TAG | Copenhagen
On Wednesday, Renee Willoughby and I served as the lead ushers at the REDD+ Gala at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, an awards ceremony honoring various environmental and political leaders for their work in the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) Program (We did not actually get a chance to watch the ceremony, however, so we could better fulfill our volunteering obligations). Among the persons honored at the ceremony included our own University of Michigan Delegation member Gabriel Thoumi, the presidents of Papua New Guinea, Guyana, and Gabon, along with the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council Francis Beinecke, Rainforest Alliance Senior Vice President Richard Donovan, Bonobo Conservation Initative President Sally Coxe, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall designer Maya Lin, and many more. It was an honor to be among such people who are working to save millions of acres of forests around the world through various projects.
Before the ceremony and continuing throughout the night and the following day, around three inches of snow fell in Copenhagen with more in some areas by the coast, delaying train schedules. I thought it was metaphoric that as I was walking out of the Royal Theatre at midnight to catch one of the last trains home, the snow was untouched and gave me the feeling that the following day, when more of the world´s important leaders would arrive to the Bella Center, there would be clean slate. However, by the next morning when they would begin to gather, the snow had become blackened by cars, snowplows, road salt and de-icing compounds, making what had looked promising in the beginning turn to a mess.
On a different note, we learned last night the police in the town seem to have been given almost Martial Law-esque orders to arrest anyone who even looks remotely suspicious. Multiple conversations with people on the bus have supported this, with one teenager saying he was detained and essentially strip searched likely because he was wearing all black outerwear with his hood up due to the cold.
Links to the videos and photo´s I have taken at the various events at COP15 will be posted on here as soon as I get back to Michigan, which will not be until Monday morning at the earliest as Ben Roberts and I had our flight home canceled this morning, so we will not arrive in Michigan until Sunday night at the earliest. The videos will include Naomi Klein, Al Gore, along with footage from the temporary protestor detainment facility and more.
– Adam Ellsworth
“I would rather see no deal at all than a watered-down version that doesn’t help anyone,” fellow U of M delegate Ahmed Tawfik told Keith Schneider of Circle of Blue and Climate Action Network. Ahmed isn’t alone. Only half way through the conference, already many people are beginning to fear that the bureaucratic powers-at-be won’t be able to deliver at the end of all of this. The problem as I see it is that there is such a disparity between the climate proposals that each nation has brought to the negotiating table, making it virtually impossible for anything but more dialogue and digress to emerge. But there isn’t time for more dialogue—our time is running out to make a change that can actually save lives.
However, the estimated 5,000 climate demonstrations planned for today—both in Copenhagen and around the world—might be the united front that all of these factions have been looking for. Maybe next week’s talks will “get serious” enough, following a weekend of international action, and the more than 50,000 expected to march today in Copenhagen.
This morning I woke up early to start researching the Global Day of Action, hosted in large part by many different groups in the TckTckTck coalition and Global Climate Campaign. In fact, there are currently more than 527 organizations and networks from 67 countries (85 from Denmark alone) that have signed on to be part of what is assured to be the largest demonstration on climate change to date.
In Copenhagen, a rally begins today at 1pm (AMS), with speakers and music at Christiansborg Slotsplads (Parliament Square). After mobilization efforts to energize the crowd, fifteen large recycled sails—each embellished with climate messages—will be carried more than three miles over the course of 2 hours, arriving at the Bella Center where they will be given directly to Yvo de Boer, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Executive Secretary. (Watch a video of Greenpeace preparing banners and signs for the event here.) A candle light vigil will immediately follow at 5pm.
I had heard from friends who studied abroad in Copenhagen that traveling by bike is “the only way to see the city,” but I was totally unprepared for the number of bikes that they have here. The bike lanes are serious—clearly marked, and if a pedestrian dares to step out when the crosswalk is flashing red, there is no stopping on the bike’s part. And the flow of traffic by the bikes is continuous: I would guesstimate that there is about one bike for every two cars on the road, or maybe in all actuality the percentage is even higher and I just don’t realize it because bikes are so much smaller than cars and take up less room on the road. Whatever the case, it is amazing that in such a cold, dreary climate there are so many people willing—and somehow appear to actually enjoy—to ride around in the cold, adorned in mittens, scarves and hats, with any sort of belongings or groceries stowed away in the wicker baskets attached to the front.
What might be even more amazing to me is that virtually no one locks their bike here: I would say the rate of bikes with locks is probably less than 20 percent. Which makes economical sense, to some extent—if everyone already has a bike, there is high supply and therefore very low demand, so not only the cost of new bikes from a store is low, but also those that are hocked on the black market. Why steal a bike if you already have one yourself and you have no one to sell it to?
Read more about the how public transportation promotes green initiatives in Copenhagen at my blog for the Detroit Free Press!
An excerpt taken from Circle of Blue, the non-profit journalism organization reporting the global freshwater crisis that I work for…this excerpt comes from our “Water + Climate” series in the lead-up to the Copenhagen Conference which features news articles linking global climate change and water-related problems in the areas of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and human rights. (Read all of my past articles here.)
“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function,” wrote Albert Bartlett, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado-Boulder, while assessing the sustainability of our planet. His statement is painfully insightful when we consider the global climate and water crises, as both rising temperatures and water scarcity have suddenly crept up on us, rearing their heads violently as either decade-long droughts or devastating floods.
It’s evident – without water as part of the equation, there can be no long-term solution to climate change.
With this in mind Circle of Blue launches our Water + Climate series – an examination of seven ways these two global crises intersect. Our first installment, Water + Climate: Food, examines the most universally tangible problem: global food security. We begin with a look at the push-pull factors that have lead countries with booming populations and unproductive land, such as China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, to purchase land in poorer yet more arable places like Sudan, Madagascar and Pakistan.
While some activists paint these deals as neo-imperialistic land grabs, other leaders champion them as opportunities that will make the developing world legitimate players in the global economy. Each potential deal, whether private or public investments, is riddled with varying economic, political and social complications, leading us to conclude that the truth is somewhere in between.
As we push forward with other intersectional issues in our series, like energy, migration, hydrology and infrastructure, we will also be monitoring diplomatic developments in the run-up to Copenhagen in December. Ultimately we must recognize the lines that connect, instead of those that divide, two of the biggest threats to the survival of the human race.”
My name is Merry Walker and I’m attending the COP 15 as a University of Michigan College of Engineering representative. I am absolutely honored to be a delegate for Michigan and hope to gain insight into how science/technology influences policy-making on issues that are inherently science-based but policy-influenced. I believe that government interactions are absolutely crucial to the long-term success of many technical interventions. The complex relationship between technology, business, and policy has slowly been revealing itself to me over time as I’ve been actively seeking opportunities to take classes, attend conferences, and explore new avenues. These experiences have all made me much more aware that the decisions and recommendations that I make as an engineer must make sense in the overall scape of things. Its with this that I enter my next stage of life wondering where I would like to take my career–toward technology or policy. I hope that I don’t have to chose one over the other and that I can combine my passion for policy with my appreciation for engineering. This trip to Copenhagen should help further my understand of how I can strategically blend the two of these important, but all too often disjointed, fields.