Friday, December 18, 2009

Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez in Copenhagen

The socialist leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela made a speech to a modest crowd on Thursday.

Chavez called for a "northern revolution against capitalism."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Reclaim Power March

The Reclaim Power March gathers at 8am on Wednesday. Bag pipes, drums, and a light snow set the mood. The purpose of the march is to create a people's forum in or near the Bella Center. This is a protest about the lack of inclusion in the climate negotiations.

The march begins. Protestors link arms in an attempt to keep police out. The march, however, is filled with undercover officers. At one point the linked arms are broken and two undercover police officers grab a protestor. They pick him up, run out of the march, and throw him into the back of a police van. The van drives away. This happens in less then 30 seconds.

When the march reaches the gates of the Bella Center the energy of the protestors rises. Police put on their helmets. A protestor jumps onto a police van, is followed by an officer, and is beaten until he falls from the vehicle. Police begin using force to keep the protestors back from the gates, at one point spraying activists indiscriminately with pepper spray.

Among those present at the march are delegates, NGOs, indigenous groups, and journalists. Head of the International Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, makes an appearance as the police are forcefully keeping protestors away from the Bella Center gates.

Police begin breaking the chains of protestors and arrest those that are vocal or resist.

Some people attempt to escape the police by fleeing through a nearby field, crossing a bridge over a small stream built hastily by nervous activists.

Many activists, stuck behind police lines, sit and meditate.
The protest ends and 250 people are detained.

Monday, December 14, 2009

40% reduction by 2020 is the real deal

        For many small island states, reducing emissions to at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, is not a matter of negotiation but a matter of survival.

         Old targets, at one time considered ambitious, called for a stabilization of both CO₂ levels, at 450 parts per million, and average global temperature rise, at 2 degrees Celsius.

        Many small island states and least developed countries call those targets suicidal.

A Stabilization of CO₂ levels at 350 ppm (well below current CO₂ levels in our atmosphere) is the new target for climate scientists and activists who are serious about mitigating climate change.

       40% cuts in green house gas emissions is what it will take to drop CO₂ levels to 350 ppm and save low island countries from being washed away.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Giant climate march draws a crowd, but does it cause a stir?


          Today's climate march drew a crowd of thousands- tens of thousands- of protestors. Yes, it was quite the event. Climate activists of every make took to the streets to march from the Parliament building in downtown Copenhagen to the Bella Center (where the U.N climate conference is being held). These activists had a motive, to let our leaders know that the world is watching, that the world will not take a weak climate protocol, and that the people of the world are.... angry?.... no, the feeling of the march wasn't one of anger, or even frustration. The feeling in the air was more to the tune of optimistically concerned.

The word concerned seems to sum up my feeling of today's march. I'm concerned because we might have missed a chance to really show the world how frustrated, scared, and pissed-off we are.

Fluffy is another word that comes to mind. Yes it was pretty: there were banners, costumes, chanting, drums, music..etc.. It was a child friendly way to spend a Saturday afternoon! It was not, in other words, what the world needed.

Yesterday afternoon sixty people were arrested. A march that consisted of, at most, one thousand people - a fraction of today's protest - took to the streets with so much passion, the energy in the air was palpable. The feeling in the smaller march was one of civil disobedience and utter anger at the status quo. Had that protest contained forty thousand people the world would be a different place now than it was a week ago when the climate conference began.

Marching down a planned path in costumes while waving signs that all read the same words in is not protesting, and it is not confronting the apocalyptic mess that humanity is blindly walking into.

The people alive today owe it to future generations to take a lesson from Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, the South Africans who fought Apartheid, and the East Germans who brought down the Berlin wall. Non-violent direct action has proven, throughout history, to incite change.

(Non-violence also means no throwing bricks at the police and through windows of innocent people)

Having so many people in one place, at one time, all for the sake of combating climate change is an opportunity that won't happen again for a while. It's time to make some waves.

Photo 1: The climate march organizes in front of the parliament building in downtown Copenhagen
Photo 2: Police guard a McDonald's that is on the planned route for the protest
Photo 3: Journalists climb scaffolding to get a better shot of the march

Friday, December 11, 2009

Our Climate Not Your Business!

The Our Climate Not Your Business protest meets in Nytorv Square

Protestors march to the road towards city hall, but are blocked off by the police

The police block both ends of the street, allowing only press to leave and enter freely

The police create a blockade

The protestors, angry for being held, confront the police

The police allow the protestors to continue their march. Soon, the march has spread across many streets

People watch the march from the windows of nearby buildings

Activists are arrested during the protest

Protestor-medics join the march in case anybody is hurt by police or other protestors

The police continue to block of areas where the protestors are marching

The protestors are kept still for almost twenty minutes, some take a seat

Checkpoints are made where protestors are searched for contraband

Protestors chant "our climate, not your business" along with "anti-capitalism"

Police move the protestors onto a bridge near Norreport and trap them between either side. They move tighter and tighter until the protestors are squeezed into a small space. The protest ends and 60 protestors are detained

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Candles in the Rain

La Via Campesina, an NGO that fights for peasant farmer's rights, held a candle light vigil in the rain this evening: "in solidarity with the peasant victims of climate change, carbon trading, land evictions, REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), climate ready genetically modified seeds and other false solutions to climate change."

Slow Journalism

        I had a conversation yesterday with a journalist who talked faster than I could think.

        This is significant to me because I don't consider myself a slow thinking person by any means. I tend to follow lectures, movies, and most human to human interactions with a stable comprehension and understanding of the corresponding theme, storyline, and social undercurrent. I also, in most cases, have the ability to share my thoughts with those present (the sharing of thoughts tends to follow the process of thinking...) In the case of the conversation mentioned above, thinking was nearly impossible to fit between the space where one sentence ended and the next began.

        The conversation ended quite abruptly, with a glance at the watch, a quick explanation, and a departure, the sum of which lasted all of five seconds. The backlog of thinking that took place after the reporter (who happens to be covering the U.N conference for a major newspaper) left, put me in a state of self doubt about my ability to exist in a culture of fast-paced, spot news, journalism that looks for 'content' as opposed to stories.

       Upon further reflection I came to the conclusion that good journalism is often slow. I suppose in depth journalism could be referred to as documentary, but in my few years of calling myself a documentary photographer I have constantly had to explain that I am not a documentary film-maker. I work with still images to document my subject matter, which might take months of work. Unfortunately for me, film owns the word documentary. Maybe the photographers, audio documentarians, and writers, who avoid spot news and try their best to tell stories that take time to tell, should call themselves slow journalists.

       Actually, the term slow journalism has been around for a while. An incredible article written earlier this year by veteran reporter Candy Cooper titled “The Death of Slow Journalism” isn't too hopeful about the state of storytelling in newspapers. She compares herself to a dinosaur who's bones will end up in the 'museum of journalism' along with typewriters and newsprint.

        Though I do feel Cooper's style of journalism has all but vanished from newspapers, it is alive and well in other media. Burn Magazine, an online photographic publication run by one of the great Magnum photographers, David Allan Harvey, runs incredibly in-depth photo essays and slow journalism is also alive and well on public radio stations, at least in the United States. Look at the success of This American Life.

         Hopefully, the resurgence of story telling is upon us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Project Survival NL takes a step towards closing the gap.


As I sit in the Bella Center taking a sip of my $5 cup of coffee I can't help but to think to myself of how difficult it must be for a poor but impassioned person to afford a trip to one of the most expensive parts of the world. When 1.1 billion humans live on $1 a day (many of whom are the people already being affected by climate change) how is it that the most important climate conference to date is being held in a region financially off limits to so many? How can we begin to bridge the gap of representation between the wealthy and the poor?

I recently took a seat in the bustling “Climate Kitchen” area of the conference center for a talk with Suzanne Maas, a Dutch representative with Project Survival NL, in order to learn about one project that is working towards fixing this gap in representation. Suzanne became concerned with the U.N climate conferences last year in Poznan, Poland (where COP 14 was held), where she saw African delegations, many composed of only two or three people, next to large delegations from the developed world, sometimes of fifty people or more.
Suzanne is helping manage a pilot program funded by the Dutch environmental ministry that funds and provides visas, plane tickets, accommodation, and daily reimbursement, to nine African youth so they can come to Copenhagen and be a part of their nation's delegations.

“We looked to see which countries had the least people in their delegations, and those were the countries we targeted.” Said Suzanne.

Suzanne sees the Project Survival initiative as symbolic of the change that needs to happen at the U.N conferences. Nine youth may seem like a small number, but the project stands for the belief that unequal representation isn't just an unfortunate truth but that it is an unforgivable violation of human rights, and leads to unfair policy.

Photo: Project Survival NL. Suzanne Maas fourth in from right with Dutch collegues and youth from Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, and Gambia.

The absurdity of it all: Scenes from the Bella Center

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hopenhagen or Corporate Haven?

Naomi Klein is no fan of capitalism. In fact, the Canadian author of The Shock Doctrine is no fan of business as usual U.N conferences either. Mrs. Klein key noted the  opening ceremony of an alternative model for climate change discussion called the Klima Forum. The Forum is a left-leaning (and dare I say profoundly enlightening) set of speeches, performances, panels, discussions, and activism all staged in a building only a few metro stops away from the Bella Center (where the U.N Climate Conference is presently being held). The Forum will be active for the duration of the two week U.N conference.

Klein called COP 15 "the biggest case of disaster capitalism. The deal we really need is not even on the table."

In the past months the "Hopenhagen" add campaign has swept through the pages of periodicals and magazines around the world, spreading the belief that a deal struck in Copenhagen would be something to believe in. The main square in front of city hall in downtown Copenhagen has been taken over by a huge inflated globe. Hotdog stands and green technology companies have set up camp surrounding the globe in a sea of colored lights and business logos. 
Mrs. Klein isn't convinced by the toothy grinned enthusiasm of the square: “The globe has Siemens logo on the bottom and the whole event is sponsored by Coke. That is a capitalization of hope but Klimaforum09 is where the real hope lies.”

I think I agree.

Secretary of the UNFCCC, Yvo de Boer, gets booted for Danish pop band Nephew

Yvo de Boer gives speech to Screaming Young Girls about climate policy and the necessity of striking a climate deal in Copenhagen at a concert for famous Danish pop band, Nephew.

Under pressure from Screaming Young Girls, a stage hand calls 'Time!' to Yvo de Boer.
Yvo de Boer is escorted mid-speech from stage.

Nephew enters and rocks the key-tar.

Screaming Young Girls rejoice. Connection between pop concert and climate change accomplished? Not really.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An intro to COP 15..

After a one and a half hour drive to Boston, a seven hour flight to Great Britain , twelve hours outside the London-Heathrow airport terminal, and a two hour flight to Copenhagen, I can gladly say that I arrived at my destination unscathed (although more than a bit jet lagged).

My first night in Copenhagen I was brought to a University "Friday Bar". The "Friday Bar" is a makeshift club with an amateur D.J, some strobe lights, and plenty of cheap beer (cheap in Copenhagen being around 5 to 6 dollars a pint!). This "Friday Bar" also happened to have a theme, one which might make national news back home in the U.S. The theme was "A Negro Christm
as," much like David Sedaris was shocked (and humored) by the Dutch Christmas tradition he writes about in "Six to Eight Black Men" so was I somewhat appalled and entertained by the scores of Danish youth wearing Santa caps with faces painted black.

It took me until Sunday evening, stupidly, to head towards the Bella Center, the site of the 15th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP 15) to register and receive my access pass. Two hours later, after five different lines (one to get into the gates of the center, another to get to the security and metal detectors, a third to register, a fourth to have my picture taken and receive my badge, and a fifth to get a transport pass!) I was heading back to the mattress on the floor of my Danish friend's apartment. At least I was in the company of a very nice German woman and an equally pleasant researcher from Colorado throughout the Bella Center visit. Long waits are most tolerable when there are friends to commiserate with.

So the conference opens... familiar sounds, sights, and smells. Oh the nostalgia as Green Peace activists make me choose to enter through one of two inflatable red and green plastic gates labelled accordingly "Global Warming" and "Vote Earth". I choose the latter.
Plenaries, opening ceremonies, artistic short films of children in the future dealing with climactic uncertainty, talking, talking, talking. We must do this, we must do that. I feel frustrated by this venue for environmentalism.

Photo 1: The Green Peace inflatable gates
Photo 2: Sleeping during the opening ceremonies of the conference