I spent eight weeks traveling Europe with a group of 13 AVAAZ climate activists from five different continents, organizing for a better Copenhagen. For the past three days I’ve been trying to make sense of what happened in the final moments of that journey.
The story of Copenhagen began in Bali, Indonesia two years ago. After an intensive two weeks of negotiations, 192 countries, including the Bush Administration, signed on to the Bali Roadmap, a plan to complete a binding global climate treaty in Copenhagen. The Bali Roadmap was a political agreement acknowledging that the evidence for the planet warming is “unequivocal”, and that further delays in reducing emissions would further increase the risks of “severe climate change impacts.”
Fast forward to 2009 – after two years of high level negotiations and new peer-reviewed scientific findings warning that climate change is accelerating faster than previously anticipated, the stakes had been raised for Copenhagen. In the first week and a half of the negotiations, leaders from small island states like the Maldives and Tuvalu and from African countries already being thrust into water-related conflicts from extreme drought resisted threats and bribes from developed countries as they insisted on an ambitious and fair legal treaty committed to containing warming below 1.5 degrees C. Tensions ran high and the talks were deadlocked as rich nations and emerging economies blamed each other and the most vulnerable.
After nine hours of direct negotiations from world leaders on the final day, a weak agreement was reached by a diverse group of interests. The three-page Copenhagen Accord is by all accounts far short of the ambitious and fair legal treaty promised in Bali. While it does finally tie emerging economies like China and India in with the United States under the same climate agreement, it also punts most of the hard decisions down the road another year.
At most the Copenhagen Accord can be called another baby step forward, when the world needed a bold leap. The reason for this colossal failure of leadership was a No Ambition Coalition of the United States and China. Held hostage by fossil fuel lobbyists and an addiction to a 20th century growth paradigm, China held out against a legally-binding outcome and international verification of emission targets while the United States refused to budge from their weak emission targets.
I’m in Copenhagen. It’s dark, but spicy.
Once again I am doing two of my favorite things:
2. I’m growing a mustache for kids, this time from Europe! Remember, a “Magnum P.I.” sponsorship is just $25. People tell me when they do the Magnum P.I., their happiness increases to Danish proportions. (Sponsor my face here. Watch my face here.)
My impression of Copenhagen on my second week here:
1. Daylight dwindles at 4pm here. Even when it’s not dark, the clouds make it so. That’s crazy.
2. Last week Obama squished hopes for a full legal climate change treaty at the two week UN conference in December, saying he prefers a two-step process finishing in 2010.
1. Denmark is the happiest country in the world. So that’s fun. People make a living wage, crime rates are low, health care is free, and the locals get to listen to silly foreigners try to pronounce street names like “Gaestraeksvej” all the time.
2. Copenhagen gets to host the most important global meeting since World War II in a couple weeks. More than 65 heads of state have already committed to attending it. The only country on the planet where this “COP” is not front page news is – you guessed it – the USA. We’re a little busy debating health care to death and the merits of Taylor Swift versus Michael Jackson.
Cross-posted from Grist.
As an activist who has been arrested for civil disobedience, organized national climate mobilizations, protested outside of coal plants and worked for Greenpeace, I am calling on my friends and colleagues to fight for the Kerry-Boxer “Clean Energy Jobs Act” and a strong global treaty in Copenhagen. On Monday Senator Barbara Boxer and Energy Secretary Steven Chu said there is a chance of passing a climate bill in Congress before the international talks in Copenhagen this December. Many of us have spent the better part of a decade preparing for this moment. While supporters of the Kerry-Boxer legislation fend off well-financed attacks by the fossil fuel industry, they simultaneously face opposition from progressive voices within the climate movement.
It’s time for radicals and moderates to come together around what are for. Being right isn’t enough. Each of us must be loud and strong and boisterous in defense of our cause. Oppose offsets and giveaways to the fossil fuel industry. But let us fight hardest for what we believe in – a strong climate bill and a stronger global treaty – than what we fear.
In November 2000 I had the privilege to be one of 200 young people from the U.S. and Africa invited by Greenpeace to lobby delegates at the UN Climate Negotiations in The Hague, Netherlands. We stood below a stage listening to four middle-aged Inuit women, who had traveled outside of their homeland for the first time. They were coming from Alaska, a place where winter temperatures had increased 6 degrees since 1950. Fighting back tears we listened as the women told us of men falling through melting ice while traversing age-old caribou hunting routes. They spoke of dwindling food supplies from altered seasons and seeing mosquitoes in a region that had never known such things. They felt the climate crisis first-hand and were reaching out to us in partnership.
Instead of leaving us in fear, the women joined together in a traditional dance. At that moment we knew what we were fighting for: a strong global climate treaty – to preserve hope, love, community, tradition. The lesson for me: in a crisis, fight hardest for what you believe in, not what you fear. While we should never be afraid to oppose weaknesses and flaws in a policy, they should not rule our agenda or define our movement.
What does this town mean to me? Philadelphia has four giant blocks with the letters “L” “O” “V” and “E” on them. Paris has the Louvre and a bunch of old elegant things mixed with a history of ladies fainting. But San Francisco takes the cake when it comes to love.
Why? Well, it’s about putting on a sumo suit and wrestling people in medieval costumes on Casey and Jess’s 30th birthday party in Dolores Park. Still wearing the suit, I get pile-driven by a large but gentle professional wrestler. The love is about deliriously “winning” Bay to Breakers three times wearing short-shorts, flaring mullet hair, and an orange safety vest that chafes. It’s about shakin’ booty with friends in gorilla suits at our Justin Timberlake-themed Shiny Party. It’s my white-ass doing the bump-n-grind on free funk Friday’s at Elbo Room.
Every November I had one month to grow a mustache and strut my stuff to benefit little children. Then there’s the crowded bed at the Bordello, swapping clothes in Big Sur, getting nearly knocked off a raft on the American River by my newest sibling, poetically fending off an attack by a flock of gulls on the beach, riding giant ice cubes down a grass hill, and hopping from Ginger’s houseboat to Smitty’s and back to the boat outrageously.
I’ll never forget the naked Jesus Buddha man at Zeitgeist. I don’t know why I just said that.
San Francisco has been my life for five years. I’ve lived in the corner of a room for a month, on numerous couches, a closet, four apartments, and nearly in an oven. I’ve ran a half marathon twice with little sleep and less training or stretching. I’ve seen friends come and go and come again. Jobs have come and gone and come and gone (sometimes three times with the same job). Relationships have done the same (sometimes five times with the same person). I’ve been a mess at times, and riding sky high at others.
So, on August 12th I’m moving to Boston.
What?! Why? I know. It’s crazy to leave all of that. But it’s time. My baby niece Gwenyth and nephew Simon are transcending babyness. My grandparents are not Benjamin Button. I have a ridiculous amount of siblings (5), two brilliant parents and some long-time friends back east. As much love as San Francisco has brought me, I’ve always known where home is.
Leaving hurts. It’s scary. I have no idea how well my whiskers will perform in a sea of red-haired Irishmen at Mustaches for Kids Boston. I’m not sure if I’ll make any friends without my trusty costume basket (oh damn! did I really get rid of all that?! come back giant orange sombrero!). Luckily, I kept my tight red pants and green spinny hat for emergencies.
But hey. It’s time to take that leap. Faithfully.
Luckily, today is not goodbye. There is still a month of raucous summer mischief ahead in the Bay. And as for mischief and Boston, it’s like my cheesy project management professor used to say about trouble-makers on your staff, “Bring it on! I’m ready!”
Portia likes to play with cords. It’s quite a thing having your own animal. I had cats all growing up in Vermont, but it was my sister and mom who scooped the poop and dribbled the kibble. That, I’ve learned, makes a huge difference.
Portia comes to us for everything. Petting, feeding, sleeping, and most of all, cord frenzy. In two months with us this cat has eaten two ipod headphones, speakers connected to a subwoofer, and chewed half way through Maddy’s computer powercord. It’s intense.