Evo Morales spent 10 minutes of his high-level speech decrying the confusion and disorganization unique to the Copenhagen talks. It is strangely reassuring when a well-known head of state feels the need to continue in this vein for nearly a quarter of an hour. Throughout the last two weeks, I had no idea what was happening; I was lost, confused, and upset that I could not contribute more. I couldn’t make heads or tails of my situation; I stood in long lines and was daily criminalized; and when I finally understood the process, I was booted out of it along with the rest of civil society because someone had not adequately capped the number of accredited observers. Police arrested peaceful demonstrators, invaded the university, surrounded crowds and then bludgeoned them–generally for no real reason, other than the fact that no one knew what was happening.

I walked away from this feeling like a total failure, but when I compared stories with everyone else on my delegation, and in the youth movement, we all felt the same way. The feeling was absolutely universal, for civil society and party members and heads of state alike. Evo Morales was confused, Obama left with an air of depression, and even the Secretariat of the UNFCCC was beginning to show the signs of strain when he confronted a crowd of angry protestors who had been blocked from entering the Bella Center.

I support YOUNGO, but I am not sure we were any better organized. There were no systems in place, no method of response, no chain of command. There were so many of us that we either overlapped roles and got in each others’ way, or else we sat around bored with nothing to do. If you had an idea, someone had already thought of it. If you wanted to take leadership of a project, someone more experienced would already be in charge of it. Thus, for 85% of participants, our role seemed to be confined solely to standing around, showing strength in numbers.

Maybe that was part of the reason we failed as a planet. No one knew what to do, and it was impossible to take charge.

Our hostel didn’t make matters much less confusing. We were denied wifi access (all other hostels in the region seemed to provide this) and habitually treated condescendingly by the staff, like elementary school kids. I have written a scathing review right here, if you would like to hear the obscene details.

I don’t have a lot to go back to in Cincinnati. I had hoped that Copenhagen might somehow point me in the right direction, but that seems to have just been part of the larger Hopenhagen pipe dream. I do have a renewed sense of mission–it really is time to reach out, raise awareness, and start a movement. Not a hippie movement; I’ve had enough of that over the last two weeks. No, I mean that we have to mobilize citizenry to start thinking of money-saving alternatives to insane consumption and to start thinking across national borders. We need greater participation in the local system rather than this confounded Rube Goldberg machine that we call globalization. We need to find our pleasures and our meaning in the smaller aspects of life–not our brand-name clothes, not our number of Christmas presents, not our meaningless but well-paid occupation in corporate America. My sense is that it is time to love and forgive, heal old wounds, and make peace with life, because we don‘t know what tomorrow is going to look like, or indeed if such a thing exists.

This will be my last entry. This blog has served it’s purpose; I hope one day someone can use it as a reference on how to run a one-woman show, on the UNFCCC process, or what to expect at a COP. It may also be read as a testament to human failure and futility.

I don’t want to leave you on such a fatalistic note. Instead, I want you to join me. Get involved in a local group. Write to your lawmakers. Send me a message! Reach out to other people and get them involved–they need you. Help me in my ambition to live and die with dignity.

Thank you.

Love,

Liz Trombley

Something you hear a lot of in my line of work is that humans are not evolutionarily equipped to deal with a life-long dangers like climate change.  We are geared towards immediate emergencies, like attacking lions and tigers and bears.  If you read enough articles about the state of our planet, you’ll eventually come across this sentiment.  The Age of Stupid even uses it at one point. 

It makes sense, right?  People tend to act according to short-term needs; this I do not dispute.  But I want you to forget about the nonsense about humans being evolutionarily unequipped to do certain things.  I say so on several grounds.

First, we’re NOT unequipped to deal with long-term dangers and other such issues.  Our entire existence as human beings is built upon agriculture–why did people develop agriculture?  So that they and their families wouldn’t be in danger of starving next year.  Why do people buy houses?  It makes no sense to me.  You have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars and are bound to the bank for the next ten or twenty years–but people do it as a long-term investment, so that they will not have to live with the constant worry of paying rent, and can instead achieve equity and prosper.  Why did Dubai go way out on a limb, spend billions on skyscrapers, and trash the local culture?  Because they dreamed of a better future for themselves.  It doesn’t matter in any of these scenarios that there are short-term challenges, hard work, and disadvantages–the future is more important.  So don’t tell me humans aren’t equipped to avoid long-term dangers and achieve long-term dreams, because I don’t believe you.

I also don’t like the thought of experts telling other people what they are and are not likely to be capable of.  “You’re not biologically equipped to deal with this situation, ma’am,” an evolutionary psychologist tells me.  With tears in my eyes, I give up and go sit down in the corner to waste away.  Way to set folks up for failure–tell them what they’re not good at.

I believe, in fact, that such ideas are a misuse of science.  I have no problem with studying human beings in light of evolution, but too often, it seems to justify our cultural perceptions of ourselves.  “Men are biologically designed to cheat” and “women are evolutionarily equipped to be over-emotional and can’t do math or science”–it doesn’t sound very nice to hear humanity being reduced to this, does it?  Soon you start attributing everyone’s every move to evolution.  Besides, this is only the American cultural perspective that identifies gender in these ways–these are not key masculine and feminine traits in everyone’s culture.  Indeed, other cultures might be appalled that science had proven humanity to be this way.

To me, using evolutionary concepts in this way looks an awful lot like Victorian justifications for colonizing and enslaving whole continents and ethnic groups:  These people were inferior, because they had not evolved to the point that white Europeans and Americans had.  They couldn’t even be taught to be civilized, because they were simply biologically undeveloped.  And because these races were unfit to look after themselves, imperial takeover was justified.  SURVIVAL OF THE EVOLUTIONARILY FITTEST!

Now, saying that humans have trouble dealing with long-term dangers is not the same as saying Polynesians and Africans are genetically inferior to Europeans, and it is different again from saying men and women have biological differences.  But nonetheless, it is using evolution to justify what the species can and cannot feasibly do.  If anything, evolution should teach us that there are myriad ways to adapt to changes, and that we have the potential to reinvent ourselves as much as we need.  That might also be a misuse of science (science is intended to discover the objective truth about our universe) but at least it doesn’t make me want to give up before I even try to solve my problems. 

Perish the thought!  Put it far, far out of your mind!  We ARE equipped to deal with climate change, and that is exactly what we will do!