Between the 8th and 11th of April, the Meeting for Autonomous Life (Encuentro por una Vida Autónoma in Spanish) took place in El Llano Park in the city of Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. A great number of non-governmental organizations and many indigenous vendors came to present their ideas, information and merchandise. An estimated few hundred people attended the events that took place during the four day meeting.
The first day of the meeting began with a dicussion by Swiss-Mexican social critic, Jean Robert, who presented a lecture entitled “Tools and autonomy” in which he criticized the ways in which technologies are used today. He fiercely attacked the concept of “experts,” stating that the very idea of having experts negates the very existence of the knowledge of ordinary people. He went on to affirm the traditions of “pre-modern” peoples, which, according to Robert, centrally featured social customs that ensured equitable and fair resource distribution, particularly with regard to water–this, in light of the acute water crisis faced by the peoples of Mexico and many other societiesa. Robert concluded by claiming that technology can indeed promote progress, if they are used to further the cause of human autonomy.
On the second day of the meeting, César Añorve of the Center for the Innovation of Appropriate Technology (CITA) delivered a presentation called “Regenerating our relationship with water.” Añorve brought up two important points: first, that it is necessary that human beings change their attitudes regarding their waste–that is, not to think of human waste as necessarily disgusting–and also to start using dry-latrines. The latter recommendation, Añorve said, could significantly reduce the amount of water that is presently wasted. During his talk, he presented a model of a dry latrine; during the four day meeting, there was one that could be used.
Later that day, the Chiapas-based organization Otros Mundos discussed its Popular Water and Energy School (EPAE) – a project aimed at promoting sustainable alternatives for the management of water and energy while raising awareness about the effects of climate change through the training of community promoters in Chiapas.
Another bold initiative present at the meeting was the Independent Center for Intercultural Creation of Appropriate Technology (CACITA). The members of CACITA demonstrated their ecological machinery–principally, blenders and washing-machines powered by bicycles. They invited those who attended the meeting to use the devices and also distributed instruction manuals so people could build such tools on their own.
Also emerging from the meeting was the People’s Climate Dialogue and Convention, a participatory social process that intends to provide information on threats of climate change as well as give space to those wishing to express themselves regarding this phenomenon. On the first day, the founding-document of the environmental group Rising Tide México was read publicly, after which came a popular discussion. In the following days three round-tables took place during which was discussed the events of the Convention of Parties (COP) of the UN last December in Copenhagen, Denmark. Also discussed were the efforts that Mexican civil society should be taking in anticipation of the next COP, which is to take place this November in Cancún. On the second-to-last day of the conference, Silvia Ribeiro of the environmental NGO ETC gave a presentation on the alarming technological proposals that the world’s governments seem to be contemplating to use against climate change, and representatives of SolarMax Energy presented solar heaters as an alternative to domestic gas use. It could be said that Rodolfo Diaz summarized the popular sentiment of the People’s Climate Dialogue and Convention when he said that those to blame for the present situation will not be those who allow for the extrication from such.
For more information:
GRAIN (associated with ETC)