COP16 — Green family breakfast

This morning, a group of 30 Greens from all over the world gathered for breakfast in Cancun.  Most were officeholders in Europe, either in the EU Parliament or in country governments.  But municipal councillor Cathy Oke arrived from Melbourne, Australia, former Santa Monica mayor Mike Feinstein came from the United States, and four Canadian Greens joined in with three Brazilians, including the leader of the Brazilian Greens, Senator Marina Silva, who gathered 20 million votes in the last presidential election, earning 20% of the popular vote, 30% of the urban vote and winning the popular vote outright in Brazil’s capital city of Brasilia.

Green family breakfast
From left to right: Ronan Dantec, Deputy Mayor of the city of Nantes (France); Marina Silva, Presidential Candidate (Brazil); Dr Cathy Oke, City of Melbourne Councillor (Australia); Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, Green Party of Canada Climate Change Critic; Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

I had wanted to meet Marina ever since she left Lula’s government over disagreements about dam-building and other environmentally damaging policies and began to consider running for the Greens.  Brazilian Greens have always been strong, with Gilberto Gil, a famous musician, serving as Minister of Culture.  Marina is the daughter of a rubber-tapper and has deep connections to indigenous peoples, 32 years of experience working with trade unions, an association with assassinated leader Chico Mendes and a broad appeal to women, to the poor, to environmentalists and to minorities.

As the only person in the room who was fluent in both English and Portuguese, I was able to participate as translator in all the conversations this exceptional woman had.  She expressed the importance for the Green Party to put forward an independent vision, unyoked with any other party, pointing out that her refusal to support either presidential candidate in the final round of elections has left her with more influence on national politics, forcing Congress yesterday to shelve legislation potentially damaging to Brazil’s forests, simply for fear of repercussions from the large and growing body of Green support in the electorate.

She also spoke of the need to constantly remember that votes belong not to a party but to the electorate, and that every party must earn every vote.  She could never presume to tranfer the votes of any of her supporters, but rather she put forward principles for which she stood, and challenged other parties to meet those principles to attract her supporters in the second round of presidential elections.

Way back in my teens, I remember reading about Green members in the German government, putting forward principled resolutions and bringing their knitting in to meetings.  I didn’t vote Green in those days, but I thought the Greens were cool.  These days, I’m so proud to be associated with so many people who represent the diversity, sustainability, non-violence and justice for which the Green Party stands.  Marina is one of those inspiring people who make me proud to be part of the Green movement.

[Adriana is blogging from the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun, in an attempt to keep the Canadian delegation honest.]

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