In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the ultimate punishment for serious miscreants was the Total Perspective Vortex. Within this chamber the victim’s brain was exposed for a split second to all the possible permutations between all people and other beings in the universe. In response to this their ego explodes in a puff of its own significance. This is a fairly good metaphor for the Copenhagen I find myself in during the International Climate Change Summit.
In a first day devoted largely to minding my own business, completing uncompleted work assignments and keeping a fairly low profile, the sheer level of stimulation here is already close to being overwhelming. For each microphone avaliable it seems as if thousands of people are competing to get their message across, in what feels like a giant game of Hunt the Microphone.
News from the Bella Centre, where the UN talks are taking place, is more or less what you might expect. Many are queuing for hours at a stretch simply to get accredited to attend the talks. Partly in anticipation of this I have chosen to stay away today, opting instead to go to the Bottom Meeting (apparently not even mildly amusing in Danish) as opposed to the Top Meeting at the Bella Centre.
The Bottom Meeting has been set up by a hugely hard working team of Danish volunteers from the Global Ecovillage Network and associated friends. It consists of a series of day long events created around various sustainability themes. Today I was invited along as one of the presenters to talk about sustainable economy.
Also invited to attend the Bottom Meeting were Ross Jackson from Gaia Trust and Esperide Ananas from Damanhur. They talked about restructuring the global economy, economic experiments within ecovillages and transition communities. All of this was interspersed with world café discussions among the small but attentive and engaged group of participants that included my friend Victor Leon Ades from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The Bottom Meeting happens in tents and marquees set up on the village green in Christiania (the anarchist community in the heart of Copenhagen,) and as you might expect there is a lot of striking and subversive artwork about. Given our surroundings, it felt fitting that at lunchtime we held a solemn ceremony in which we buried the corpse of economic growth with its own splendid headstone.
So, what had all this to do with the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen? On the surface, not much. The Top Meeting itself comprises of various parallel negotiation streams that have been in the hands of international civil servants for years. These are the meetings that fill up the committee rooms and spill out into the corridors of the Bella Centre. At this stage of the process the negotiators are often engaged with fine technical details, which is necessary in order to reach a conclusion. This may be important, but it isn’t what the majority of the microphone hunters have come for.
It seems as if Copenhagen has been turned into a great networking fair. It is providing space for teaching as well as becoming an exhibition, photo and cinema festival, client and job marketplace and an eco product bazaar. It is certainly exciting and stimulating, provided you remember to breathe once in a while. For many of us, the trip to Copenhagen is primarily an important oppourtunity to represent our communities. It is a chance to demonstrate that as world citizens we believe radical action must be taken, and must be taken now.
Tomorrow, I’ll be stepping inside the Bella Centre. Watch this space…
9 December, 2009