Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Copenhagen: The Beginning of the End, and, If So, Whose?

Copenhagen: The Beginning of the End, and, If So, Whose?


by Joan Chittister


Published on Monday, December 14, 2009 by The National

Catholic Reporter Distributed by Common Dreams


Welcome to Cop15, the UN Conference on Global Warming

being held in Copenhagen. Denmark is not easy to

forget. In the first place, every school child knows

the tales of fearless, seafaring Danes. In the second

place,every traveler remembers Copenhagen as the city

of $20.00 hamburgers and $40.00 seven minute taxi cab

fares. Copenhagen is, in fact, the second most

expensive city in the world, just slightly less

expensive to live in than Oslo. But that will be

nothing compared to the price the world pays for this conference.


Without a doubt, the price for all of us will be high

if some kind of agreement passes here that limits gas

house emissions of fossils fuels in developed

countries. The price will even be higher if it doesn't.

Worse, the price may well be catastrophic if any kind

of agreement passes that limits development for the

poorest countries of the world but is simply designed

to allow rich countries to get even richer.


The Conference on Climate Change isn't about climate

change at all, you see. The overwhelming body of

scientists and politicians know that global warming is

real, that it threatens rich and poor countries alike,

that it is inevitable unless something is done to

reverse the process and soon. No, this UN conference on

global warming is not about science. It's about money.

So, on Friday, the demonstrations started.


The generation that knows that they will be the people

left to pick up the bill for the decisions not made

here are being carted away in police vans in order to

lower the din of the world's cry for equity, for help.

So, the generation of young that will not be allowed to

make the decision whether to save the planet or reduce

it to dust have come to Copenhagen from all over the

world. Along with the voices of so many others.


People from island nations, for instance, facing

immanent danger from rising water levels in the world

will be the first to have to deal with the effects of

dislocation. People in lands going to dust and stone

from the dried up river beds around them, will soon be

unable to eke out a living in those parts of the world.

People sweltering from rising temperatures and shorter

growing periods will watch as the Garden of Eden

shrivels around them. But as the world fills with

ecological refugees, the rest of us will bear the costs

of what we do not spend now to avert it, as well.


So, there is a tone of quiet desperation in the city

now. And an undercurrent of anger, as well, at the

United States, in particular. A young woman addressed a

hall full of NGO delegates as UN delegates canceled the

second of Plenary sessions of the week in order to flee

into private committee meetings together. The

disappointment was palpable. "We are now at the point,"

she said, "where the United States is using

multilateralism to get the rest of the world to agree

to plans and programs that will simply justify what the

United States has already decided to do. And these

plans are being made despite their effect on other

countries in the world--especially the poorest of the poor."


Instead of plenaries, UN committees worked feverishly

to design a solution to the impasse over degrees of

emission and amounts of economic support necessary to

bring poorer nations the willingness to forego them. If

as a human race we are to dissuade another whole body

of presently underdeveloped nations from seeking their

economic Eden in an economy based on fossil fuels-as we

have-some plan for underwriting the energy engines of

the economies of the poor while we control our own is imperative.


The young woman was not hopeful about the equity of it

all. Nor were all those many in the hall who applauded

her analysis.


From where I stand, several strains were clear:

Whatever agreements come out of Cop15, enforceability

is key. Classism-poor against rich-is a danger.

Multilateralism that does not support those nations who

stand to be as smothered by the effects of national

agreements that deny them economic development as they

are by the effects of achieving it through the energy

sources of the past will become a major political

problem in the future. And, finally, this is only the

beginning of a real struggle to resolve it.


And, oh yes, there is one more thing we might want to

be aware of as we use our water in unlimited quantities

and fuel our over-fueled homes and that is the African

voice that answered the young woman's analysis. "The

only thing to do," he said, "is to work with a

coalition of smaller governments and isolate the United

States entirely. That is what we did to stop apartheid.

Then, eventually, the United States will have to come along."


Time is running out, they tell us. Maybe we should, for

our own sakes, if for nothing else, join the human race

now-before it's too late.


(c) 2009 National Catholic Reporter


A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Joan Chittister is a

best-selling author and well-known international

lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights,

women's issues, and contemporary spirituality in the

Church and in society. She presently serves as the

co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a

partner organization of the United Nations,

facilitating a worldwide network of women peace

builders, especially in the Middle East. Sister Joan's

most recent books include The Way We Were (Orbis) and

Called to Question (Sheed & Ward), a First Place CPA

2005 award winner. She is founder and executive

director of Benetvision, a resource for contemporary spirituality.


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