The Earth Summit of the United Nations being held in Rio de Janeiro had yet to begin, and the specialists were already predicting a dire impasse over the issues of climate change and even setbacks on such central challenges as the human right to water and the protection of biodiversity. In parallel with this tragicomedy and a few weeks after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a dramatic appeal for the protection of natural resources, social and environmental movements have marshaled their forces in the heart of the People’s Summit to propose a vision of the world based on social and environmental justice. The 50,000 and more people who are participating in this process invites international social movements and the entire population in general to share and disseminate this vision which insists on a world respectful of life and the common goods.

No to green capitalism!

The UNEP Report begins with these words: “The currently observed changes to the Earth System are unprecedented in human history … [S]everal critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded.” The response of our governments and the big corporations that inject themselves into international processes has not only been timid and irresponsible, but has remained focused on short-term strategies, on exploitation of the last remaining natural resources and even on privatization of living things and of nature for the benefit of the now-celebrated 1%. At the official UN Summit, twenty years after the “birth” of sustainable development, what is being proposed is no more than to paint capitalism green; that is, to make “green” the new engine of unequal accumulation of wealth. This is an option based on a system of ecocide, on exclusion of the majority, on exploitation of resources and of human beings, on a system that is itself THE source of the present environmental crisis.

Global mobilization

It is in this context that the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice is taking place. It is, in fact, the sole activity organized at Rio in 2012 that aims to truly overcome the present environmental crisis. It has set for itself the goal of identifying the “structural causes” of the ecological, social, economic and democratic crises so as to sweep aside the “false solutions”, of presenting “people’s solutions”, and of defining a “common agenda” for the coming months. And the proposals are not lacking: food sovereignty and agroecology, democratization and decentralization of the preservation and management of the common goods, energy descent scenarios and universalization of access to energy, extension of social protection and social rights to all peoples of the planet, international taxation to finance the common goods, reform and democratization of the UN, etc.

Holding an event of the magnitude of the Summit also finds its importance in a context wherein the financial, political and media spheres are in symbiosis and seek to prevent these popular alternatives and claims from being legitimized. It is for this reason that a Global Day of Action has been organized for June 20 with mobilizations to occur all over the world.

As the author Hervé Kempf, who was recently in Montreal at the invitation of Alternatives for the Festival of Solidarity, tells us: “To save the planet, we must exit from capitalism, rebuilding a society where the economy is not Queen but rather a tool, where cooperation overrides competition, where the common good prevails over profit.”

In Quebec and Canada

On April 22, several hundreds of thousands of people mobilized for the common good in Montréal at an unprecedented rally. Signed by tens of thousands of people, the declaration that accompanied the mobilization called for a broad societal debate that would pave the way for a profound social transformation!

In the Canada of Stephen Harper, it is unfortunately the opposite path that is being taken. The adoption of Bill C-38, which weakens environmental regulations and attacks those who seek to enforce them, is only the last on the list of a long series of anti-environmental actions taken by the only country in the world that has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol.

Translated from French by Paul Germanotta