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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“In reducing carbon footprint, Ecuador sets example”

During the first week of school, many students, like industrious bees, are busy to fulfill aspirations and complete a heavy workload. I recall President Robert Shelton’s initial words at the onset of his presidency, sharing his plans to make the UA an “”enterprise model”” for the 21st century — in other words, a value to ensure profit and self-enrichment at all costs. It is no different with most leaders in the international scene, where the stakes are often much greater. Last week, famed social critic and “”world systems”” theorist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote a stunning op-ed that reports a glimmer of light in this new century rived with seemingly ominous doom at every corner.

In his Aug. 18 article, “”Contradictions in the Latin American Left,”” Wallerstein reports an interesting bargain between Ecuador and some of the rich nations of the global north. In Ecuador, the government of Rafael Correa, recently washed into power on the tide of indigenous support movements, wanted to develop oil resources in the fragile Amazonian reserve, Yasuni. Naturally, the indigenous people protested, initially to deaf ears from the government that took national power because of their support. At that point, the government could have taken the path of usual disregard for local indigenous wishes in order to obey short-term profit considerations over long-term harm to the environment and human communities.

Correa, instead, chose an unexpected alternative when he proposed that the wealthy world governments compensate his nation for not developing Yasuni as a token of good practice against global warming.

Of course, upon first hearing the proposition at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, the idea was received as laughable. But, as Wallerstein points out, after six months of negotiations, Belgium, Germany, Spain, France and Sweden have agreed to create a U.N.-administered fund to indeed pay Ecuador not to develop in Yasuni on the basis of reducing world carbon emissions. The possible new verb form that is buzzing from this stylish episode on the international scene is “”yasunize,”” which would describe the style of bartering to fighting global warming.

To have power to do wrong (“”enterprise model””), and restrain from such action (to “”yasunize””), seems elementary and morally self-evident. But in the age of neoliberalism and the maximization of profit at all costs, it is quite a feat for the world government of a so-called underdeveloped country in the global south to shift the normal run of things a bit and take advantage of the rich industrial nations in order to benefit the underdog’s own economy, and in the process not add to the world’s climate crisis.  In effect, the consequence conforms to what Wallerstein observes as “”PachaMama”” (mother earth) of Latin American indigenista left movements, whose values and actions contradict those of the Latin American national parties, albeit distancing themselves from U.S. influence, by seeking to animate their lives with the value of “”buen vivir””— or “”to live well.””

There’s much to learn from those that are experimenting with alternatives to the status quo around which we, as a society, as a university and as a nation, build such walls, often impenetrable to the good advice of averting self-destruction as a species.

Regarding elements of the “”yasunization”” in Ecuador, Wallerstein reflects that “”analogous situations underlie much of the internal strains in Asia, Africa and even Europe. It may turn out to be the great debate of the twenty-first century.””

For those of us who are young and represent the very generations that oldsters like Wallerstein suggest, the possibilities of “”may”” remain within reach and within choice of grasp, as we climb the threshold of our lives with the values by which we choose to guide our lives and inform our actions.

— Gabriel Schivone is a junior majoring in English literature. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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