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No. 103 - Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - March 2001
ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE
Vicki Robin writes:
From January 25th-30th, 2001, I attended the World Social Forum
in Porto Alegre, Brazil (www.worldsocialforum.org).
It was designed to mirror the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,
an annual confab of the leaders of governments and business notorious for
embodying the interests of money and power. Intentionally held at the same
time, the WSF boldly asserted that it's the stupid economy (neo-liberalism,
corporate globalization, policies that value money more than life) that is
creating untold and unnecessary suffering. "Another world is possible,"
the Forum declared - one run on principles of participatory democracy, social
inclusion, justice, ecological responsibility and respect for the First Peoples.
Every day there were four concurrent morning sessions and 100
afternoon workshops. The crowds were steady at over 4,000 (1,500 non-Brazilians),
swelling for some events to 15,000. Almost 1,900 people from the press showed
up. (Though no stories were run in the mainstream media - ed.). 120 nations
were represented, and hundreds of NGO's. For all the challenges of the week,
I reveled in this first post-Seattle/WTO effort to collectively take the next
step towards aligning the full spectrum of voices in this broad anti-corporate
globalization movement. There was no contention with the local police. Porto
Alegre and the whole state of Rio Grande do Sul welcomed the participants.
This state has had a leftist Worker's Party in power for 12 years and prides
itself on its participatory budget where citizens get to say how a portion
of the revenues will be allocated. The whole city was decked with affirming
banners - the Earth in the shape of a heart and the motto, "Another World
Is Possible". It truly felt that way.
The miracle was that Davos and Porto Alegre were both addressing
the nasty by-product of neo-liberalism - the fact that the number of global
losers is at epidemic proportion. This was highlighted by a million dollar
trans-Atlantic satellite debate between Davos participants and a handful of
Porto Alegre spokespeople. While Davos and Porto Alegre were both apparently
devoted to the integration of the poor and marginalized into society, their
worldviews were more like two trains whizzing by on different tracks. For
Porto Alegre, globalization was a deadly business, leaving poverty, death,
cultural disintegration and ecological devastation in its wake.
Over the course of days I met a variety of individuals affiliated with the
Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World (www.echo.org),
a forest activist, an internationally recognized feminist, a bunch of high-spirited
youth leaders, an advocate for Palestinian rights, many French humanists,
all merrily banded together to coordinate another kind of globalization -
"a worldwide collective process inspired by a humanist ideal. It has
taken up the challenge of building a future where people live in a world of
unity and diversity, driven by a colossal ambition: to invent new forms of
collective action at the local and global levels, and bring them to bear upon
the future of an increasingly complex and interdependent world. Everyone can
make changes to their individual lives, but for collective change, thinking
and action must be undertaken collectively."
It seemed to me that the anti-corporate-globalization movement has experienced
enough victories to be entering a new phase of activism. For want of a better
term, I'm calling it visionary activism - putting our cooperative muscle into
coherently presenting the philosophies, policies and projects we've been fostering
and creating a plausible yet radical vision for a future we are willing to
work on together. People like me who have been apolitical will need to enter
the messy fray. Ideologues who've championed single issues or single historical
interpretations will need to loosen up enough to respond freshly to the world
as it is today.
There is a real battle going on in the world today. The community of life
is being diminished and increasingly privatized, placed in the hands of the
few. The momentum in the system is so great that even with slowing down we
are still hurtling towards extinctions and overshoot. I feel a painful urgency
when I face these facts. The people on the front lines defending the boundaries
of the wild and the free are serving us all. So are the intellectuals with
their sharp minds and lucid analysis, as are the teachers and lawyers and
politicians who are educating in classrooms and courtrooms. So are the lovers
and poets and artists and shamans who are connected with the heart of life
and keeping that channel open for all of us. Like the sorcerer's apprentice,
we have unleashed a multiplying misery by playing with very large forces,
and none of us can afford to be asleep at this time.
Vicki Robin is co-author of "Your Money or Your Life", and co-founder
of The New Road Map Foundation. She lives in Seattle. This essay has been
edited and reduced from the original, which can be found at www.newroadmap.org/vrsamerica.asp
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