Governments need to be aware that people are watching what they say and do about climate change - and that social movements are impatient for change, says Carolina Amaya from Progressio partner organisation UNES (the Salvadorian Ecological Unit).

Carolina, who travelled from El Salvador to Panama to take part in the Alternative Forum on Climate Change held on 1-2 October, said: "We come here because we believe it is necessary to strengthen and build an alliance in the face of the social and environmental crisis, and because the governments who come here with official country perspectives need to know that citizens, communities, and organisations are watching and monitoring what they commit to and commit us to."

Speaking in an interview with Tatiana Felix from the Latin American news agency ADITAL, Carolina criticises governments that insist on carrying out policies that contribute to the climate crisis. She says social movements need to challenge the current "false" paradigm (or model) of development, based on financial growth and economic progress. She says this "false paradigm" triggered the economic and environmental crisis and is putting the survival of our civilisation at risk.

“The current crisis that the planet is experiencing was caused by developed societies,” says Carolina. “The limits of nature and the planet have already been exceeded,” she warns.

Read more of what Carolina said in the interview with ADITAL:

What are the communities saying?

"Well, firstly governments and people do not share the same vision, nor do they walk the same path.

"There is clear theoretical, scientific and lived evidence that the current economic model is unsustainable and incompatible with nature's capacity and limits. Despite this, instead of redirecting and transforming the development paradigm that has led to the climate crisis, States carry on walking along the same route.

"They still insist on a green makeover, and say that the economy is now nature-friendly. That’s what the entire proposal is, leading up to Rio+20. There is a whole infrastructure built around the global green economy. But this model, this system, has failed. It is the very economic model that has led to climate chaos!

"On the other hand, within the social movements there are different expectations. We propose, firstly, that we must recognise that this crisis we are experiencing is different from other climate changes that have occurred in history. Previous climate changes were caused by nature and occurred in proportional time and space. Time is necessary in order to adapt to change. What we are experiencing now is not natural.  It is a man-made change that has been constructed by society, and mainly by developed societies."

This is a social crisis too

"Secondly, even though the evidence that climate change is anthropogenic and socially created exists, governments deny that this is a social crisis. The social movements see this as a result of the predominant development model and propose that we restructure the development model in a way that is compatible with nature. This is what we call social sustainability.

"So, where does socio-environmental sustainability start from, and how does it differ from the state perspective?

"First, we recognise that this crisis is associated with additional crises. There is an economic crisis. There is climate change. But now we have a series of crises compounding one another; the food crisis, the climate crisis, the financial crisis.

"We, as social movements, differentiate the climate crisis from other social crises, because this crisis has a component that cannot go unnoticed. It is the component of capacity: to recognise the capacity that the planet has."

We need to change our way of life

"So, what do we say? Firstly, we have to deconstruct the false paradigm of development. This is a challenge because societies that are rich don't want to give up this paradigm, and southern societies aspire to it, despite the fact that it led us to climate change.

"Secondly, we need to change our way of life. We need to restructure our standard of living, according to the load-bearing capacity of nature. Our ecosystem is finite, it has a limited capacity, and this chaos is a result of exceeding the carrying capacity and limited capacities that the planet has.

"We must start recognising that we live in an ecosystem (our planet) that has limits and a limited capacity. This is our challenge because many of us used to see nature as infinite, but now we see it as a living organism that we are part of. We can't keep seeing it as a commodity from which we take. This is the challenge that we, the people, must face.

"Personally, I think we have a lot to learn from indigenous people. Their words of wisdom and life experiences offer alternatives and lead us to a new way of revaluing the land and considering our relationship with the land. If we have food, water, and somewhere to produce, that provides us with the basis for life."

Another world is possible

"We continue to believe that another world is possible. We still believe in the power of resistance and struggle of our people. In this sense, we gather here to unite with colleagues from other regions, and from all over the world to continue in this struggle led by social movements. Here, at the Forum, I expect to be able to establish better mechanisms for coordination.

"We come here because we believe that another world is possible, because we believe it is necessary to strengthen and build an alliance in the face of the social and environmental crisis, and because the governments who come here with official country perspectives need to know that citizens, communities, and organisations are watching and monitoring what they commit to and commit us to."

Photo: Participants at a regional forum on climate change held in Honduras on 30 and 31 August.

Carolina Amaya is a member of the Salvadorian Ecological Unit (UNES) and she spoke at the Alternative Forum on Climate Change in Panama on 'Climate Change: Responses from Power and the Alternatives of Social Movements'. Carolina’s job within UNES is to get people to understand the processes of change that are occurring globally – or as she calls it, ‘climate literacy’.

The Alternative Forum on Climate Change was a response from social movements and peasant, environmental, and indigenous organisations to the preparatory meeting for the Durban Summit on Climate Change, where leaders from nearly 200 countries gathered in the Panamanian capital from October 1-7.

The primary demand of the grassroots movements is to participate in decision-making in government policies, since they are the communities most affected by the impacts of environmental crises.

ADITAL is the Friar Tito Information Agency for Latin America, a news agency that aims to bring the Latin American and Caribbean social agenda to the international community.