Democracy, Climate Change and Venezuela

The article by Ulrike Reinhard, Democracy’s Green Challenge, puts forword the premise that democracy has failed to tackle the pressing problems of climate change and that maybe – since climate change can almost be qualified as a “war” situation – the solution lies in a more authoritarian approach.

This just makes me wonder which authority is being invoked Who (which person, country or organization) would be responsible and accountable for taking decisions in the name of the whole world? And who would designate that person, country, or organization?

Democracy has failed globally in solving a lot of other pressing issues like poverty, hunger and illnesses such as HIV and malaria. But democracy is not a spirit or a mighty entity. Democracy is run by the will of leaders selected by the people to represent their interest. Are these leaders the best ones? Do they really have people’s interest at heart or are they only interested in being reelected?

Democracy might not be a perfect system, but it is the best we have. To consider the possibility that an authoritarian system may take better care of this or indeed any other problem is at the very least dangerous. An authoritarian approach has been used to manage immigration problems in Europe and countries like USA with the flagrant violation of basic human rights. How different would this be if applied to climate change? Can somebody guarantee that human rights won’t be violated under an authoritarian approach? I don’t think the answers would be positive.

Paradoxically, it is usually the most illiterate and poorest people on this planet that are the ones who raise their voices most to protect their immediate environment. They are the ones who understand that their very survival is in jeopardy if their natural resources are extinguished. So why is this idea so alien to governments and leaders elected to represent  these very same people? Yet even more interesting, why do the people keep electing leaders that fail to respond?

The answers to these questions can probably only be found in wide ranging extensive discussion – which only reinforces my point that no, the answer is not as simple as having one sole authority to take decisions for the sake of the planet’s  well being. At least not for me. It is not democracy that is failing; what is failing are the people, the leaders. I am sure that democracy is the best system we can have because it can yet be perfected. It has proven to work well when the population is better informed and more aware of its problems, when the powers of the judiciary are independent from those of government, and when leaders are held accountable.

So whether our will working through democracy can prevent climate changeis very much a bet. Maybe Lovelock is right when he says that humanity is basically stupid about its own self-preservation and well-being, but on the other hand it’s also amazing the way it has developed civilizations, languages, art, philosophy and a lot more in a relatively short time by planetary standards. Maybe humanity is just an infant, and democracy as a system needs to mature and become more … democratic.
Venezuela and Climate Change

My experience as a citizen of Venezuela has led me to disbelieve in any leader who offers an unilateral solution for our problems and equallz in the people which elects these leaders. The recent history of Venezuela has made me skeptical of authoritarian profiles as great solvers of any kind of problems a country may face. So, from the local perspective it is difficult to write about democracy and climate change as a Venezuelan as the present government has an authoritarian profile with several of its functionaries starting with the president being military or ex-military men.

Any problem that we face as a nation is either the fault of capitalism or the “empire” . Climate change is no exception, and is used as a tool for proselytism and propaganda promoting a socialist state. Any arguments against this position usually follow the objective of political confrontation. So it is a challenge to present any national approach to climate change without questioning  the hidden agendas behind any government position.

But historically, Venezuela always been committed to the environment. It was the first country in Latin America to have a environmental law and to penalize crimes against the environment.

Venezuela had subscribed to different treaties and environmental frameworks, like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that was signed in 1992, and ratified in 1994, as well as the Kyoto Protocol.

The government had promoted some missions towards reduction of CO2 emissions and energy efficiency, like The Tree Mission, which promoted the planting of trees all over the country from 2006 to 2008, when “over 18,000 hectares were cultivated, 65 percent for protective forest cover, 33 percent for agro-forestry, and 2 percent for industrial and commercial purposes. Over 29,000 people benefited – 40 percent of them women – and $93.3 million was invested”, and the replacement of around 100 million incandescent light bulbs for cfl´s (source: Bay view). Both these campaigns were criticized.

The first for its cost, the second for being a temporary solution that wouldn’t solve the power crisis we faced during 2010. An unprecedented drought affected all the dams and hydropower plants that supply 70% of the electricity to the country, creating significant power shortages for the first time in decades. While the government blames the phenomenon of El Niño, the opposition blames the government and has exposed faulty maintenance of all the systems of the state-owned electricity system as being responsible for the crisis. The reality seems to be a mixture of the two. In the case of the electricity sector, after that crisis in mid 2010 due to the drought, it recovered by the end of the year with the abundant rains – but we faced disaster and thousands of people lost their homes and were displaced. And the reason for this situation, was again signaled out as capitalism. The oil that Venezuela produces that contributes to global warming apparently doesn’t have anything to do with it.