Copenhagen: People's summit develops a people-powered response to the climate crisis
By Lauren Carroll Harris, Copenhagen
December 15, 2009 -- Green Left Weekly -- Just
over a week into the December 7-18 United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen (COP15) , thousands of ordinary people from around
the world have already participated in what is being billed as the
“people’s climate summit”, Klimaforum09, also taking place in the Danish
capital. The difference between the two forums could not be more stark.
Outside Copenhagen’s Bella Centre, where COP15 is being held,
has a circus-like quality, with delegates battling their way through a
gauntlet of protesters and lobbyists. One group carries a banner
emblazoned with the slogan “EU: pay your climate debt” and chants “The
world is watching”. Inside, registered delegates, government diplomats and NGO members make
their way through airport-style security checks to participate in what
is increasingly seen as a redundant talkshop.
By contrast, the Klimaforum is open, free and a genuine meeting of different groups,
activists, scientists, farmers and artists to discuss a democratic,
people-powered response to the climate crisis.
Organisers estimate 25,000 people have already taken part in hundreds
of plenaries, workshops, stalls, films, exhibitions and theatre pieces.
Issues discussed include: the impact of global warming on women;
nuclear power; alternatives to the false market solution of carbon
trading; climate justice and tourism; indigenous communities’ responses
to climate change; agriculture; Cuba’s experience of creating a
post-oil economy; and how to strengthen the climate justice movement.
The forum is truly accessible and international in scope. Interpreters
translate the major talks into four languages and special
efforts hve been made to include speakers and participants from
underdeveloped countries already feeling the effects of global warming.
Twice daily, forum organisers share reportbacks and analysis of the latest developments from the Bella Centre.
Copenhagen is flooded with an almost hysterical atmosphere of
greenwashing — the city is plastered with a “Hopenhagen” PR campaign to
promote Denmark’s “green” credentials, alongside corporate partners
such as Coca-Cola and Siemens.
By contrast, at the core of the Klimaforum is an understanding that the
outcomes — if any — of the COP15 talks, will reflect the needs of the
big businesses most governments are subservient to. The overwhelming sentiment is that the people of the world can no
longer wait for world leaders and the free market — that is, those
fuelling the crisis — to act, and that the solutions to runaway climate
change cannot be purely technological or environmental, but must be
based on social justice.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the climate justice movement —
the radical wing of the environment movement — is picking up where the
anti-corporate globalisation movement left off. It is adopting a more
holistic critique of the system that has created not just the
environmental crisis, but cyclical economic depressions and widening
inequality between the First and Third Worlds.
Ten years ago, the anti-corporate movement burst onto the
international stage when thousands converged to overshadow another
meeting of world leaders in which the rich countries aimed to make the
poor pay more — the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in
In fact, the 100,000-strong protest on December 12, and the Klimaforum,
were an explicit attempt by activists to “Seattle” Copenhagen. Like the
climate justice movement, the protesters at Seattle created their own
parliament of the streets and exposed the hypocrisy of the official
Like those at the Klimaforum, protesters at Seattle were scathing of an
inherently volatile financial system based on a tornado of speculative,
exponentially multiplying debt.
Like the climate justice movement, the protesters at Seattle critiqued
the dominance of corporations on governments, and the impact of
unchecked industrialism and rampant consumerism on the environment, on
workers' rights and on deepening Third World inequality.
The issues that the anti-corporate globalisation movement flagged 10
years ago -- the unsustainable nature of a system based on bottomless
corporate greed -- seem more relevant than ever in the wake of the
biggest global economic crisis since the Great Depression and the
growing climate crisis. The two are increasingly linked in many
people’s minds as having a common, systemic cause.
However, there is less clarity, and more debates, about the
systemic alternatives to capitalism. The forum is characterised by a
great receptivity to radical ideas and of genuine, constructive debate
Conference participants offered sharp critiques of the market-friendly
proposals put forward by the First World at COP15, particularly carbon
trading. Naomi Klein, author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine,
addressed the forum’s 1000-strong opening meeting. She said “the
polluter pays” principal must be at the heart of any meaningful
emissions-reduction deal. Cuban biologist and activist Roberto Perez hosted a workshop of more
than 100 people on Cuba’s organic agricultural and urban garden system.
A session on “Capitalism and the Climate Crisis: Left Alternatives”,
attended by several hundred people mostly from the European left,
revealed a consensus among those present about the need to actively
combat the false market-based solutions to climate change.
Ian Terry, a British employee of wind turbine manufacturer Vestas
(occupied by its workers in mid-2009 after it was closed) and a
Socialist Workers Party member, spoke of “the need for the workers’
movement to relate to environment sentiment” and vice versa.
Discussion was mostly limited to how to advance the immediate demands
of the radical climate justice movement. Socialist solutions — the need
for radical economic and social restructuring to achieve a shift to a
carbon-free society while pushing for real social justice and
preserving workers' rights — were briefly touched upon.
COP15 has become more and more discredited over the last week, in
part due to the draft “Danish text”, leaked on December
Put together by the Danish, US and British governments, the document
puts forward a range of proposals that would hand administration of any
emissions-reduction deal to the World Bank, the institution that has long
been an instrument of First World control over the indebted Third
The leaked text also obliterates any difference of obligation
between the poor and rich countries, treating North and South as equal. Third World nations have insisted any COP15 deal should place the
largest burden for emissions reduction on the industrialised countries
responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions — and these nations
should provide ample financial assistance to repay their ecological
debt and assist with sustainable development of the poor nations.
The Danish text leak has prompted outrage from, and threats of a walkout
by, many Third World delegates, and spread public cynicism about the
aims of COP15.
In contrast to COP15’s behind-closed-doors style of wheeling and
dealing, the Klimaforum is putting forward its own plan for a
sustainable world, which people around the world can sign onto (see
below). The declaration will be handed to COP15 leaders, “supplying them
with inspiration as to how a fair climate justice deal can be put
The declaration, finalised by forum participants, emphasises “the need
to create substantial changes in the social and economic structures in
order to meet the challenges of global warming and food sovereignty”.
Major cornerstones of the declaration include: “a complete abandonment
of fossil fuels within the next 30 years’ including specific five-year
deadlines”; “recognition, payment and compensation of climate debt for
the overconsumption of atmospheric space and adverse effects of climate
change on all affected groups and people”; “a rejection of purely
market-oriented and technology-centred false and dangerous solutions
such as nuclear energy, agro-fuels, carbon capture and storage”; and
“real solutions to climate crisis based on safe, clean, renewable, and
sustainable use of natural resources, as well as transitions to food,
energy, land, and water sovereignty”.
The declaration recognises that such changes would require “a
restoration of the democratic sovereignty of our local communities and
of their role as a basic social, political, and economic unit”.
The Klimaforum09 declaration is intended to be a unifying call to arms, a guideline for inclusive movement-building. It declares: “We call upon every concerned person, social movement, and
cultural, political or economic organisation to join us in building a
strong global movement of movements, which can bring forward peoples’
visions and demands at every level of society.
“Together, we can make global transitions to sustainable futures."
What is clear from the Klimaforum is that the climate justice
movement has the determination and openness to grow in breadth and size
— and to become broader and more radical in the wake of the inevitable
[Lauren Carroll Harrisis a climate change activist and a member of the Socialist Alliance of Australia.]
Copenhagen eyewitness: The rising tide of climate justice
News report by Joe Ageyo from NTV Kenya
By Lauren Carroll Harris, Copenhagen
December 14, 2009 -- One
hundred thousand protesters braved near freezing temperatures and took
over the Danish capital, Copenhagen, on December 12 to crank up the
heat on world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit (COP15) and
demand climate justice.
The protest, in a carnival-like atmosphere, brought together a broad
range of groups — from the explicitly anti-capitalist to the lobbying
NGOs — and was led by a group of indigenous activists on a 4.5
kilometre march to the Bella Center, where the COP15 is taking place.
The demonstration was the main focus of a fortnight of climate
justice protests, and was proceeded by a 5000-strong “flood” of
Copenhagen, organised by Friends of the Earth.
The protest involved mainly youth. The many groups included Jubilee
South and Action Aid (who both call for reparations from the First
World to repay their ecological debt and aid sustainable development in
the Third World), the French New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and the
Danish group Attac, which carried a banner saying “Don't let corporate
lobbying destroy our climate”.
An Australian contingent highlighted the issue of global dependence
on fossil fuels for power, chanting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, quit coal
A satirical contingent of green capitalists raised the issue of
greenwashing —dressed tastefully in white, they carried platters of
grapes, glasses of champagne and placards reading “Greed is green“,
“Bangladesh: buy rubber boots“, “Stop global whining”, “We heart green
capitalism” and “We love green, but we love fossil fuels more”. The lead banner screamed, “Carbon trading: the final solution”. One
faux banker urged the crowd to “go home and buy some carbon offsets”.
Protesters chanted: “Carbon trading: big lie.”
Despite the widely acknowledged, clear failure of the COP15 talks, the
sentiment among protesters was jubilant, positive and determined.
Protesters chanted “Our climate — not your business”, “Our world is not
for sale” and “Change the system, not the climate” — in fact, radical
politics dominated the crowd, if not the platform.
Official speakers included model Helena Christensen and Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo. Environmental activist Vandana Shiva pointed explicitly to capitalism
as the source of the current environmental crisis, telling protesters:
“THIS is what democracy looks like, and the COP15 is trying to kill
The demonstration indicated a complete rejection of the green
posturing, market-friendly solutions and inaction of the COP15, and
showed that solutions to catastrophic climate change will come not from
leaders who represent big oil and coal, but the grassroots. It will be
centred around social justice.
The protesters descended upon the locked-down Bella Center as
the sun fell. The crowd was so huge that most could not see the
platform or hear the speakers — instead, the demonstration morphed into
a radical, candlelit street party.
Though there was an unrelenting police presence and a reported 1000
arrests, the majority of protesters remained unperturbed.
Demonstrations will no doubt continue through and beyond the Copenhagen
Today your Friends of the Earth representatives from the U.S. and
across our global network showed up at the Bella Centre in Copenhagen
to keep up the fight for a strong and just climate treaty -- only to be
denied access without notice and without a reasonable explanation.
All this week, the critical voices of civil society have been
increasingly excluded from the climate talks by United Nations
officials. Friends of the Earth and other civil society groups play a
key role at the conference in advocating for climate justice and
supporting under-resourced negotiators from poor countries -- who are
literally fighting for their survival as they push for strong climate
It looks like our efforts to stand up for justice have ruffled some
feathers of UN officials and leaders from rich countries -- who'd
rather be able to spin their weak commitments as success, without civil
society voices there in the negotiating rooms to hold them accountable.
Danish police was out in force on December 16 in one of its biggest
crowd-control efforts ever. A police spokesman said 250 people were
arrested at various points in Copenhagen. Near the Bella Centre
conference centre, I saw four people being arrested. At exactly midday,
approximately 500 policemen began moving in on a protest that they had
declared illegal. The protest at the Bella Centre was organized by
the Climate Justice action network. They had announced plans for a
peaceful protest that would seek to break through the barriers around
the centre. The plan was to hold what it called a Peoples Summit
inside the venue at one oclock, together with climate groups taking
parts in the COP15 talks. But at that time, about 2000 protesters found themselves surrounded by police in riot gear. Police used pepper spray and police battons to keep the crowd under control. When
it became clear that the protesters no longer were able enter the
Centre, the police authorities took off their helmets to adopt a less
aggressive stance. Some riot police were given time to do something
Meanwhile, inside the Bella Centre, tensions were heating
up again. Another day without real progress has passed, and, with 24
hours to go before the heads of state of a 110 countries arrive, the
Danish climate minister, Connie Hedegaard, was replaced as President of
the COP15 meeting. Raymond Frenken, for EUX.TV in Copenhagen.
The signs up all over the airport and various places elsewhere in town are calling it Hopenhagen, but everybody I know is calling it Cop-enhagen, which seems far more appropriate. The international media has been giving this lots of coverage, and rightly so. Of course much of the media is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time, so other things, such as the reason the protests are happening in the first place, can get lost.
Inside the Bella Center lots of stuff is going on. Namely the US, Australia and others leading the way in making sure nothing meaningful takes place there, while many other delegates and activists within try to make the best of it, or at least make the effort to thoroughly expose the bankruptcy of the position taken by the rich countries. The center itself is divided into floors where the big decisions are being made, and then the rest of the place for the little people, the delegates from unimportant countries like Tuvalu, representatives of small NGOs and other riffraff. Many of the folks involved with the process inside are dividing their time between the meetings and events outside in the streets and at the alternative conference going on elsewhere in town.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city. The architecture in the heart of the city is understated but exudes the wealth of a place that was once the capital of a fairly sizeable empire. Of course, though the Danish empire brought some riches home to Copenhagen, the wealth of modern Denmark is far greater, that being the product not so much of empire but of the Danish labor movement and Danish social democracy. It is this check on Danish capitalism that has allowed this wealth to be so impressively distributed, bringing Denmark a quality of life that is the envy of most anyone who knows about it.
Of course, as in any society there are different forces at work in Denmark. Most Danes would identify much more with those peasants who rebelled in the 17th century and helped pave the way for modern Denmark, not with the soldiers who massacred them, but those soldiers were also Danes. Most Danes would prefer to remember the heroic stories of resistance during the occupation of Denmark in the 1940's, but there were also many enthusiastic collaborators.
At so many points in history there are pivotal moments when things can go different ways, and something pushes events in a certain direction. The direction of social democracy has been the ascendant one in Denmark for quite some time, but this was able to happen for a variety of reasons -- the strength and purpose of the Danish labor movement, the fear on the part of the rich of the spectre of communism, the moral bankruptcy of the leaders of society who collaborated with the Nazis after the war, and so on.
If people know anything about this most southerly of the Scandinavian countries they know it's full of windmills. Germany actually has lots more windmills than Denmark, but many of them are made in Denmark anyway, at the Vespas factories in Jutland (where they recently laid off thousands of workers).
There's a reason Denmark has been a pioneer in windmill technology, and it is, to a large extent, the Danish environmental movement. In the early 70's the Danish government was thinking about building their first nuclear reactor, following the example of Sweden, which has one right across the water, upwind. People inspired by ideas of communal living and experiential learning formed a community centered around a Free School near the little village of Ulfborg and began making plans to build the world's largest windmill. Over the course of three years, working with scientists, artisans and large numbers of hippies, they built the world's largest windmill. They refused to patent any of their ground-breaking technology, making it all available for anybody to use. Their windmill, still standing and providing power to the community 35 years later, is the prototype for the big windmills you'll see scattered around Denmark and the world.
This windmill provided more than just energy -- it and the movement that built it provided political capital. Those in parliament arguing for a nuclear reactor lost the fight, and Denmark became a nation of windmills.
For the past decade or so, however, Denmark has been run by a coalition led by the neoliberal, xenophobic Vestre party. They have been privatizing hospitals and passing some of the most restrictive immigration legislation in the world. They have had troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and they have been forcibly deporting refugees back to these war-torn countries. Fueled by the changes to Danish society wrought by EU membership, this conservative coalition keeps winning elections. Along with a love of capitalism and a fear of foreigners, these people also can't stand hippies or punks or other dissenting elements, and they are on a quest to `normalize' the 900-person intentional community in the heart of Copenhagen known as Christiania. To that end they conducted a police raid early one morning in 2007 and destroyed a house they deemed to have been illegally constructed. (I got my first taste of Danish tear gas there a couple hours later.)
Shortly before this home demolition in Christiania, hundreds of Danish police had landed on the five-story squatted social center known as Ungdomshuset (ìYouth Houseî) by helicopter early one morning. They fumigated the place with tear gas, arrested those inside, jailed them for several months, and proceeded to follow the new government policy of destruction of the house. Masked construction workers from Poland did the dirty work, since Danish unions forbid their members from doing work that requires police protection.
Over the course of the next 1-1/2 years, however, the government was forced to backtrack on their plan to civilize Denmark. The movement to support Ungdomshuset grew dramatically, involving a number of fairly significant riots and probably more importantly a weekly drill of marches every Thursday for a year and a half, involving many hundreds and often thousands every week. Eventually the chief of police and the mayor of Copenhagen had to admit that their policies had been a mistake and they gave the movement what it was demanding, a new house, bought and paid for by the city. (Leftwing foundations had offered to buy a new building for the movement but these offers were refused on principle -- the line was that the government destroyed Ungdomshuset and they should replace it with something comparable.)
In the course of the riots and demonstrations around Ungdomshuset the police preemptively arrested hundreds of people on a few occasions. They weren't technically allowed to do this, but they came up with excuses. One eyewitness told me that the police started arresting people, claiming some of them were throwing rocks at them, although the rock-throwing had clearly started only after the police began arresting the assembled crowd.
A new law was passed in preparation for the climate summit which makes this kind of mass preemptive arrest perfectly legal -- all the police need to do is arbitrarily determine that an area is designated as a ìriot zoneî and then they can arrest whoever they want. Any non-Danes arrested can be held for 40 days (including people who were born in Denmark but are not citizens, a reality for many here that may seem surprising to those in the US reading this). It went into effect a week before last Thursday, and since then the Danish police have carried out mass preemptive arrests that dwarf anything they've done before. They don't even need to pretend they had any justification for what is essentially collective punishment.
Those of you from the US reading this should be familiar with preemptive mass arrests. If you haven't had your head in the sand for the past few decades then you know this happens regularly at demonstrations throughout our great democracy. But it's new for Denmark, and it is a serious step in the direction of the Americanization, you could say, of the country. Being an American, I can say first-hand that emulating US policies in terms of law enforcement or in terms of the privatization and outsourcing of industry is all a very bad idea, at least as far as the vast majority of people are concerned -- but the interests of a privileged minority are what moves people like the Danish Prime Minister, not the interests of society as a whole.
The policies and concerns of the new Danish government were represented eloquently by the kettling and mass arrest of a small march that was en route to commit acts of civil disobedience at the docks run by the Maersk corporation. Maersk is one of the world's richest men and runs one of the world's biggest shipping companies (look for his name, it's everywhere). Blockading docks is illegal, of course, and under the normal legal procedures in a democratic society people committing such acts would be told to stop and after a certain amount of time arrested, fined, brought to trial or whatever. Yesterday, however, as with the day before, hundreds of people were preemptively arrested, including many who had no intention of committing any illegal acts, such as one reporter for the Times of London.
I narrowly avoided being arrested two days ago. Of those arrested the overwhelming majority had nothing to do with the rock-throwing incident at the stock exchange that apparently set off the police action. The overwhelming majority didn't even know anything had happened at the stock exchange. All they knew was they were suddenly, randomly being arrested while taking part in a permitted march organized in part by the very mainstream Social Democratic Party. This was a family march involving tens of thousands of people with no civil disobedience or other illegal acts planned as part of it.
The new law may allow for mass preemptive arrests, but international treaties which Denmark has signed called the Geneva Conventions outline certain guidelines for the treatment of detainees which were clearly violated by the Danish police. People were handcuffed in uncomfortable positions for many hours on the frozen pavement, not allowed to move, not allowed to go to the toilet. Some fainted, many wet their pants, adding to the danger posed by the freezing temperatures. Elderly people were arrested along with teenagers. Anne Feeney's husband Juli, a 66-year-old Swede who had been slowly walking beside a carriage, was handcuffed and made to sit on the frozen ground. Among the marchers from Tvind, the Free School movement with whom I was walking, those arrested include headmasters and teachers from throughout Europe and Africa. Every one of the Norwegians I had just been hanging out with the day before from Trondheim were arrested.
I participated in a march that was very quickly thrown together involving several hundred people, starting near the Valby train station and going to the prison to which most detainees had been brought. The police surrounded (escorted?) us and seemed to be thinking about arresting all of us, but apparently ultimately thought better of it. Instead they informed us as we were marching towards the prison that most of those detained had just been released, and that we were welcome to march to the prison but no further.
Outside the prison -- a temporary prison that used to be a brewery -- I heard more stories of how the Anarchist Black Cross representatives who had been attempting to provide soup and solace to people as they were being released were told to leave the premises. When they attempted to set up at the train station a kilometer away they were again told to leave. So as most people left the prison there wasn't even anyone to meet them and tell them where to find the train station. Most detainees were at no point given any food by the police. After six hours some had been given water.
Tonight after Naomi Klein, Lisa Fithian and others from Climate Justice Action held a meeting at the Big Tent in Christiania hundreds of police and dozens of police vehicles were involved in more or less laying siege to Christiania, which was defended, as in the past, by hundreds of masked, black-clad young people making burning barricades and throwing large numbers of bottles at the police, who then fired lots of tear gas. Tonight the police reportedly used a water cannon to extinguish the main burning barricade and arrested 200. Most of this happened while Anne Feeney and I were playing a concert in the Opera House, not far from the main entrance.
The future is not written. There was nothing inevitable about Denmark building a nuclear reactor, and because of the environmental movement it built windmills instead. Equally, there is nothing inevitable about Denmark becoming a neoliberal police state. The years ahead in Denmark -- and more broadly in the rest of Europe, run increasingly by pro-business and xenophobic governments -- will determine in which direction things will go. And perhaps the next few days will be a particularly important moment in that process.
David Rovics is a musician and activist in Portland, Oregon.
Over the past week, tens of thousands of people from across the planet
have taken to the streets of Copenhagen demanding real and just
solutions to climate change. But on the streets, as well as inside the
UN Climate Change Conference, delegates and ‘outsiders’ alike are
doubting that the conference will reach a deal that isn’t a disaster for
most of the world.
Inside the Bella Centre, where the UN delegates are meeting, numerous
critical voices have been marginalised through technical and procedural
manœuvres. Others, like Friends of the Earth International, have had
their accreditation revoked. Outside, the policing of protest has been
consistently draconian and occasionally brutal.
On Saturday 12 December, almost 1,000 participants in a ‘Climate March’
through Copenhagen were arrested. On Monday 14 December, hundreds more
were arrested at a party in the city’s Christiania district following a
public meeting, addressed by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein and others.
On Tuesday 15 December, Tadzio Mueller, a spokesperson for Climate
Justice Action, was arrested by undercover police officers following a
press conference at the Bella Centre.
This morning, on Wednesday 16 December, Tadzio appeared before a judge
on a number of charges relating to his public support for today’s
Reclaim Power demonstration. The declared aim of Reclaim Power – also
supported by social movements, many conference delegates and other civil
society actors – is to hold a People’s Assembly at the Bella Centre, to
discuss real solutions to climate change. At this morning’s court
hearing the judge decided to hold Tadzio for a further three days, after
which he will reappear in court. There are reports that the hearing was
closed to the public.
Meanwhile, hundreds more protesters have been arrested today and there
have been numerous reports of police brutality and the extensive use of
batons, pepper spray and tear gas. We have also heard of further arrests
of individual activists by undercover police officers.
We, the undersigned, not only lend our support to those in Copenhagen
seeking to push for real and just solutions to climate change, but also
demand the following:
• The immediate release of Tadzio Mueller and all other climate prisoners;
• A halt to the criminalisation and intimidation of activists, including
the pre-emptive detaining of protesters in Copenhagen;
• The immediate re-instatement of accreditation withdrawn from NGOs and
other critical voices at the Climate Summit
(This Open Letter was drafted by the editors of Turbulence: Ideas for
Movement, of which Tadzio Mueller is an editor.)
/Initial Signatories (name and affiliation):/
• Ben Trott (Turbulence editor)
• David Harvie (Turbulence editor, University of Leicester)
• Michal Osterweil (Turbulence editor, US based lecturer, UNC Chapel Hill)
• Keir Milburn (Turbulence editor)
• Rodrigo Nunes (Turbulence editor)
• Kay Summer (Turbulence editor)
• Naomi Klein
• Katja Kipping (Member of the German Bundestag)
• Ulla Jelpke (Spokeswoman for internal affairs of the faction DIE LINKE
in the Bundestag)
• Alexis Passadakis (Member of the Coordination Committee of Attac Germany)
• Dr. Simon Lewis (University of Leeds and UN accredited science advisor
• Emma Dowling (Lecturer, University of London)
• Ingo Stützle (editor, ak - analyse & kritik)
• Zoe Young (writer and film maker)
• Friends of the Earth International
December 17, 2009 -- There
are two Copenhagens at this moment. One is the Copenhagen swamped with
one hundred thousand protesters demanding climate justice and social
justice, solidarity and community before corporate profit. This
Copenhagen is flooded with activists, students, parents, academics and
blue collar workers fiercely and co-operatively discussing ways forward
out of the climate crisis, and how to create a world that is
sustainable for people and the planet.
second is "Hopenhagen". Hopenhagen ("population 6.8billion") is not a
real place, but the world that Denmark and the UN would like us to
believe exists. Hopenhagen is a feel-good public relations campaign,
propped up by corporate partners Coca-Cola, Siemens, DuPont and,
particularly incredibly, BMW. Billboards all over the city carry the
campaign's trademark green-coloured scrawl and shiny photos of wind
turbines in the ocean, falling autumn leaves, smiling children,
thoughtful children, solitary figures on mountaintops and Third World
peasants in lush green fields.
The Hopenhagen campaign lives in the centre of Copenhagen in a square called Rådhuspladsen.
Here, you can watch news updates of what's going on at the Bella Centre
and how many people have signed onto the Hopenhagen petition, all
projected onto a giant globe. You can pedal a bike that powers the
lights of a giant Christmas tree. You can learn how to minimise your
power bill at home, and walk through a series of miniature model green
houses. You can pick up some cool new clothes and recycle at the same
time at the clothes swap centre. You can even catch a few bands who are
part of the Hopenhagen Live program. At Hopenhagen's site, you can buy
a t-shirt that says "I am a citizen of Hopenhagen".
is widely seen as a model for green, big cities, and this is part of
the reason it's hosting the COP15 UN Climate Summit. Around 40% of the
city's inhabitants cycle to work, school or university, utilising the
excellent cycling paths. It also has a great district heating system,
which uses greywater and has a very low carbon footprint. Hopenhagen
promotes some of these good achievements, but it goes alot further.
the heart of Hopenhagen is the idea that citizens like you and me can
lend a helping hand in the fight against climate change by simply
changing our consumption habits. The solution is as easy as switching
to organic shampoo, ditching the car and cycling to work, and turning
filling your kettle only halfway. Maybe you could sign the Hopenhagen
petition, or even write to your local leader to let them know that you
really care about the environment. The message is contradictory - consume less, but buy our t-shirts. In
essence, we can make capitalism cleaner and greener, and we can forget
about any fundamental shifts in the way our society functions. We
should use less energy, but forget about where that energy comes from -
coal-fired power plants owned by corporations that exist to generate
profit for their shareholders.
the corporate sponsors of Hopenhagen, environmental sentiment is
another free market commodity that can be bought and sold and
accumulated for the sake of profit, just like every resource, stretch
of land, species, and source of energy the world has to offer.
course, as a PR stunt, there's nothing new about the Hopenhagen brand -
most corporations are falling over themselves to prove their green
cred. That's why one of the main slogans of the Copenhagen protesters
is "Our climate - not your business!" But Hopenhagen comes at a key
time. COP15 was widely deemed to be a failure before it even started.
The world is watching to see if the summit can actually strike a deal,
let alone one that adequately addresses the scope of the climate
crisis. Most people want genuine government action against climate
change. In the coming weeks and months, we'll see what kind of public
response there is to COP15 - and it's likely to be one of
is another attempt to envelop popular environmental sentiment and
growing discontent about government inaction into the culture of
consumerism. But it's a particularly sophisticated one that tries to
capture the idea of people as being more than just consumers, but citizens.
Even UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a statement of public support
for the recent 50,000-strong Wave demonstration in the UK, saying "we
will only get an ambitious climate change deal at Copenhagen and make
climate change history if governments all around the world feel the
pressure of their public calling on them to make ambitious commitments
and thereby to put the world on a path toward a safe future for our
children. On the eve of the Copenhagen conference it is vitally
important that people lend their support for an ambitious deal." The
leaders of the First World know that regardless of the outcome of COP15
and any legally binding emissions reduction deal, they are politically bound by
popular sentiment to act to stop climate change and assist the Third
World in its continued development. Corporations and governments know
they must adopt a green shine to be appealing to consumers.
Gordon Brown and other First World leaders want citizens to know that
they shouldn't be hopeless, that they should indeed be concerned and
even active in acceptable, non-challenging ways - by going to large,
mainstream demonstrations that don't actually demand anything of
the government like The Wave, or by signing petitions or writing to
parliamentarians - but know that their concern is shared by their
leaders, and feel satisfied in the knowledge that their lifestyle
changes are being felt, and their concern is being heard.
truth is, many people who did determinedly put forward their message at
Copenhagen were met with brutality, their civil liberties severed. Over
1400 protesters have already have been arrested, mostly arbitrarily and
without charge. If the Danish government - one of the participants of
the Hopenhagen campaign - are genuinely serious about listening to and
enacting it's people's views on stopping climate chaos, then why has it
introduced temporary draconian laws that limit the right to protest?
the Hopenhagen campaign is blatantly at odds with the reality of what
the rich countries including Denmark are proposing at COP15. The
proposals of the initial Danish text fell far short of emissions
reductions needed to stall runaway climate change, and the revised
range of proposals has no quantified targets, and lacks proper
guidelines for reforestation and for finance to allow developing
nations to adapt to climate change. Discussion has shifted from
"stopping" climate change to "adapting and mitigating" the worst
aspects of warming.
warming cannot be pasted over and glossed up with rhetoric and
branding. In reality, the climate issue is about much more than what we
buy - it's even bigger than the environment. Global warming goes to the
core of how our society organises itself and what kind of values we
want for our society - capitalist values of ever-expanding
accumulation, of profit for profit's sake, or humane values of
sustainability and social justice. Even "green" capitalism has shown
itself to be incompatible with the latter.
India’s leading environmentalist, Vandana Shiva had her ’’heart just
sank’’ as she got off the flight at Copenhagen airport, when the first
thing she ’’saw was a Coca-Cola bottle’’ as sponsor for ’’Hopenhagen’’.
Sponsored by notorious corporate giants, Hopenhagen was a big campaign
during the COP15. Talking to Democarcy Now’s Amy Goodman, on December
14, Vandana Shiva said: ’’ Coca-Cola should not be the symbol of finding
solutions for the climate crisis’’. She pointed out: if you’ve been to
Plachimada, India, where 1.4 million liters, were extracted by Coca-Cola
every day, to make these soft drinks and to do the bottling of water,
’’the women had to rise up against Coca-Cola. The women had to say,
’Shut this plant down, because we are having to walk ten miles to get
clean and safe water.’ That would not be Hopenhagen. The women of
Plachimada would not see hope in a Coca-Cola bottle’’.
Plachimada is a little village in Kerala where the women organised and
shut down a Coca-Cola plant in 2004 and this triggered a movement across
India. It is because communities across India living around Coca-Cola’s
bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages, directly as a
result of Coca-Cola’s massive extraction of water from the common
groundwater resource. The wells have run dry and the hand water pumps do
not work any more. When the water is extracted from the common
groundwater resource by digging deeper, the water smells and tastes
strange. Coca-Cola has been indiscriminately discharging its waste water
into the fields around its plant and sometimes into rivers, including
the Ganges, in the area. The result has been that the groundwater has
been polluted as well as the soil.
’’Water shortages, pollution of groundwater and soil, exposure to toxic
waste and pesticides is having impacts of massive proportions in India.
In a country where over 70% of the population makes a living related to
agriculture, stealing the water and poisoning the water and soil is a
sure recipe for disaster’’, claim the activists campaigning against
The arrogance of Coca-Cola in India is not going unanswered. In fact,
the growing opposition to Coca-Cola- primarily from Coca-Cola affected
communities- has spread so rapidly and gained so much strength that
Coca-Cola had to hire a public relations firm, Perfect Relations in a
bid to spin the problems away instead of addressing them. The oldest and
by far most successful struggle has come forth in Plachimada, Kerala,
where the single largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in the country was
shut down in March 2004. Initially ordered to shut down briefly by the
state government to ease drought conditions, the Plachimada bottling
plant could not resume its production because the local village council
(panchayat) refused to reissue Coca-Cola a license to operate.
struggles have invoked either court rulings or state interventions to
limit Coca-Cola’s savaging of Indian water. For instance, in Kala Dera,
Rajasthan, ’’struggles committees’’ were formed in 32 villages to stop
Coca-Cola stealing their water. Similarly, the communities in Mehdiganj,
a village about 20 kms from India’s holy city of Varanasi, have given
Coca-Cola a tough time. ’’Three plants have been shut down’’, Vandana
Shiva says. ’’Coca-Cola does not bring hope, and Coca-Cola should not be
the symbol of finding solutions for the climate crisis’’, she told
Democracy Now. As expected, corporate media in India, fearing to lose
advertisements, have been either avoiding to cover or downplay these
Yes! Fight the power! I definitely love when the people stand up for what is right!
I think that you should do an article on vegetarians and how they work toward a better climate, what with the efficiency of the vegetarian diet vs the mass produced meat that is quickly using up the planet's resources.
Here's some info if you wanna write this article: http://www.kaycircle.com/index.php?q=10_reasons_to_become_a_Vegetarian
I think it would be a real service to the planet! We need to save the Earth while we can!!
PS: I think I had trouble with posting this comment, so if it shows up like 5 times please don't think I meant to do that :)