of and read MR….One 40ish writer told me how much Harry’s work on imperialism meant to him and the left and that JBF’s work on the environment was having a similar impact today.”
Hugo Chávez has famously called István Mészáros “The Pathfinder of Socialism.” We are pleased to announce that Monthly Review Press has just published Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, volume 1 of Mészáros’s monumental The Social Determination of Method—a work that has been many decades in the making. This first volume is about the all-important problem of the relationship of social consciousness to social structure and develops a profound philosophical and theoretical critique of the liberal tradition from Descartes to the present. Lovers of political and dialectical philosophy are in for a treat. Seldom has so powerful and systematic a critical analysis of bourgeois thought, relying on the full intellectual apparatus of the Marxian tradition, been developed. Mészáros’s critique takes on even greater importance, since it explicates the foundation upon which his previous political interventions, such as Beyond Capital (1995), The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time (2008), and The Structural Crisis of Capitalism (2010)—all published by Monthly Review Press—were based. In Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, together with Mészáros’s other works, one finds a complete theoretical system aimed at the development of a socialism for the twenty-first century.
Errata: On page 14, line 1 of “The Financial Power Elite” by John Bellamy Foster and Hannah Holleman in the May 2010 issue of Monthly Review, “2009” should have been “1999.” In table 1 on page 15, the third column of the row referring to Herbert M. Allison mistakenly read “1971-1997 President, Merrill.” This should have read: “1971-1999 Merrill Lynch, various capacities (1997-1999 President).”