Bolivian President Evo Morales spoke to a diverse crowd of supporters at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of New York on Tuesday, September 21st. President Morales’s talk was titled: “Nature is not for sale: The Rights of Mother Earth.” When talking with attendees in a line that wrapped around the block, I learned that their reasons for attending were as diverse as their backgrounds. Danni Gee from Philadelphia, PA—who works for New York City’s Central Park—knew nothing about Evo Morales, but had decided to come at the behest of a friend. Sam, who asked to remain anonymous, and lives “somewhere in Manhattan,” said he was a longtime supporter and had a friend who was “tied in with a Bolivian ornithologist.” Jeremiah Hosea, a native New Yorker and professional musician, said, “Evo Morales is the most exciting head of state in the world.”
Evo Morales, best known for his historic ascendance to the presidency as the first indigenous President of Bolivia, regards capitalism as the primary cause of environmental decline and climate change. Unlike most heads of state, President Morales—a native Aymara Indian—openly references his indigenous spiritual beliefs when discussing environmental policy.
President Morales began his talk by saying, “El ser humano no puede vivir o existir sin la Madre tierra. Pero la Madre Tierra, la naturaleza, sí puede vivir sin el ser humano. Entonces, como el hombre puedo subyugar a la Madre Tierra?” Translated, he says, “Human beings cannot live without Mother Earth. But Mother Earth, the environment, can live without human beings. How, then, can human beings subjugate Mother Earth?”
The President went on to describe what he sees as evidence of climate change in Bolivia, saying, “Cada ves hay mas sequía. Este año, en un momento se enfrió por momento … y millones de peses se murieron por frío. … Y ahorra no se siente si es primavera o verano, o otoño o enero!” Translated, he says, “Each year there is more drought. This year the temperature suddenly became freezing cold … and millions of fish died from the cold. And now, you can’t feel if it’s spring, summer, fall or winter!”
Evo, as supporters fondly refer to him, also addressed Bolivia’s tenuous economic position, acknowledging that Bolivia had the second lowest amount of national reserve funds when he became president—second only to Haiti. He took great pride in reporting that, now, Bolivia has over nine million dollars in the national reserves, that there are several more nations lagging behind Bolivia, and that they experienced economic growth in 2010.
In closing, President Morales proposed that all audience members see themselves as agents of social change, and as important leaders in the environmental movement. He also encouraged audience members to join the Bolivian envoy at the 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico, November 29 – December 10, 2010. He further proclaimed, “Este nuevo millenio, es el siglo de la lucha por los derechos de la Madre Tierra!” Translated, “This new Millennium is the era of the struggle for the rights of Mother Earth!”
Photography by Juan Victor Fajardo
Posted by Von Diaz – MA Candidate at CLACS / Global Journalism at NYU