For Alternative Environmental Summit and Demonstration in Waterford
INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL FORUM MOVEMENT ARRIVES IN THE SOUTH-EAST
The international Social Forum movement arrived in the south east last week with the Alternative Environmental Summit and demonstration organised by the South East Social Forum to coincide with the EU environment ministers meeting in Waterford over the same weekend.
The Alternative Environmental Summit, under the title of ‘People and Planet Before Profit: Another Europe is Possible’, was held in four different venues over three days in Waterford city and county covering dozens of environmental issues and wider campaigns such as Irish neutrality and the privatisation of public services.
Representatives of over twenty organisations spoke at the summit including: Sustainable Ireland, ATGWU, FEASTA, Irish Anti War Movement, Zero Waste, SIPTU, Coastwatch Europe, Waterford Council of Trade Unions, Waste Study Group, AFRI, GM Free Ireland, Busworkers’ Action Group, Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, DAPSE, Stop Esso Ireland, Debt and Development Coalition, Down to Zero, and Another Europe is Possible.
Hundreds also took part on the demonstration through Waterford City on the same day as the ministers meeting. There were also smaller protests at the location of the EU summit and at the gala dinner in the Tower Hotel.
Principle among the discussions at the alternative summit was the government's attempts to force incineration on to local communities, including in Waterford City, and Fianna Fail's abysmal record on waste management. It was noted that Ireland is introducing incineration at a time when it is being phased out in the rest of Europe and when it runs contrary to official EU policy. The alternatives to incineration such as zero waste and the provision of accessible recycling facilities for communities were outlined by successive speakers. Audiences at the summit were told how zero waste policies, where they had been implemented properly in countries such as Canada and New Zealand, were a huge success. Delegates at the summit agreed on the need for Ireland to reject incineration and for the EU to adopt and implement real zero waste policies.
Other topics discussed at the summit included economic and environmental sustainability, global climate change and genetically modified organisms. It was noted by several speakers that many environmental laws in Ireland and Europe are never implemented because they do not suit the economic interests of multi-national corporations who have the power to flout the law. It is these economic interests rather than concern for environmental sustainability that drive the policy of the EU.
Other issues raised at the summit were the need to stop the privatisation of public services, something the EU is committed to under the GATS agreement and the Lisbon Agenda which plans to privatise key services such as health, transport and education across Europe over the next few years. It was agreed that workers who are forced into industrial action to prevent the selling off of state companies to private business, such as CIE, Aer Rianta and An Post workers, should be supported.
Ireland's sham neutrality, exposed by Ireland's role in the war and occupation of Iraq, where 14,000 US soldiers stop over in Shannon every month; and the continued militarisation of Europe with the planned creation of an European army to fight resource wars, was also discussed by delegates at the summit. It was agreed on the need to build for huge protests when George Bush arrives in Ireland on June 25th and 26th.
The Alternative Summit was the first time an event such as this has been held in the south-east, bringing together such a broad and diverse range of organisations and individuals. These many diverse groups were brought together by the need to present an alternative to the corporate driven agenda of the EU. An agenda which forces incineration, GM foods, privatisation and war on us, because of the profits these can accrue for multinational corporations.
Alternatives exist; such as zero waste, real Irish neutrality, organic production, publicly owned services, environmental sustainability, non-militarisation and a social Europe where worker and social rights are protected and respected rather than constantly attacked in the drive for profits. Everyone left the summit with the belief that Another Europe is Possible and that by acting collectively and presenting the case for the alternative, we can create that other Europe.