The People's Movements in Paris--Power of the Small

The Paris climate talks have been hailed as anything from a triumphant success to a dismal failure. My personal favorite comment was Bill McKibbons’—“Paris didn’t save the planet, but it may perhaps have saved the chance of saving the Planet”- The reasons for optimism are many, most importantly that an agreement was reached among all the disparate governments represented. The discouragement comes from the lack of enforceable practical steps that will be taken as a result, and from the moderation of the language in the agreements that could weaken resolve and potent action. The agreements are good, many say, but not binding, and do not go far enough. Still, there is agreement that in fact we humans have a responsibility to remediate the damage our industrious lives have made upon the planet-- if for no other reason than to save our own future possibility of life here. The formula for this goal is that we must prevent the Earths atmosphere from heating up more than 2 degrees Celsius over Her preindustrial temperature. This is a somewhat arbitrary marker, (1.5 degrees would be better, and is to be strived for), based on estimations of what will be needed to avoid the worst catastrophes of climate change. To accomplish this goal, some scientists have estimated, would require carbon emissions to be reduced to near zero by 2050. Commentators have noted that if all the pledges made so far to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were effectively honored, there would still be a net increase in temperature of 2.7 degrees.

Many groups are unsatisfied with the outcome of COP21. And yet, according to Pablo Solon Romero, the Bolivian ambassador to the UN, and an architect of the Declaration of Earth Rights, there is an atmosphere of optimism stronger than ever. This is not so much because the Nations’ delegates were able to hammer out an agreement, however flawed, which all could sign, but because of the strong People’s Movements which have coalesced around the event.

Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth of Greening Eden and Filmtruth productions went to Paris to document these People’s Movements. Not bound by any agenda other than their own, they were free to move among the different groups, gaining perspectives from many sides, seeing the lines of commonality as well as differences in perspectives.

They too believe that the answers to addressing climate change will not come from national and international governing bodies. The problem with the UN conferences, as they see it, is that the delegates are all representing nations whose main commitment is to grow their own national economies. Growth-based economies tend to have negative effects on environment. The countries’ delegates try to give away as little as possible and to defend their own positions as much as possible to protect their industries—climate agreements become more like trade agreements.

Outside the walls of the UN conferences many alternative talks were going on. And perhaps out of these

photo by Ken Wentworth
photo by Ken Wentworth

will come the seeds for grassroots movements which may ultimately be more effective than governments for bringing about the changes we so desperately need.

Liz and Ken focused their attention and their cameras mainly on four groups: the Rights of Nature Tribunal, the Indigenous Environmental Network, “Regeneration International”—a collective of groups focused on organic farming, and a group of business leaders who are seeking avenues that businesses can follow to mitigate climate change.

The film-makers are presently sharing their footage in local venues on Martha’s Vineyard, but plan to soon make the finished documentary available for view online.

There is interview with Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental network, in which he explains how he is dealing with the problem of lack of mainstream media coverage of Indigenous groups -- by very successfully working through social media.

An interview with Pablo Solon Romeros is energetic and optimistic, because of the power of the Peoples’ Movements.

In a lecture at Regeneration International,   Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association points out that while industrial agriculture is one of the major causes of greenhouse gas emissions, “the good news is that reformed agriculture can put the carbon back in the soil.” He commented that the “real problem is a lack of Hope, a lack of belief that we can turn things around..(but) the leaders of Regeneration International are showing how you can cool the planet and feed the world.” Speaking in the same forum, Vandana Shiva reiterated the case for hope and the power of imagination—imagining the possibilities of a world in which “”globalization is replaced by decentralization”, where we move from “corporate rule to people rule and earth rule” from “fossil agriculture to agricology,” and where we shift our vision toward “care for life, celebration of life, and abundance.”

Greening Eden’s film also features beautiful clips of ceremony held by Indigenous elders to bless the beginning of the conference and one to open the Tribunal for the Rights of Nature.

You can follow their work and see these clips on Greening Eden's facebook page