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Climate Change Summit as seen by the Local People PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Colin King   
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 02:04

Copenhagen, Denmark- Journalists, politicians, environmentalists and much of the world will have their attention fixed on Denmark this December 13-15 when world leaders will meet in Copenhagen’s Bella Center to try to come to a resolution concerning the world’s ailing environment.

The choice of locale proves rather interesting in that Copenhageners are rather reclusive since they lost most of their landmass when the Germans took back a couple of ‘duchies’ in the war of 1864. As a result, modern Danes have been raised to not think of themselves as internationally significant. The resulting insider’s perspective on the summit seems to range from excitement and optimism to skepticism and anxiety about having the world’s eyes focused on Denmark this winter.

During my stay in the charming little Scandinavian harbor city, the COP15 has been a prevalent topic of conversation. Many locals are aware of the event but have no opinions about it, international students I’ve spoken to are either involved and passionate about it, but some students remain totally ignorant of its existence.

Balder Wellejus, the water and sewers coordinator in Christiania, the small, non-EU affiliated hub of hippie-dom and autonomy in the middle of Copenhagen, has been involved in making his country-in-a-square-block as environmentally friendly as possible.

“The way we are as a city is that we like recycling, our living here is about recycling,” Wellejus remarks after a conversation about how the buildings where people live were once abandoned by the Danish military, then restructured and re-insulated in order to expend less energy for heat. Another Christianians’ practice is the use of ‘root sewers’ to filter waste to produce non-potable water for re-use in the sewage process and in other projects.

Wellejus, as the coordinator of the root sewer efforts, is passionate about self-sustainability and reduction of waste, but he is pessimistic about the COP15. It holds no hope for him in regards to the production of a global plan of action.

“It’s just a lot of talk, a big production that is going to cost a lot of money that would be better spent on making the world a greener place.”

This seems to be the over-all Copenhagener perspective on the summit. Even the Danish Prime Minister recently expressed his skepticism about the organization’s ability to result in any productive plan of action. Members of the environmental movement are themselves lacking in enthusiasm.

Lasse Markus is the campaign coordinator for a project called Seven Meters, which is planning to hang red lights seven meters off the ground all over Copenhagen in the weeks approaching the summit. This symbolizes the level to which water will rise in years to come if we don’t take action. They will purposefully hang these lights in and around the Bella Center to attract the attention of the world leaders who will be meeting there.

For Mr. Markus the best aspect of the climate summit is the plentiful media attention it will attract so that Denmark and Seven Meters will be heard and seen around the world.

“I think everybody who visits the Bella Center will see what we are doing and see the critical views held by the Danish people. There will be a lot of photographs of our work so that globally, people will get the feeling of a large movement. And if we demonstrate our conviction that action needs to be taken, maybe it’ll happen a little faster.”

As for a cohesive resolution this December, Mr. Markus is doubtful. “No matter what, it will succeed too little. Although I’m pretty skeptical, there’s a lot of hype and everybody’s involved. We have reached a consensus that change needs to happen, so it will come eventually.

Jens Galschiot, the artistic brain behind Seven Meters, is more hopeful.
“COP15 is one of the most important meetings about the climate crisis in history, I’m confident that it will beget positive change. Industry and government have been feeling huge pressure to go green from a huge majority of people all over the world so they have to change soon.”

Copenhagen has tried, along with other cities, to be more sustainable and more green. In April of this year, Copenhagen launched a fleet of small, hybrid busses called E-Busses. They circle the city center, which is mostly dominated by pedestrians every seven minutes and can carry ten or twelve passengers at a time.

Some of the drivers of these new busses are enthusiastic about their contribution to improving the environment and even believe that soon the town busses may become hybrid and more sustainable. But right now, they are not too impressed with the turnout.

“The route is too small to get a lot of publicity. With better advertising perhaps it would have more of an impact,” said Mr. Abduljelloh, a daytime driver of one of the E-Busses. He adds that the city circle busses are not taken too seriously and are mostly used by “elderly tourists.”
His colleagues are even skeptical of the city’s claim of altruistic intent.

“These busses send a message to the rest of the world that Denmark cares about the environment, but it’s too small to have a great impact and might have been started to get some positive press for the COP15,” said Mr. Boeger, another driver.

So readers, wherever you are, if you know people who haven’t yet heard of the COP15, tell them about it. But also be aware that the place where it’s being held isn’t exactly holding their breath for a world saving revolution. They are rather more worried as well as excited about their little city being seen on the big screen.

-Colin King in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Note: Colin King is majoring in English with Media Studies/Journalism at Kalamazoo College, Michigan, USA and spending this semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. Because of his deep personal interest in energy policy and climate change, he will be reporting exclusively for before and during the COP15 conference being held there.

Go to our Countdown to Copenhagen page:

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