I don’t particularly understand why people treat Bolivian president Evo Morales as a joke. Is it because he wears funny sweaters sometimes? Well, Nelson Mandela wears funny shirts and he’s about to be the first person instantly sainted in all the world’s religions when he dies. So why is Morales’ called for a World Conference of the People on Climate Change a “brilliant bit of climate grandstanding,” as this post on Foreign Policy magazine’s blog put it. I just don’t get it.

In principle, at least, that sounds like a great idea to me. One of the biggest problems that I have with the environmental movement is that it just does not reach the grassroots. And no, I don’t buy that a bunch of rich white kids from developed nations constitute the true grassroots. No matter how much they protest and get tear-gassed in Europe and the United States, they are not the victims of climate change. And there should be no doubt that there are real, human victims of climate change.

I will be interested to see how this pans out. As the FP post rightly points out, Cochabamba has a storied history on environmental issues, most notably in 2000’s “water wars.” So it is an intriguing location for the conference. Having traveled there and a couple of other cities in the nearby Bolivian altiplano, I have seen how environmental disaster, particularly when it comes to water, is already a reality.

In the wake of the Copenhagen disaster, I caught a few articles calling for more grassroots pressure on nation-states to come through with a real deal. Organizing the grassroots with a southern hemisphere, developing country, potentially people-centered emphasis is at the very least a step in the right direction. Provisional word to Evo about his haters: brush your shoulders off, hermano.