Copenhagen catches fire

17 Dec

I’ve been watching what is going on in Copenhagen with a mixture of emotions: first of all disgust at the utter inability of world leaders to take the issue of climate and change and global environmental destruction seriously, and envy at not being able to join with the protestors there, taking to the streets to insist they do so. I have heard about the 1200 limousines that had be driven to Copenhagen so that world leaders can travel in style to their meetings. And I have read about the cages where Danish police are locking up protestors to keep them away from this new chattering class of the inept and unwilling. It makes me angry, but I can’t say that I am surprised. Just watching the bored and lethargic expression of Canada’s Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, on the television news each night sums it all up: No, they don’t care about global warming. And they don’t want to lose a penny of profits or a smidgeon of control over the people who must live with the consequences of their ignorance.

A couple days ago, I received a press release from the IIED, in the form of a message from Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in their climate change group, and I’d like to end with its first few paragraphs.

“I have been working on climate change for many years, first as a researcher in my native Bangladesh and later as head of the climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, and as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I have seen first-hand the threats climate change poses in places such as the drylands of Africa, the mountains of the Himalayas and the vast low-lying deltas of Asia. I have observed years of inaction at UN climate change summits that have failed to deliver the response needed because negotiators have chosen to protect narrow national and economic interests instead of rising to the challenge of protecting future generations.

I have jousted verbally with climate-change deniers who have strong links to polluting industries and who have never set foot in the vulnerable villages and urban communities where climate change is already having impacts. If they did they would realise the damage their ideology does to the people who have contributed least to this global threat.

And, now in Copenhagen in December 2009, I believe we have reached a tipping point. I truly believe that Copenhagen will be remembered in years to come, not for what happens on 18 December when world leaders meet here, but for what just happened yesterday on 12 December.

This marked the day that people from all walks of life all over the world seized the initiative from our so-called leaders. Regardless of the words these presidents and prime ministers decide in a “protocol” or “agreement” next week, it is the people of the world who have put the writing on the wall!

The leaders who choose to read those words will take us forward. Those who ignore them will be swept away by the tide of history.”

This is why the protests are so important.  And why people will need to keep the momentum up once all our governors have dispersed and the limousines driven back to from where they came.

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