Signs of Solidarity in a Desert Barren of Compassion

Just-Redd-CircleFour days ago, Doha held its first ever civil society march for climate justice.  The night before, I was able to attend the Middle East premiere of Amy Miller’s powerful documentary “The Carbon Rush”. This past weekend was literally the first time throughout the course of COP18 where I have felt a strong sense of “people power”, a coming together of civil society on the outside of the negotiation plenaries to stand up for the fragile and common threads that bind us together as human beings on this planet.

It was at this march that I (finally!) obtained my “No REDD+” sticker, wearing it on my chest with pride as a symbol of solidarity with Indigenous people from around the world who recognize REDD+, CDM and other mechanisms of the carbon market as false solutions to the climate crisis. Instead, they have staunchly stood their ground amidst growing criticism and mounting resentment to the stories of human rights violations, cultural decimation and loss of life that ring out crystal clear amidst the dirty, contaminated negotiation processes.

Last year at Durban’s COP17, we saw a vibrant contribution from people on the “outside”, unaccredited members of civil society taking part in a people’s COP and telling the global stories of pain, healing and resistance that so desperately need to be heard during these negotiations. There is a catharsis that comes with the telling of stories and the knowledge that when they’re told, someone is listening. And that is what has been lacking from this year’s COP18 – the creation of a space in which there is the time, the willingness and the understanding to hear the voices that have been pushed to the side.

Civil society has been roundly criticized by the UNFCCC elite for their lack of “meaningful participation” in these climate talks and yet I do not believe that the onus of this lies on the groups of NGO and observers who have managed (often despite massive funding cuts and/or the need to pay their own way as individuals) to arrive in Doha.  There is no interest on the part of  “developed” nation decision-makers to hear what those who are impacted and infuriated by this climate crisis have to say.

Advocating for human rights reform within REDD+ and CDM, as well as the general “consensus” that carbon markets are a necessary beast here to stay are the offspring of a toxic mentality that ensures we are asking nothing more from this process than a smiley-face band-aid on an open, infested wound. These processes act as a temporary numbing to the deep and painful truth that the free-market is the source of the infection, and therefore cannot be a part of the solution.

Since the weekend, I have been transferring my “No REDD+” sticker from shirt to shirt, jacket to jacket, in an effort to stand with people living the frontline realities of these “development” projects, who are continuing to voice their concerns despite the averted eyes, the blank facial expressions and the selective hearing. And on the rare occasion that I have crossed paths with another delegate wearing the same sticker, our mutual nod and small smiles are an acknowledgement that we stand together on the same path, linked in solidarity not only to the fate of the natural world but of our own humanity.

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