Day 5

How many days does one get to spend time in the company of Wangari Mathai, Vandana Shiva, Yann Arthus-Bertrand (the creator of the book The Earth from the Sky and the movie Home) and 100,000 drumming, dancing, singing, placard-waving visionaries? Long after midnight, the images of the day continue to dance in my head, making sleep a far distant prospect.

It all began with a deep and moving morning session down at the Bottom Meeting in Christiania involving around a dozen leaders of various faith groups taking turns to pray, sing, meditate and chant their blessings of support to our political leaders. Then, in comes the human whirlwind that is Vandana Shiva, defiant, dismissive of the political process at the Bella Centre: “The more you rape the world, the more you should be considered underdeveloped!” She speaks of her new book, Soil Not Oil.

demonstrations in copenhagenThis is followed by the daily burial. So far, oil, the growth economy and the military-industrial complex have been buried in solemn ceremonies. Today, it was the turn of the television.

On to the march and a great outpouring of fun, colour, music and dance several miles long. Some great banner slogans:


TIBETAN YAKS DEMAND CLIMATE JUSTICE (paraded by protesters dressed up in yak costumes)

DON’T PUT YOUR MATE ON A PLATE (the vegan contingent).

demonstrations in copenhagenFinally, on to an evening at the Danish Film Institute. Yann Artus-Bertrand and a team of French film-makers are putting on a simply scintillating programme for the duration of the talks. Guests include Al Gore, Salif Keita, Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change and, tonight, Wangari Mathai, following a showing of the film of her life, Taking Root.

The sheer courage and charisma of this woman cannot be overstated. Given the increasingly common televised images of conflicts and violence on demonstrations, it is not unreasonable to embark on one such as that here in Copenhagen with a certain amount of apprehension. Yet, here before us stands a woman who has repeatedly stood nose to nose with the vicious security services in Kenya – and been beaten into a coma as a result – and who has still come back for more, singing and dancing out her defiance. She is currently looking for Northern partners for her experiential earth restoration and educational activities in Kenya and Congo……..and can shortly expect a call from Findhorn College.

demonstrations in copenhagenMore wonderfully inspiring movies – 6,000 Others is an hour of short interviews with people from around the world speaking about how climate change is already impacting them that goes straight to the heart. Then, Food Inc., including two more of my heroes – US food writer Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin who runs Polyface Farm in Virginia. (Those who know me will forgive yet another plug for the best book I have read in the last few years – Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma from which Joel emerges as public hero number one.)

One special pleasure in this wonderful day has been to hear so many languages – Arabic, Finnish, Estonian, Danish, kiSwahili, Hebrew and Urdu at the meeting of spiritual leaders and countless others including Bengali, Inuit, Spanish, French, Hindi and Chinese during the showing of 6,000 others. Having English as a common language certainly serves a purpose. However, the proud linguistic diversity of the human family added hugely to the power and depth of the day’s experience. Unity in diversity is the key.

Jonathan Dawson
10 December, 2009

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