As we sit in Oksnehallen Hall, we are keenly aware that, unless a miracle happens within the next several hours, the talks at Bella Center have all but failed.  I don’t care if I’m being too negative–that’s the truth, and everyone here can sense it.   

We have tried to protest–which is not always easy to do when you are denied access to your own leaders and delegates.  We formed a giant crowd dressed as our heads of state (I was Angela Merckl for some reason)–a giant wall of shame.

 

Others of us protested by shaving their heads–to shock the world with “sudden change”, show the ugliness of the UN negotiations, or show the level of committment and a willingness to sacrifice needed to avert global catastrophe, depending on who you ask.

We were also planning on having a candle-light vigil in front of Oksnehallen, arially spelling out the words “CLIMATE SHAME”.  The police, who have been generally awful to NGOs and protestors over the last two weeks, have refused.  No reason was given.  I am truly disgusted.

I can now hear the sound of many rotors.  Fact–helicopters have been circling KlimaForum for the last several days…criminalizing the folks who just want to make the world a better place.  Maybe they should be circling the Bella Center instead, seeing that that’s where the criminals are.

No Food

Yesterday I fasted in solidarity with the Climate Justice fasters and those who will go hungry as a result of climate change.

Maybe it was because I didn’t eat that my day seemed to be a lot worse than it actually was; I don’t know, but I won’t bore you with the details. I will, however, bore you with my discussion of the candle-light vigil.

Since we have been effectively booted from the Bella Center and whole UN process at this point, we have commandeered a hall at a the University that is hosting KlimaForum. It’s almost as good–there is a reasonably-priced food venue, chairs, internet service, and giant screens with the ongoing negotiations projected on them. This was where we held the candle-light vigil last night. It was from 5-7, but I showed up quite late due to some of the drama that happened earlier in the day.

Anna, who has been fasting for 43 days, said a few remarks as did a representative from an AOSIS state. We lit candles and formed the words “Climate Justice” out of them. There were candles everywhere. They filled the dark room with light and warmth. It was beautiful.

It was a time for quiet contemplation, but I didn’t have much time to reflect. Call me a wimp, but the lack of food made me feel perpetually awful yesterday, culminating with a throbbing headache, nausea, fever, and chills by the end of the day. I felt like I was about 100 pounds heavier than I am, and could hardly stand up by 10:00 pm (I’m better now). I habitually don’t eat on some days, but this was by far the worst. My admiration to those who, like Anna, have been fasting since early November. I guess that is sort of a physical type of contemplation, though; people the world over feel perpetually hungry and rotten like this…maybe one day there will be a global crop failure and I too will go through the same. Maybe everyone should be required to fast and then be told that if they don’t change their ways, they’re not likely to have a choice next time.

The solidarity fasters were certainly not alone. Many prominent people chose to support us as well, including Naomi Klein, the many delegates from AOSIS and African nations, and of course my heroes Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben and President Mohamed Nasheed. To participate in something when your heroes are right there next to you really makes you feel like a part of something larger, and even though it sucked at the time, I am glad we went through with it.

Go us!!

The way things stand right now, the negotiations are teetering between total collapse and a greenwash photo-op, according to the briefing I received by a Friends of the Earth member who addressed us here at the Fresh Air Center.  NGOs have now been totally blocked from entering the Bella Center, even with a secondary badge. 

Like I said, I’m not inside the Bella Center today.  I might have been, if the civil disobedience that was being planned had turned out. 

The US youth delegation was planning on sitting in on the US Delegation Office and declaring itself to be the new negotiating team, then announcing the correct mitigations targets needed to prevent the climate system from imploding (since the US is the world leader, no one will commit without the US committing first).  We would have dressed in our most professional clothes and refused to leave until security guided us out.  It would have been peaceful and functioned as one last hurrah before we are shut out entirely tomorrow.

This idea came from an international youth idea to take over the US Delegation Office, but this would have looked really bad on their part in the international media; their message would have easily been lost.  Therefore, we decided we needed an American core, with the support of all international youth–who would accompany us, not be subject to getting kicked out or arrested.

I would totally have supported this and been willing to sit in the line of fire.  When my future is so callously tossed aside in the interests of petty things, risking arrest and being permanently kicked out of the UN (even if one day I do want to be a diplomat) seems pretty unimportant to me.

But–our action was hijacked.  It was twisted from its original statement to become an action in which international youth sit down in the US Center and make a list of demands.  The US Center is not the same thing as the US Delegation Office.  The Center is an informational section right next to the EU Center, and is generally open to the public; it is used for presentations; the diplomats don’t hang out there.  All symbolic meaning was effectively lost by doing this.  Moreover, the US youth delegates no longer would no longer have been doing the taking over.  International youth had protested that they should have a role–which they should, but to include them in the takeover would have conveyed the image of rowdy anti-Americanism.  Great messaging, guys.

Then, the message was further lost by trying to combine the protest against the US with a protest against Canada.  For those who are unaware, Canada has a terrible record regarding climate change action.  I can see that, and see that it needs to be addressed–but let’s not forget that they, too, are hiding behind the US as an excuse not to act.  The US needed to be the target here.

I don’t pretend to be an red-necked uber-patriot, but what really set me against this was when the folks who had been hammering out the details–neither of whom were American–declared the US negotiating team to be “incompetent” and called the US Center the “Propaganda Center” multiple times.  (It’s sort of true, but come on–every piece of literature you will receive in the Bella Center is some form of propaganda.)  Saying it once would have been funny.  Saying it multiple times–especially by a non-American–was really offensive to me as a US national.

That was incredibly insensitive–about 1/3 of those in the meeting were Americans.  Furthermore, the US negotiating team hardly qualifies as incompetent–they simply can’t negotiate beyond what the government allows.  We’re briefed on respecting the nationalities of others when we come to these events–maybe other countries should learn to do the same. 

I also noted that almost no one from the global south (who will most keenly feel the effects of climate change) was represented in this potential action, and I got the feeling that this was turning into some sort of “arrogant European*” radical anti-American action.  The discussion was so badly split on this issue that I took the opportunity to leave.  I don’t know whether it will ever materialize, but I for one will not be a part of it.

I’m not sure why I just spent 700 words telling you this, but it sheds light on what it’s like to work at a COP as a youth delegate.  With all of our energy and idealism, we too stood on the brink between total collapse and a greenwash photo-op.  High pressure didn’t matter; politics got in the way of what was necessary.  The End.

*I don’t think Europeans are arrogant, by the way, but since they wanted to call spades for what they are, then so will I.

Yesterday was the Dec 12 Day of Solidarity, in which citizens in over 3000 cities worldwide held candlelight vigils supporting action in Copenhagen.  I, too, took part in the actions and marched 6 km from Parliament Square to the Bella Center.  

The PowerShift Story

I’ve been in plenty of marches and protests before.  They generally seem to be in the winter under adverse conditions.  There was that one time when I protested the Iraq war, and it was so cold that I got hypothermia.  Then there was the demonstration I took part in for PowerShift.  It was about the coldest day in the history of Washington DC, and there had been a terrible blizzard the night before.  I hadn’t packed any warm clothes.  I never seem to protest on nice warm days, and yesterday was no exception.  It was cold, but at least the sky was clear.  This was the first time I have ever participated in an international march, and there were apparently 100 000 of us. 

As we walked, the Danish people turned out on the streets and waved to us from apartment buildings lining the streets.  Several of our number got recorded on BBC news (FUN!!  I never seem to get any press hits), and it culminated in a candelight vigil with candles and actual torches outside the Bella Center.  I was very cold and tired at that point, and all alone, so I headed over to the Bella Center to check my email. 

When I got into the Bella Center, a lot of people were asking me whether I got arrested, or if it had been really crazy.  No, it was not; although, apparently a few bozos among us started throwing cobbles at police.  They were rightly arrested, but so were 900 other peaceful demonstrators.  I cannot independently verify this at this time, but that’s pretty lame of the police it’s true. 

No sooner had I got to the Bella Center, when someone from the Will Steger delegation grabbed me and asked me to telecast in to a group in Lansing, Michigan with some other midwestern delegates to describe the Copenhagen experience.  I’m not sure how they knew I was from the midwest, but ok.  I told them about the AOSIS show of support I went to (in an earlier entry). 

After that, I went to the infamous NGO party.  Now, I am of the mind that when people say “party”, it ought to mean that I put on a frilly pink party dress, Mom serves cake, ice cream, and fruit punch, we play Pin the Tail on the Donkey and ride little ponies.  The sun is shining, the sky is blue, the grass is green.  The NGO party was not that way. 

First, you had to stand outside for hours just to hang up your coat, there was nowhere you could go just to chill out and talk to people, and I had a real issue with a certain Nigerian official.  I don’t understand people sometimes, I really don’t.  Finally, at 2 am, I just got really sick of it and left.  And THAT was the legendary NGO party. 

I don’t know what’s happening next week.  They’ve restricted our delegation by 75% due to the overflow of people trying to attend COP15.  I may or may not be going back to the Bella Center.  Till we get that worked out, I’m heading into the city to get some overpriced food.

I told you I needed money, right?  And that I was aggressively going to fundraise this upcoming week, remember?  Well, that’s exactly what I did over the weekend.

For the non-Cincinnatians out there, we have this really awesome thing called Findlay Market, which is part farmer’s market and part community center.  They let you set up fundraisers if you are part of a non-profit (which I am because of SustainUS).  And I did.

With no offence intended towards the good folk at Findlay Market, it really wasn’t an experience worth repeating.  First you have to show up before 8 am, or else risk missing out because it’s first-come, first-serve.  You’re pretty much required to stay there till 6pm.  And that’s not a criticism–believe me, that’s the good part!

I put up large signs explaining what I was doing and asked people for contributions as they came over to my booth (which happened to be my mom’s old card table with a keffiyah covering some of the ravages of time).  I don’t really have anything to sell, so I mixed up some old henna for tattoos, and also offered to write folks names in Arabic on pretty paper.  And you would not believe how openly derisive some people were about this!  I’M JUST A KID OKAY?  I’M SHOWING INITIATIVE BY ATTENDING A U.N. CONFERENCE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY AND FINDING A METHOD TO RAISE THE MONEY TO GET THERE.  That’s exactly why this country’s in trouble: too many people have taken to mocking the American spirit of multiculturalism and entrepreneurialism!

Findlay Market is not located in some quiet countryside locale.  It’s right in the middle of the city, in Over-the-Rhine (kind of a rough neighborhood formerly known for its gang violence).  You meet a lot of interesting people.  One woman was pushing along a fake baby in a stroller and insisted on signing my petition in gibberish.  Another woman refused to support me, apparently because I hadn’t devoted my life to stopping abortions.  If only she had understood that I was trying to help stop humans from aborting THE EARTH (I was very insulted).  One man actually molested me (Oh my GOD!  I’m not even going to discuss the incident here).

On both days, I left at 3:15, unable to drag the day out another 3 hours.  For my efforts, I made a combined total of $42.68. 

Well, I’m starting to make it sound like Hell.  Which it maybe was, but what made it tolerable was the children.  The kids always notice the pretty things you are selling.  They always come over and say, Ooh, how neat!  They are proud of their reading abilities, and actually read the signs I put up.  I didn’t have to tell any of them, “No, I’m not FROM Copenhagen; I’m travelling there” (which I DID have to tell the adults).  Kids don’t proselytize, nor do they molest.  The only problem is that, unfortunately, they are nearly always accompanied by one or more adults who don’t generally notice or care what their kids are interested in (the ones who do probably spoke to me this weekend and are reading this blog!).

This is the best part: at one point, three kids came over and contributed a dollar because they really wanted to help out–and I tell you, that dollar is to me worth as much as the other forty two combined.  When I watch the dumb crap  that people do to each other (like the antics I put up with this weekend, for instance, or privileged frat boys who come to Copenhagen for an all-expenses paid party session while I’m out busting my @$$ to get the funds to go in the first place!), I have to ask myself if humanity’s existence on this earth is even worth saving.  Then three kids give me a dollar, and I know it’s worth it. 

It’s funny how such small symbolic gestures can have such a profound impact on our lives, beliefs, and motivations.

Today I gave the Copenhagen Process lecture at UC, and it was probably less boring than I was afraid it might be.  I gave the lecture in tandem with Mr. Gary Bramble, who works with waste management and will be attending the talks as well.  I’m enclosing a copy of my presentation below; feel free to download it, look at it, and use it for your own purposes.  You have my permission!

The Copenhangen Process

After we each spoke for about 20 minutes, we took questions.  It was a lot of fun, and I thank the folks in attendence for their presence.  The NewsRecord was there (these guys ROCK), and you can read about the event in this NewsRecord article. (My only beef with it is that the photo makes me look like a totally gross slob–which I am, though).

For now, I will mention that the Age of Stupid event, which I attended Monday evening, has also been written up in the campus newspaper.  Jeff, who I worked with on the 350 Day of Action, is quoted in the article and so am I!  It’s right here.

After the lecture, I met up with the UN “Seal the Deal” movement upstairs and added some petition signatures.  Thanks to all who signed!  If you have not signed yet, click here for your chance

I really enjoy this doing this stuff!  Keep it coming!