El Salvador: For Salvadoran Activist, It Is Necessary to Change the Development Paradigm

Carolina Amaya

In this interview Salvadoran activist Carolina Amaya says that the challenge of social movements is to deconstruct the false paradigm of development that triggered the economic and environmental crisis that puts the life of our civilization at risk.


Translated from Spanish by Maggie Von Vogt

Carolina Amaya (Source: Adital)Panama City, Panama – Carolina Amaya, participant in the Alternative Forum on Climate Change held this weekend in Panama, member of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), came from El Salvador to discuss “Climate Change: Responses from the Power and the Alternatives of Social Movements’.  In an interview with ADITAL she criticized the fact that the governments insist on carrying out a policy that causes the climate crisis and said that the challenge of social movements is to deconstruct the false paradigm of development that triggered the economic and environmental crisis that puts the life of our civilization at risk.

Amaya said that the current crisis that the planet is experiencing was caused by developed societies and warned that the limits of nature and the planet have already been exceeded. In the spaces in which she works, Carolina has the job of ‘climate literacy’; to get people to understand the processes of change that are occurring globally.

The Alternative Forum on Climate Change took place on October 1st and 2nd as a response of social movements and peasant, environmental, and indigenous organizations to the preparatory meeting for the Durban Summit on Climate Change, where leaders from nearly 200 countries gather the Panamanian capital from October 1st to 7th. The primary demand of the grassroots movements is to participate in decision-making in government policies, since many of these communities are most affected by the impacts of environmental crises.

Read the interview:

ADITAL –In your opinion, what are the most divergent points from those presented by governments and community demands on the issue of climate change?

Carolina Amaya – Well, first there is a gap between vision and the path of the states and the vision and path of the people. States, despite clear evidence that there is a theoretical, scientific and lived evidence that this economic model is unsustainable and incompatible with nature’s capacity and limits, instead of redirecting and transforming this development paradigm that has led to the climate crisis, they continue on the same route. States still insist on a green makeover, and that now the economy is a more friendly towards nature, which is the entire proposal in this time leading up to Rio +20. There is a whole infrastructure around the global green economy. But this model, this system, has failed.  It is an economic model that has led to this climatic chaos, and yet states continue along the same route that led to this crisis.

Within the social movements there are other expectations. In the social movements we propose: first, we must recognize that this crisis we are experiencing is different from others, different from other climate changes that have occurred in history from a natural origin and have been distributed in proportion to the time and space, and time is necessary in order to adapt to that change. What we are experiencing now is not natural.  It is a man-made change that has been constructed by society, and mainly by he developed societies.

Secondly, although all the information that climate change is anthropogenic and socially created exists, they deny that this is a social crisis. There are important perspectives of social movements that see this as a result of the predominant development model and propose that we restructure the development model in a way that is compatible with nature.  This is what we call social sustainability.

Where does socio-environmental sustainability start from, and where do we defer from the state perspective? First, we recognize that this crisis is associated with additional crises.  There has always been an economic crisis.  There has always been climate change, but now it meets every other crisis; it joins with the food crisis, it joins with the climate crisis, and it joins with the financial crisis.

We, as social movements, differentiate the climate crisis from other social crises, because this crisis has a component that cannot go unnoticed.   It is the component of capacity: to recognize the capacity that the planet has. What do we say? First, as social movements we have to deconstruct the false paradigm of development because societies that are rich don’t want to give up this paradigm, and southern societies aspire to it, despite the fact that this is development that has lead us to climate change. The first challenge to the movements is to deconstruct the false paradigm of development that has led us to the climate chaos that threatens civilization.

Second, we need to reorient the way of life. We need to restructure our standard of living, according to the load bearing capacity of nature. Our ecosystem is finite, it has a limited capacity and this chaos is a result of exceeding the carrying capacity and limited capacities that the planet has.

This factor is the challenge we face. We must start placing limits and recognizing that we live in an ecosystem that is a planet that has limits and a limited capacity. This is our challenge because many of us also saw nature as infinite, but now we see it as a living organism, and that we are part of it, and can’t keep seeing it as a commodity from which we take. This is the challenge that we must face as social movements.

ADITAL – What are the alternatives presented by the movement as a solution to the crisis?

Carolina – Personally, I think that indigenous people give us life lessons, with words of wisdom and life experiences that are alternatives and lead us to a new way of revaluing the land and our relationship with the land. If we have food, water, and somewhere to produce, that provides us with the basis for life.

ADITAL – What are your expectations from this forum in the sense that the governments listen to the communities?

Carolina – Well, you said that we continue to believe that another world is possible. We still believe in the power of resistance and struggle of our people. In this sense, we gather here as El Salvador to unite forces with colleagues from Panama, other regions, and all over the world to how to continue in this struggle of social movements and I would expect here that we can establish better mechanisms for coordination, for example, with our colleagues from Panama, who for those of us who come from El Salvador and we are very close by.

We come here because we believe that another world is possible, because we believe it is necessary to strengthen and articulate an alliance in the face of the social and environmental crisis, and third because the governments who come here with official country perspective need to know that citizens, communities, and organizations are watching and monitoring what they commit to and commit us to.

ADITAL – What are the activities UNES is involved in?

Carolina – We are part of a network called the Mesoamerican Climate Justice Campaign. We have organized ourselves to make our voices heard and continue pushing for the demands we have made. In this sense, there is a necessity to do climate literacy work, because this issue needs to be taken out of the scientific language and be made more collective, based on the experiences of the people. So literacy is to raise awareness about the climate change we are experiencing. These are not natural changes, but are socially constructed changes that have an economic, social, and political dimension.

Secondly, public policy advocacy, regardless of the official negotiations, is a space that moves very slowly and sometimes goes backward or stagnates. And much of what is discussed there are agreements that do not benefit the people. One very clear example is the agreement in Cancun. Our governments need to institutionalize and ensure policies and plans that make the communities, peoples, and territories better able to cope with the impacts.

We need to do advocacy on a government level in decision making, and for governments to convey the truth to our people, because it has always this way: the positions are far from benefiting all of those who are weak, and they are fragile against these major disasters that are predicted.