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Velcrow Ripper's blog

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Velcrow Ripper is an acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker. He has won dozens of awards for his films, including two Genies (Canadian Academy Awards), for the feature documentaries Scared Sacred and Bones of the Forest -- a film about native elders and the struggle to save ancient forests from logging. His latest film, Fierce Light, is about bringing together spirituality and activism. He has interviewed many of the world's luminaries, including The Dalai Lama, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Thich Nhat Hanh, Noam Chomsky, etc. His movies are seen widely around the world, broadcast on television, shown in movie theaters and used extensively by grassroots groups. He is currently completing "Occupy Love" www.occupylove.org For more info visit: www.velcrowripper.com

In the wake of Cancun

| December 15, 2010
In the wake of Cancun

The 16th Climate Summit has washed over us, and thankfully, this vital process is still alive. There were three possible outcomes insiders were predicting here at Cancun -- stagnation, train wreck or fragile life line. We got the life line.

In the wee hours of the morning, on the last day of the talks, a consensus minus one -- due to the vocal opposition of Bolivia -- was reached. The gavel banged, and the UN representatives and NGO's roared their applause. No one is calling the deal perfect -- it's definitely a compromise. But getting the world's nations to come to any kind of a massive agreement like this is an incredible achievement.

Bolivia points to the lack of teeth in the deal, to the ambiguity around the future of the Kyoto Protocol, and the fact the 100 billion dollar climate finance package is intended to be administered by the World Bank, which is indeed problematic. World Bank funded mega projects are infamous for degrading the environment, and crippling developing nations with debt in a strategic and controlling maneuvers. We definitely should not be giving that fox the keys to the chicken shack.

Activists in support of Kyoto Protocol

But these issues will be up for continuing discussion next year in Durban, and the process has definitely rebounded from the calls of backroom deals and lack of transparency of the last COP in Copenhagen, which left the whole process in a shambles.

Concerted efforts were made to ensure transparency, and while that doesn't stop the bullying tactics of the U.S. -- with it's oversized emissions and matching sense of self importance -- there has been real progress in making the process more just. The UN isn't perfect, but it's the best we've got, and it's a step in the right direction, as humanity comes together to tackle the greatest challenge we have ever faced.

As I immersed myself in the world of climate change here in Cancun, it became less and less an abstract issue. I found myself looking straight into the eyes of people on the front lines of climate catastrophe -- like the beautiful people of Kiribati, who's island nations are in danger of drowning due to rising sea levels.

"For us, it is more than a loss of land that's at stake -- it's a loss of our very identity." They performed their songs during one poignant side event. Particularly moving was the "Song of the Frigate," written years before they knew of sea level rise or global warming, this prophetic song tells of a frigate bird that leaves their island home of Kiribati in search of food for her young, only to find, upon her return, that the island has disappeared beneath the sea. The haunting refrain "rise up, rise up Kiribati" brought tears to my eyes.

As Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, told me in a powerful interview -- climate change isn't something that's happening to future generations anymore. It's happening now. It's one huge global experiment, and none of the scientists predicted it would start unravelling this fast.

My search, as always, is for the stories of hope -- the love stories as I'm calling them in my current feature doc project, EVOLVE LOVE: Love in a Time of Climate Crisis. And I certainly found them here in Cancun. The sheer diversity of the people stepping up to the plate to take action, to recognize the gravity of the situation, and the willingness to step across political, economic and cultural divides is astounding.

There are global alliances of grass roots groups like Tck Tck Tck, representing millions of people. There are indigenous people marching side by side with campesinos, with workers, with NGO's and, dancing to their solar powered beat box, the inevitable gaggle of well intentioned hippies who seem to be able to dance endlessly. There are scientists, there are remarkable statesmen, and there are remarkable presidents, who are stepping into their calling in this time of great crisis.

The indigenous President Evo Morales of Bolivia is the most vocal of them all, and also the lone world leader to leave the compound of the Moon Palace, to address the people on the outside.

It was a beautiful moment when he took the stage at La Via Campesina, under a hail of white flower petals, as a double rainbow appeared in the sky overheard. As Ofelia Rivas, O'dham, co-chair of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples at the Cochabamba, told Red Road Cancun, "As grassroots people, we needed to hear that strength in his voice. The strength of the people was confirmed by the double full rainbow when President Morales arrived."

What became clear is that while we absolutely need these talks at the nation state level, we also can't wait around -- there is no time to lose. Change needs to begin, from the bottom up, all over the world. City by city, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, we need to make the transition to a carbon free future happen ourselves.

The gathering at COP 16 was yet another stepping stone towards the formation of the groundswell that needs to happen if we're going to turn the corner on this one. The solutions need to come from every corner, from every walk of life.

The wonderful thing is that the transition does not mean a lifestyle downgrade... in fact, what's best for the planet, is also best for humanity. And what if all this global warming talk is just a big hoax -- and we end up creating a sustainable world, with stronger communities, local economies, fresh air, fresh water and healthy ecosystems, all for nothing? Hmmmm.



The UNFCCC 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen in 2009 exposed the true nature of the UN Climate body as it amassed the forces of the Danish Police to beat down any unpermitted protests against its inaction. When Barack Obama waltzed in with his secretly negotiated Copenhagen Accord after months of UN climate negotiations, developing countries were outraged and the Accord was not adopted.

In November-December 2010 in Cancún, the UN Climate Conference (COP16) took it even further. They laid to rest any notion that the negotiations were either democratic, multilateral, or consensus-based. Countries that had opposed the Copenhagen Accord were bribed, blackmailed, or cajoled into going along with the so-called "Cancún Agreements." When Bolivia alone refused to go along with a text they saw as ineffective and anti-democratic, they were ignored and consensus was declared. Meeting over.

The UN heralded the meetings as "restoring the faith in the multilateral process" and hailed the process as "transparent and inclusive." Todd Stern, the U.S. climate negotiator, considered Cancún a victory, stating, "Ideas that were...skeletal last year and not approved, are now approved and elaborated." Many other organizations had a very different analysis of the outcomes.

While there was much ado about multilateralism being restored, in reality, final approval came from informal meetings and small group negotiations. Developing countries already being impacted by climate chaos were singled out and offered climate funding to entice them to change their positions. Global justice movement veterans charged that the process was like the worst of the WTO negotiations, where powerful countries imposed their will on the rest — tactics that led to the dramatic and powerful shutdown of WTO negotiations in Seattle in 1999.

Z Magazine


Brave New UNFCCC:

At the end of COP16, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, declared that the negotiations were a 'success', because countries had agreed to avoid a gap in the first commitment period and to continue negotiating up to 2012. The complete political failure of the COP process to achieve any meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade and a half could not be better exemplified by this current barometer of 'success', in which the continuation of negotiations themselves is viewed as a victory.

Pablo Solon, Bolivia's UN ambassador, wrote:

Many commentators have called the Cancún accord a "step in the right direction." We disagree: it is a giant step backward. The text replaces binding mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions with voluntary pledges that are wholly insufficient. These pledges contradict the stated goal of capping the rise in temperature at 2°C, instead guiding us to 4°C or more. The text is full of loopholes for polluters, opportunities for expanding carbon markets and similar mechanisms - like the forestry scheme Redd - that reduce the obligation of developed countries to act.

Bolivia may have been the only country to speak out against these failures, but several negotiators told us privately that they support us. Anyone who has seen the science on climate change knows that the Cancún agreement was irresponsible.

- The Guardian

Cancun text: A backwards step

• Document effectively kills off the only binding agreement, Kyoto Protocol, in favour of a completely inadequate bottom-up voluntary approach

• Increases loopholes and flexibilities that allow developed countries to avoid action, via an expansion of offsets and continued existence of 'surplus allowances' of carbon after 2012 by countries like Ukraine and Russia which effectively cancel out any other reductions.

• Finance commitments weakened: commitment to "provide new and additional financial resources" to developing countries have been diluted to talking more vaguely about "mobilising [resources] jointly", with expectation that this will mainly be provided by carbon markets

• The World Bank is made trustee of the new Green Climate Fund, which has been strongly opposed by many civil society groups due to the undemocratic makeup of the Bank and its poor environmental record

• No discussion of Intellectual Property rights, repeatedly raised by many countries, as current rules obstruct transfer of key climate-related technologies to developing countries

• Constant assumption in favour of market mechanisms to resolve climate change even though this perspective is not shared by a number of countries, particularly in Latin America

• Green light given for the controversial REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme which often ends up perversely rewarding those responsible for deforestation, while dispossessing indigenous and forest dwellers of their land

• Systematic exclusion of proposals that came from the historic World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change including proposals for a Climate Justice Tribunal, full recognition of indigenous rights, and rights for nature

Transnational Institute

Viva Bolivia.

Daniela Chiaretti in Brasil said it, "... não foi suficiente para esconder que a conferência do clima de Cancún terminou sem resolver nenhum dos grandes impasses da área."

'nenhum' means NOT ONE, dig it, Portugues has taught me the beauty of double negatives - without resolving not one of the impasses ...

some of these career negotiators have been at it so long they are retiring, with a pension one assumes, and this seems to me to be their main objective, a pension or, or, or ... a fat job at KPMG

having read his books carefully (and in the case of 'Eaarth', three times) a-and including his 'first book about global warming' which was NOT the first book about global warming, and being an early member of 350.org and so, having read innumerable email newsletters about how many actions they have 'organized' and how they are #1 #1 #1 ... I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they are a front for some kind of car rental agency and that McKibben is quite simply a legend in his own mind ...

(someone has to begin to take a critical look at these outfits - and I mean 'critical' in the sense of a Northrop Frye simply trying to make sense of it)

it is all very like this site, I keep saying how bad the comment interface is, and at least several people have agreed with me, and it is still the same shite, just on a different page

seduced by the fundamental symmetry that the problem is global, hence the solution must be global, hence the UN must be the forum ... well, seductive as this logic is - it doesn't work, where is that kid who looked at the emperor and said, "waidaminit, he ain't got no clothes!"

and here in k-k-Canada I have sat, again and again, and listened to Elizabeth May tell us to "write your MP, they really CARE," doh!? seems as clear as day to me that they don't give a rat's ptuie, the attitude being most clearly expressed (since she has little fear of reprisal) by Marjory LeBreton, past president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving ...

so, all good to Velcrow Ripper (I bet he is glad it was Adam Nobody who got asked his name by the cops at the G20) and long may he make movies and a living and whatever ...


I don't share your perspective or that of 350.org. My perspective is that of ecosocialism:

The ecosocialist movement aims to stop and to reverse the disastrous process of global warming in particular and of capitalist ecocide in general, and to construct a radical and practical alternative to the capitalist system. Ecosocialism is grounded in a transformed economy founded on the non-monetary values of social justice and ecological balance. It criticizes both capitalist "market ecology" and productivist socialism, which ignored the earth's equilibrium and limits. It redefines the path and goal of socialism within an ecological and democratic framework.

Ecosocialism involves a revolutionary social transformation, which will imply the limitation of growth and the transformation of needs by a profound shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative economic criteria, an emphasis on use-value instead of exchange-value.

These aims require both democratic decision-making in the economic sphere, enabling society to collectively define its goals of investment and production, and the collectivization of the means of production. Only collective decision-making and ownership of production can offer the longer-term perspective that is necessary for the balance and sustainability of our social and natural systems.

My perspective is that of the People's Agreement that came out of the Cochabamba Conference:

The corporations and governments of the so-called "developed" countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system. ...

The capitalist system has imposed on us a logic of competition, progress and limitless growth. This 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. ...

Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people who are see as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are.

Capitalism requires a powerful military industry for its processes of accumulation and imposition of control over territories and natural resources, suppressing the resistance of the peoples. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet.

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.

The Cancun conference resolutely rejected the Cochabamba perspective: climate capitalism prevailed over climate justice. As Patrick Bond concluded, "In spite of a band-aid set of agreements, the distance between negotiators and the masses of people and the planet grew larger not smaller over the last two weeks." 

Sorry - realized that it wasn't clear that Nnimmo Bassey is the head of Friends of the Earth International.  Here's another quote from Nnimmo:


"The UN remains key to humanity’s collective response to this crisis and we see that the multilateral process is moving forward. However, the UN is only as strong as the countries that compose it. We could not achieve the progress that is needed in Cancun because the rich countries that are primarily responsible for climate pollution have prevented it. Rich countries tried to assassinate the Kyoto Protocol and it is now on life support, we have to redouble our efforts in the coming year to revive it.”


And more from 350.org:


"To close the gap between scientific necessity and political possibility, we must fight the influence of big polluters on the political process. At the end of last week, thousands of you spoke up in support of the most vulnerable countries, sending your messages of solidarity from all corners of the planet. By building a public movement around the climate solutions that science and justice demand, we've helped keep this process alive when major polluters tried to destroy it."

I agree with everything my dear friend Nnimmo Bassey says  (who is a principle character in the film fyi in both Cochabamba and Cancun).  If you interpreted me as saying these accords are the answer- let me be clear: they are not!   But they may offer some ground the built on, as opposed to no progress or train wreck scenarios.  And the 100 billion dollars is an important step, especially for countries like small island nations who need support now.

The ultimate problem behind this whole situation is that what's truly needed is a complete paradigm shift.  We need to leave the industrial age behind.  That's going to take bottom up grass roots pressure, that's where the real hope lies.

Similar in perspective to mine is the words of 350.org :

"The feeling of momentum emerging from Cancun was refreshing: countries rebuilt trust, and wrestled with difficult issues like deforestation and transparency. This trust was in serious doubt after last year's failed negations in Copenhagen--and even in the final hours of negotiations in Cancun.

These countries will now have to negotiate with the world’s climate--and the physics and chemistry that govern the climate won’t negotiate. In fact, the current pledges contained in the negotiating text are still grossly inadequate, leaving the planet on a crash course with at least 4 degrees Celcius of temperature rise--a terrifying prospect that would put us closer to 750ppm than 350ppm."

Read more at http://www.350.org


Ripper's just trying to put lipstick on this pig.

Friends of the Earth tells it like it really is:


The agreement adopted at the UN climate talks in Cancun has failed to make progress on the most essential part: steep, binding emissions cuts for developed countries. Friends of the Earth International warns that this agreement provides a platform for abandoning the Kyoto Protocol, replacing it with a weak pledge and review system as a legacy of the Copenhagen Accord, that would lead to a devastating five degree Celsius warming.

And the Council of Canadians says:

The Council of Canadians is denouncing the late-night climate deal struck in Cancun as hollow, undemocratic and a severe blow to the Kyoto Accord.

SEE ALSO: Was Cancun Climate Conference a success? at rabble.ca.

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