Thursday, September 6, 2007

Guest Blog: UN Conference of NGOs Takes on Climate Change

By Marc Brodine

The 60th annual Conference of the UN's Non-Governmental Organizations is taking place in NYC. The theme this year is Climate Change. There are about 2,600 attendees, most representing an NGO, and coming from over 80 countries.

The first morning, there were welcoming speeches, mostly pretty good, about the general issue and the UN's approach. The speeches addressed the seriousness of the impacts on all the countries of the world from the climate change which is already occurring, forcefully noting that the countries which are already receiving the brunt of the impact are poor countries least able to mitigate the impacts and also the countries which have contributed the least to causing the problems.

I attended two afternoon workshops, the first on soil and agriculture. The panel explained how the increased reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides have distorted agricultural development, moving farmers away from sustainable farming practices and driving poor farmers into more debt, leading to larger agribusiness monoculture industrial farming. This is depleting the soil, driving poor farmers off their lands, forcing destructive increased urbanization, and leading to abandonment of land whose farming potential has been destroyed by speeded-up destruction of the soil.

The solutions are moving away from industrial farming towards more labor intensive natural agricultural practices, increased use of natural composting of grasses, leaves, manure, more crop rotation, use of locally-adapted natural plants and seeds, cooperative farming methods and teaching, and moving away from farming for the market to farming with long-term sustainability of the productive potential of the land taking precedence. Examples were given from Japan and Zambia of successful efforts to carry out such a program, resulting in yields both higher than industrial farming and more sustainable, for our long-term food security.

The second workshop focused on the latest scientific understanding. There is still a great deal not known about how our atmosphere, weather, and oceans are going to react to the increased temperature caused by greenhouse gases. but we are already seeing increased melting of ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic, and threatening rises in sea level. The science is more certain than ever that global warming is happening, that human activity is causing it, and that we are in for much more serious effects, such as increased incidence of extreme weather events.

While much valuable information and discussion are taking place, often the speakers explain the problems caused by the market, by private capital, but they don't take the next step of pointing out the need for socialism, for an alternative to the system that is causing the problems.

More later...

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