Earth to Evo Morales

Bolivian President Evo Morales's government has taken a seemingly principled stand in defense of the environment, arguing that the problem is capitalism itself. But environmental policy in Bolivia itself undermines the government’s efforts to assert moral superiority over other countries.

LA PAZ – “Mother Earth is not for sale,” the Bolivian representative told last year’s United Nations climate-change conference in Doha. But environmental policy in Bolivia itself undermines the government’s efforts to assert moral superiority over other countries.

The Bolivian authorities’ radical stance in defense of the environment, which rejects market instruments to conserve forests and vulnerable areas, as well as commitments to reduce carbon emissions, is based on the view that capitalism, not specific technologies or weak regulatory mechanisms, is the fundamental cause of environmental destruction. That seemingly principled stand tends to place other countries in an awkward position. Indeed, Bolivian President Evo Morales led the effort to have the United Nations change the name of Earth Day to “International Mother Earth Day.”

But the success that can be attained through such political symbolism tends to be ephemeral, especially when the government promoting it has so much difficulty translating it into effective environmental policies in an area where it has direct responsibility: the Bolivian Amazon.

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