Worse than hopeless
First prize in the COP15 Greenwash Awards must go to Siemens and Coca-Cola for branding the host city ‘Hopenhagen’. In the centre of Copenhagen Siemens set up their faux city, brightly lit in a mendacious green. There they extolled the virtues of a range of unsustainable technologies from super-fast electric sports cars to bio-fuels. Coke posters proclaim the mega-corp’s sugar and exploitation suffused product as ‘Hope in a Bottle!’ Hopenhagen makes one sick, literally.
There was never any hope of mitigating climate change or attaining climate justice via COP15. The nature and scale of the political, economic and social transformation required would have meant world leaders meeting in the Bella Centre consigning both capitalism and themselves to the dustbin of history. Even the most optimistic deal initially on the table would not have been enough, and what was handed down was much less: unabated environmental destruction across the world for generations to come. ‘Fiasco’ was the dominant summary of expert commentators in Denmark.
Without wishing to otherwise criticise their warrior-like efforts, the second most hopeless slogan at COP15 belonged to Greenpeace: Politicians talk, Leaders act. Yes, indeed. History reveals that national leaders across the world have a solid record of taking action, regularly acting to perpetuate social injustice, war and environmental degradation.
A little way down the Christmas consumer packed high-street from Hopenhagen there was ‘Brad Pitt Saves Planet Earth’, the emblazoned golden casting caravan for a movie that, apparently with no hint of irony, will feature what it says on the can (sic). There too was a melting polar bear made of ice and sponsored by Panasonic, who also missed the irony of routinely building stand-by lights into their electronic equipment.
The brutal policing of protests that were predominantly peaceful and creative was shocking. Police readily handed out what the Danish press delightedly termed ‘baton soup’. At the slightest provocation, Police kettled protestors and used tear gas and pepper spray. Agent-provocateurs mingled with protesters and there were numerous reports of them fermenting conflict. Police used the ‘Rascal Package’, legislation rushed through to justify draconian measures against climate activists, laws previously rejected as anti-terror measures. Stripped of their shoes and jackets, people were imprisoned in wire cages in freezing conditions without access to either toilets or a telephone. With their hands cable-tied behind their backs, some arrestees experienced the indignity and discomfort of wetting themselves.
Meanwhile, most of the mainstream media rewrote the same old stories, caring nothing about the quest for new truths or whether the colour in them came from the protesters’ Santa suits or their blood: wildly red is widely read is all.
Around 1 500 people were arrested during COP15. Arguably, the most hopeless indication of all for humanity was that the press reported sixty-percent of Danes approved of the Rascal Package. Add to that the fact that even the most popular and peaceful public rally at COP15 attracted – at the very most – 100,000 people (there are some five and a half million Danes, most surely with some stake in the future) and so it goes: wonderful, wonderful Hopenhagen.
Qualitatively, if not in terms of limits to temperature rise or concentrations of greenhouse gases, there was hope around COP15. For a start, all those who put their efforts into the creative resistance of Climate Justice Action and the alternative Klimaforum09 did a great job: the organisers, the facilitators, the cooks, the first-aiders, the legal observers… Everyone. There were numerous affinity group actions as part of CJA, involving a diversity from penguins through Santas and Rebel Clowns to academics holding a seminar while blockading a coal-fired power station.
CJA’s bike bloc aimed to, ‘Put the fun between your legs’ for fast and flexible direct action. Upwards of two hundred bicycles must have been reclaimed and repaired in Copenhagen. The fact that the police carried out raids looking for ‘The Resistance Machine’, a pedal powered leviathan that will live forever in the heads of many – protesters and police alike – is a glimmering tribute to the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Dear Police, please note, the clue was in the name!)
Christiania, the semi-autonomous anarchist community in the centre of Copenhagen provided inspiring succour and sanctuary for both protestors and participants in its Climate Bottom meeting (an antidote to the Top Meeting of ‘leaders’ in the Bella Centre). Already besieged by a hostile state, Christiania’s residents acted with the utmost courage and compassion towards its visitors, in sharp contrast to the ‘welcome’ extended by Danish Society as a whole.
Hoping against hope
CJA is looking for feedback. Perhaps, although our resistance is always creative and emotionally powerful, for COP16 in Mexico we should consider more radically changing reality? As crises deepen, which they will, following the circus of capitalism and its road-show of pseudo democracy around the world becomes increasingly unproductive. Drawing on all our knowledge and experience, maybe we should go to anywhere but Mexico. If we mobilised 100,000 people to act more locally in trans-local solidarity, to provide much needed help to eco-villages, social centres, low-impact developments, refugee camps, and other projects that could stand out as good examples of just environmental and social practice, well, what a wonderful world it could be.
Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination http://www.labofii.net/
Climate Justice Action http://www.climate-justice-action.org/