On Saturday night, after a week of living off of conference center snack bars, a group of us were invited to a delicious home-cooked meal with a real live Danish family. After spending the evening gawking at their stylish furnishings, a few of us had a question: Why are Danes so good at design?
"We're control freaks," our hostess replied instantly. "It comes from being a small country with not much power. We have to control what we can."
When it comes to producing absurdly appealing light fixtures and shockingly comfortable desk chairs, that Danish form of displacement is clearly a very good thing. When it comes to hosting a world-changing summit, the Danish need for control is proving to be a serious problem.
The Danes have invested a huge amount of money co-branding their capitol city (now "Hopenhagen") with a summit that will supposedly save the world. That would be fine if this summit actually were on track to save the world. But since it isn't, the Danes are frantically trying to redesign us.
In the U.S. plenty of bloggers have pointed to the irony of Barack Obama collecting the Peace Prize while he launches a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
Here in Copenhagen, the Nobel – which was awarded in part because of Obama’s reengagement with the climate change negotiations -- carries a special set of ironies.The figure U.S. negotiators are floating for how much Washington will contribute to an international climate change fund is a paltry $1.4-billion.Meanwhile, the cost of the “surge” in Afghanistan is estimated at $30-40-billion. Yesterday I interviewed Kumi Naidoo, the new director of Greenpeace International, and he made this point forcefully:
Posted on EnviroNation
The highlight of my first day at COP15 was a conversation with the extraordinary Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International. We talked about the fact that some of the toughest activists here still pull their punches when it comes to Obama, even as his climate team works tirelessly to do away with the Kyoto Protocol, replacing it with much weaker piecemeal targets.
If George W. Bush had pulled some of the things Obama has done here, he would have been burned in effigy on the steps of the convention center. With Obama, however, even the most timid actions are greeted as historic breakthroughs, or at least a good start.
"Everyone says: 'give Obama time,'" Bassey told me. "But when it comes to climate change, there is no more time." The best analogy, he said, is a soccer game that has gone into overtime. "It's not even injury time, it's sudden death. It’s the nick of time, but there is no more extra time."