Day 3

Amnesia and remembering

I spent the day at the main hub for civil society events, KlimaForum. A word of explanation for those of you not up to speed with how these events work. The three main stakeholder groups involved in international negotiations such as these are government, business and civil society, the last being made up of non governmental organisations and other popular citizens’ movements. For sure, the final decisions here in Copenhagen will be made by governments, but it is by virtue of GEN’s (the Global Ecovillage Network) status as a civil society organisation with consultative status at the UN that I am able to gain access to the main talks in the Bella Centre.

Enough of the Bella Centre (in fact, one day was more than enough)! I found it slick, corporate and pretty soul-less, none of which adjectives apply to the ClimaForum hub. Here it is deliciously informal, passionate and filled with unexpected encounters, a real space of emergent possibilities.
banners in copenhagen
There is a huge gathering of 300 people or so packed into a four hour session addressed by Naomi Klein and a host of community leaders from countries of the global South including Indonesia, Kenya, Peru and Costa Rica. After the suits and ties of the Bella Centre, it is a joy to be surrounded by the diversity and striking colours of indigenous dress styles, with Indian saris, Guatemalan peasants under wide-brimmed hats and bare-shouldered Masai in bright red shawls.

The banners tell the whole story :




Naomi Klein concludes her talk by contrasting the powers represented at the Bella Centre with the peoples’ movements here at KlimaForum as one of amnesia and remembering. Amnesia as the desire “to start the clock ticking from now”, for us all to share the burden of addressing climate change on the level playing field we have now. Remembering as rooting our understanding of the origins of the problem in the centuries of rape and plunder of the global South and the huge emissions already generated by the industrialized countries. The anger and frustration is palpable, with a burning desire for justice.


And yet for those prepared to listen, there is also inevitably despair. Tim Jackson spoke on the report he delivered as a Sustainable Development Commissioner to the UK government, Prosperity Without Growth (in which, coincidentally, he cited Findhorn as a model for how this could be achieved.) He found a new way (new to me at any rate), of presenting the scale of the challenge before us. Currently, he said, one dollar’s worth of economic activity generates 768 grams of C02. This is our current rate of global energy efficiency. To meet the needs of the nine billion people projected to be on the planet by 2050 within the level of CO2 that scientists tell us we need to avoid runaway climate chaos, this needs to come down to six grams, an improvement by a factor of 130!

Stalls at Copenhagen Climate TalksIn answer to a question from the floor, Tim added that modern economics as we know it simply has no reverse gear. We have created a system in which even stopping, never mind contracting at the scale required, creates instability that threatens to collapse the entire system.

I feel a silent, slow motion scream emerge within me. All this passion and righteous anger from the floor of the hall. All the wrongs crying out to be righted. And we are at the wheel of a vehicle that does not do reverse – flying blind.

Jonathan Dawson
10 December, 2009

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