Ten years ago in the “Battle of Seattle,” more than 50,000 Americans, including steel workers, women, people of color, environmentalists, and just plain citizens, closed down the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle because they recognized that We, the People can no longer depend upon the U.S. government to protect us from global corporations bent on turning all our human relationships into commercial relationships.
The Meaning of Seattle
Walden Bello: Before the 1999 WTO protests, we knew corporate globalization was increasing global poverty. But it took the collective action of ordinary women and men to make that truth real.
Small affinity groups were also created by the diverse participants in the historic action to assure that decisions were made democratically.
The success of the November-December 1999 Battle of Seattle inspired the World Social Forum (WSF) movement, begun at Porte Alegre in 2001, to proclaim that “Another World is Necessary! Another World is Possible! Another World is Already Happening!” The WSF movement brought together people from all over the world to successive gatherings in Porto Alegre and Mumbai. In turn the WSF inspired the United States Social Forum (USSF) movement which held its first gathering in Atlanta in 2007 and will bring 20,000 people to Detroit for the 2nd USSF in June 2010.
Representatives of 192 nations are gathering in Copenhagen for the climate change conference convened by the United Nations so that governments can pledge the emissions reductions necessary to stem the global warming threatening the extinction of all life on our Planet.
Meanwhile, over the last few years it has become abundantly clear, especially from the actions of the U.S., the world’s leading emitter of climate-altering gases, that we can no longer depend upon governments—even relatively progressive ones like Obama’s—to stop global warming. They are all too beholden both to the corporations most responsible for pollution and to the World Bank, most responsible for fossil-fuel financing. The best that can be expected of them are terribly weak targets and market mechanisms like carbon trading that appease polluting capitalists.
As a result, activists from around the world are gathering at Copenhagen to make clear that the people, not governments, are now the only ones who can preserve Life on Earth.
It is a sign of the revolutionary movements of our time that the most contentious issue at the Copenhagen Summit is the moral responsibility of the people of the Global North to the people of the Global South.
Because of our consumerist/materialist lifestyle, we, the people of the Global North, are the ones most responsible for environmental degradation and climate change. But it is the peoples of the Global South who suffer the worst consequences of our irresponsibility. U.N. experts, for example, predict that 90% of the African peasantry will be out of business by 2100 due to drought, floods, extreme weather events, disease and the resulting political instability.
The 2009 Climate Change Vulnerability Index lists 22 African countries out of 28 at “extreme risk,” whereas the United States is near the bottom of the world rankings of countries at risk, even though it is the leading per capita contributor to climate change.
Restorative Justice demands that those most responsible for global warming should pay climate reparations.
On September 2, the World Council of Churches (WCC) members adopted a formal statement affirming the North’s “deep moral obligation to promote ecological justice by addressing our debts to peoples most affected by ecological destruction and to the earth itself.”
University of KwaZulu-Natal honorary professor Dennis Brutus has proposed that we “Seattle” Copenhagen.
African Union insiders, he says, should work with massed protesters outside to prevent the North from doing a deal in its interests but against Africa’s and the planet’s.
This kind of “Seattle Goes to Copenhagen” organizing is what we need in the age of Obama. The activists at Seattle in 1999 and at Copenhagen in 2009 represent the sovereign people of the world establishing the Justice which flows from the Humanity we share on Planet Earth.
:: Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs brought people together to rebuild inner-city Detroit and to teach the things you can’t learn in a classroom. At 94, Grace is still at it.