On October 6th, 2013, in Bayonne, France, only a few days after the release of the 5th IPPC report, 12 000 people gathered in the city center, and occupied the streets and squares for a day dedicated to concrete alternative societal models which currently exist during this time of social, economic and ecological crisis.
One thousand volunteers and organizations took action through alternative ways of living that can be implemented in many areas of everyday life: food production, energy, housing, transportation, consumption, finance, work, education, etc.
Turning the whole city center into an “alternative village”, this event not only showed that there are solutions, but also that such solutions can lead to a happier, more humane, and fairer society.
Named “Alternatiba”, this event ended with a declaration translated into about 20 European languages, calling for the organization of many other “alternative villages” before the 2015 UNFCCC conference, which will be held in France (COP21).
Call to multiply the village of alternatives
“One of the greatest challenges of our time is climate change and environmental degradation due to the actions of man throughout the last three centuries. The disruption of the climate is worsening faster than ever, and threatening the poorest populations of the planet and conditions for civilized life on Earth”.
- Stéphane Hessel, renowned French activist, intellectual and author of “Time for Outrage!”
All the warning signs are here. Climate catastrophes are increasing, affecting the poorest populations of the global South, and the global North. Droughts, desertification, seasonal changes, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, wildfires, melting glaciers are happening now. Will we stand by and do nothing? Will we continue to watch the world burn?
The stakes are clear: we must radically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the dangerous threshold that leads to the point of no return for global warming and climate chaos.
Such extreme changes in climate, in such short time-spans, have created a global challenge unlike any other in human history.
But the motivating event of Alternatiba, gives us hope: solutions exist, and are already put into practice by thousands of organizations, of local communities, and individuals. Even better, these alternatives are building a more pleasant, closer, friendlier, and fairer society.
Small-scale agriculture, re-shoring the economy, sustainable land planning, alternatives to car-culture, energy sobriety, eco-housing, ethical finance, social and environmental conversion of manufacturing, ethical consumption, a new share of wealth and work, community support, waste reduction and recycling, preservation of common goods such as water, soil, forests, are leading the way. The fight against climate change is not a constraint: it is a great opportunity to build a more humane future.
Unfortunately, governments are not choosing this path. International climate negotiations are stalling and are taking the wrong direction. Big corporations and economic lobbies are doing everything they can to avoid these alternatives, because they threaten their profit and power.
Worse, they are fiercely imposing their false, ineffective and dangerous solutions, such as nuclear power, biofuels, GMOs, compensation mechanisms, the financialization of nature, geo-engineering, just to name a few. In turn a systematic model is maintained where the global North and the richest populations of the planet continue to loot the Earth and nature, while concentrating wealth amongst the richest few, through the destruction of the environment, particularly in the South.
A popular citizens mobilization that takes control of our future is necessary to counter-balance these destructive efforts. Our commitment to Stéphane Hessel’s message is crucial in facing such a climate challenge.
Climate stabilization will stem from unity, from our collective intelligence, from solidarity, from our thirst for social justice, from our capacity to get change moving here and now, and to initiate the transition without further delay.
COP21, the 21st UN conference on climate change, will take place at the end of 2015. Taking place six years after the very publicized Copenhagen conference, COP21 should get just as much attention as global leaders have committed to a new agreement to fight climate change beyond 2020. As the scientific community points out, the 2020 horizon is when our emissions must begin to decrease drastically if we are to avoid a catastrophe.
To avoid the broken promises we saw in Copenhagen, it is up to us, the citizens, the people, to mobilize, take action, and put forth real solutions. This is all the more relevant with COP21 taking place in Paris in 2015…and of all places, at the Bourget airport!
Building a people’s movement focused on climate and social justice is becoming more and more urgent in France and Europe.
Alternatiba, also known as the village of alternatives, successfully-unified people, something that was made possible through the commitment of all of us here in Bayonne. This shows us what a European mobilization could look like.
We are calling for all cities and regions in Europe to prepare their own mobilization, in order to demonstrate and promote alternatives to climate change and to the social and environmental crisis.
We must call out our leaders on the dramatic consequences of the absence of a global, ambitious, efficient, binding, and fair climate treaty. We must mobilize populations to start the social, energy and environmental transition without delay, in order to avoid the point of no return, which will lead to irreversible climate change. We must bring together all of those who, by building alternatives or fighting for the struggle, are contributing to saving the climate, sometimes without even realizing it. We can replicate what Alternatiba has done in Bayonne everywhere.
To see 10, 100, or 1000 Alternatibas blossom, we must spread this message everywhere. Let us move forward towards change by preparing villages of alternatives, and then developing such alternatives within France and Europe in the run-up to COP21 in Paris.
United and determined, we can win this battle. In the North and the South, for us, and for generations to come, so that we can say, “we committed to the fight just in time!”