Lacy MacAuley

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a home for my pen, projects, and passions

a space for proposing alternatives to G20: the People’s Summit in Pittsburgh

“I want to encourage every one of you to take to the streets this week.” – State Senator Jim Ferlo
“The G20 as a mechanism to save us from the economic crisis is doomed to fail.” – renowned thinker Walden Bello

Pittsburgh, PA – While leaders participating in the “Group of 20” (G20) Summit plan to meet behind closed doors and behind a security perimeter at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh next week, the Peoples’ Summit, which took place yesterday in the 20th Century Building, provided an open summit in which people from all over the world and all walks of life could participate and have their voices heard.

Participants at the Peoples Summit met to discuss their solutions to the global economic crisis and the climate crisis.

Participants at the Peoples Summit met to discuss their solutions to the global economic crisis and the climate crisis.

“We share the conviction that another world is possible,” reads a statement from the summit organizers. Speakers at the forum included Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo, internationally-acclaimed thinker Walden Bello, who teaches at the University of the Philippines, and advocate for women and children’s rights, Anna Pinto, from Imphal, India. Sponsors of the forum included the United Steel Workers, the Thomas Merton Center, and Global Solutions Pittsburgh.

Discussion at the open summit trended toward solutions to the dual crises that the G20 has been attempting to address in its past few meetings – the climate crisis and the global economic crisis. The G20’s solutions have floundered, but real change is coming from the bottom up. Participants discussed a variety of solutions such as enacting communities such as community gatherings, local agriculture, democratic decision-making, meaningful climate change solutions, and writing policy based on equitable distribution of resources.

“These nameless, faceless people, [the G20,] created financial havoc and wreaked financial hardship in this economy,” stated State Senator Ferlo at today’s People’s Summit. “We need to create a fair, sustainable, functioning economy. I want to encourage every one of you to take to the streets this week.”

Ferlo’s comments were especially potent in today as many Pittsburgh residents express concern for the physical safety of those engaging in street demonstrations. Other speakers proposed a variety of policy directives to carve out a path toward a better world.

“The G20 as a mechanism to save us from the economic crisis is doomed to fail,” stated Walden Bello, while submitting an eleven-point plan for change during the summit’s morning session. “The ultimate solution to climate change is to move away from capitalism.”

The summit lasted from nine o’clock in the morning until six o’clock at night. Speeches were given in a large auditorium, while small-group discussions were held in intimate rooms on the upper level of the center. Throughout the day many speakers and participants expressed hope that we could improve the situation of the world.

“There is no space for political neutrality these days. The climate doesn’t allow it. The political situation doesn’t allow it,” said Anna Pinto, discussing the need for climate justice that emphasizes empowering communities to build local, living economies. “There is always time to make it better… as long as there are hands to do the work.”

Young people in the afternoon session discussed the value of youth activism.

“It’s important for students to be involved because of our energy. When we’re impassioned, we’re unstoppable,” said Janet Checkley, a University of Pittsburgh student. “We have more potential to make an impact on the world than we realize.”

At an afternoon panel discussion led by New Voices on Climate Change, Jihan Gearon, an environmental justice organizer in her Navajo community, discussed the need to make justice a central part of our policies, emphasizing that resources need to be distributed equitably in order to address the global economic crisis and climate crisis.

“Everyone always asks about our solutions. If we come back to what actually feeds our souls,” said Hallie Boas, at the panel discussion, laying one hand over her heart, “the solutions are right here.”

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Filed under: activism, global justice, media

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