Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Desperately Seeking Hopeful Signs

Last night, our Moravian College delegation snagged 9 of the 15 tickets available for the general public for an Al Gore lecture, followed by a presentation on the Extreme Ice Survey by its leader, James Balog.  Balog was sitting right in front of us, and, after DH introduced herself and us to him, he later engaged our students in a conversation. Just that afternoon, I had been reading Balog’s “notes from the field” – his blog on the events here in Copenhagen. He wrote:
“I come back to my little rental apartment tonight; in the quiet of solitude, after all the shouting and cheering and music; a nagging question remains: “What does it all matter?” Or, is any of this sturm und drang, from COP-15 to the scientists to the U.S. Congress to today’s march, going to make a damn bit of difference? Possibly not. Global society, with its economics and technology and ideologies, may be a mastodon that cannot be diverted from its path. If that’s the case, we’re doomed.
But I ask myself the reverse question: is doing NOTHING any better than doing what we’re doing?
The answer is “No.” We MUST do what we’re doing. And, with an effort of willpower, force us not to slip into despair. Failure is not an option, as they used to say during the launches of American astronauts to the moon. And if failure is not an option, neither is despair.
We march on.”

    I am struck that many people I meet here are looking for hopeful signs.  Sometimes, we are too hopeful, as when some people actually believed that Canada was proposing to work with the G-77 and to reduce emissions by 40% -- a hoax perpetuated, in part, by The Yes Men.  (This unlikely position of Canada was actually reported by the Wall Street Journal!)  I have gotten e-mail messages suggesting that France and Ethiopia are working together – perhaps this is true. And I walked in to the Bella Center with a minister from Malaysia who was bursting with news that his delegation was willing to limit emissions. With excitement and pride, he posited that all of the other countries would have to follow suit.
    In the plenary rooms, however, there seems to be less hope. The last working group I went to on emissions was only an hour long, and the focus was mostly on the dissatisfaction of the Parties with the lack of transparency concerning draft texts that were appearing with little advance notice. Many of the public meetings have been cancelled – presumably this is because the negotiators are busy negotiating in the back rooms. Tonight I will go to the “closing plenary” of the KP and LCA groups – scheduled until 11:59 PM! The chairs of these groups have been working through the nights over the past week to try to find a path, but they are sounding a bit resigned. 
    As I write this blog, representatives of the indigenous peoples from Bolivia and Peru march through the halls with banners suggesting that we remember them. In many ways, climate justice has become the main story of the day.   And in the hallways and over the meal tables, there is still hope.

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