The NYC delegation arrived on a red-eye flight from a stormy Miami early this morning.  The delegation, assembled by the Bolivian embassy in NYC based on submitted applications, is an extremely diverse group, including grassroots housing activists, union representatives, media activists, environmental NGOs like WE ACT, and green urban planners, to name just a few of the backgrounds of the 40-person strong group.  It’s an education just to hang out with these folks and find out about the diverse struggles they’re engaging in in NYC.

Today we unpacked in the house we’re staying in, then headed to a small town near Cochabamba to register.  The line was long but things were extremely well organized.  The most amazing aspect of the whole event is the sheer diversity of people here.  There are many, many indigenous people from Bolivia, Ecuador, and other South American nations, as well as quite a few Native Americans who came down on the flight with us.  There are also young students and activists from the region and from all over the rest of the world.  Unlike the Copenhagen conference, the entire event is remarkably open, with campesin@s lining up to file into the various events halls in the thousands.  One of our delegation had to re-register and was told that he was number 17,000 – pretty remarkable.

Even more striking, however, is the atmosphere of unity.  I was walking down the road with a NYC-based union organizer of Ecuadorian background and a Bronx-based African American activist named Tanya (who has worked for Sustainable South Bronx – check out her blog here).  The indigenous people here are very taken with Tanya’s dreads.  As we waited in line to enter the conference venue, a Quechua woman named Rosa Graciela Quiroga introduced herself and asked if she could take her photo with Tanya.  After doing so, she welcomed Tanya in the name of the Union of “Multiactive” (forgive the shoddy Spanish translation) Women of Bolivia, said that they are sisters, and that we need to have solidarity to save the planet.  Tanya and Rosa hugged.  It was pretty moving.

Ashley Dawson

Ashley Dawson is professor of postcolonial studies in the English department at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and the College of Staten Island. His latest books include People’s Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons (O/R, 2020), Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (Verso, 2017), and Extinction: A Radical History (O/R, 2016). A member of the Social Text Collective and the founder of the CUNY Climate Action Lab, he is a long-time climate justice activist.