Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I had enough folks ask if I was doing another performance at Klimaforum, that I emailed Nanna, my "handler" to see if there was any chance of a repeat.
Oddly enough, she emailed me back yesterday, and I never got her email. But she called me this morning, and we went into commando mode, and the show is a-happening!
I've been emailing people all morning, and it turns out my buddy and incredible supporter Jeff Wolfe from groSolar is in town, and he's bringing a crowd. Jeff wasn't able to make last week's show, and having him there makes it all worthwhile!
Barbarina Heyerdahl, Supporter #1 Of All Time is also in town (I'm sharing her hotel room) and will be running sound for me. Barbarina has a mind like a steel trap, and I think has the thing memorized already.
So, no telling, really, how many people are going to show, but this trip has been proceeding with great surprise and unexpected fortune, and so I have faith that regardless of the numbers, we will definitely have a good time.
Monday, December 14, 2009
We talked strategy, philosophy, personality, inherent genius, wu wei (active inaction). Though I must admit I interrupted the flow for a Girlie Moment to complement Velma on her very beautiful bracelet.
We talked about knowing who has "valence," the person in any situation who can make things happen, and being clear that when you're trying to make change, that's who you should be dealing with.
We talked about the U Theory Of Change. This is the idea that to make change, you have to have an open mind, an open heart, and an open will. There are moments when each of these components are open, and they can be engaged, and you come out the other side having been transformed. Imagine moving down one stem of a U and coming up the other side.
Velma said that she's really interested in engaging people just as they're coming up from the bottom of the U.
Velma also talked about how she feels like something is really shifting here: valences, debates, influences, paradigms, institutions.
Kimo pointed out that Copenhagen is self-selecting for the most passionate, the most engaged, the most creative and committed people working on climate change at all levels. He also said there has never been a time in our history when this many top leaders came together in one place for 36 hours to try and fix a problem. It's an enormous amount of concentrated world power, of people who have, to borrow from Malcom Gladwell, blink energy. Rapid, immediate cognition.
We talked about how the inherent role of countries is to look out for the self-interest of a specifically defined collective of people, but that this Moment requires a re-constitution of the inherent purpose of government. These world bodies must now be infused with altruism, compassion, and generosity as the only means of ensuring our survival. We need to take half-formed thoughts in half-formed realities, and vast contradictions and complexities, and at a quantum pace, transform them into immediate and seemingly impossible action.
We have to storm the status quo, crack prime numbers, and remembering that we live on a pale blue dot in an infinite sea of black. We need to go Micro, Macro, Meta, Mundo because it is not acceptable for us to wait for global catastrophe before we act.
It was a heady, invigorating, elevating conversation when went on for hours. We closed down the restaurant and got free wine from the manager, who thanked us for our work.
On the way home in the taxi, I told Velma about what my friend Shyla said to me about my current Purpose. She said I am in the lineage of the Bardic Stream, a storyteller of this Moment. What Joanna Macy calls The Great Turning.
As I got out of the taxi, Velma gave me her bracelet - the one I had admired early in our night together. She said it was a Bangle for the Bard.
This moment is the reason I came to Copenhagen.
Friday, December 11, 2009
December 8. Sitting in on a plenary session at COP15. The first time I have ever seen such a thing. They're having a…discussion (and I use this term loosely) about a particular point in the climate treaty having to do with “carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in geological formations.”
This basically means pulling all the carbon out of the effluvia from, say, the smokestack of your coal-fired power plant, wadding it up into a big ball, and burying it deep in a handy hole in the ground. For example, in a dried-out oil well in Saudi Arabia. More on that in a moment.
CCS is more of an idea and a focus of ongoing research than anything else. It certainly isn’t a proven, workable, and cost-effective technological solution to excess CO2. This is why, when people talk about clean coal, they’re philosophizing more than strategizing. Clean coal depends on fully-functioning CCS technologies, and we don’t have that. Therefore there is no such thing as clean coal.
The proceedings are difficult to follow at first because every delegate making a comment was reading from a statement prepared by an official working group, and which used dense, arcane, highly academic/political language designed to (as far as I can tell) not annoy your allies and not commit to anything you haven’t been authorized to commit to while still trying to move things in a generally positive direction.
I’d been wondering why it’s been so hard for the world to come up with a solid climate treaty, and here's the answer live in front of me.
Burkina Faso (all the delegates are referred to by the name of their country – it’s very Shakespearean that way) talks for 2 minutes about the relationship between energy, ozone-depleting chemicals like CFCs, and carbon dioxide, but I have no idea what he's actually saying.
Brazil goes totally over my head, and Sweden says some generally positive things about the idea of CCS, but doesn’t seem to have a big emotional investment in it.
Australia is the first moment when my Effluvia Meter goes into the red zone. I'm prepared for some shuck and jive from Down Under because they’ve just had a big political turnover and the incoming party is very right wing and opposed to doing anything to save the planet. Australia is all about making robust CCS projects.
I would imagine since the majority of the continent is dry, hot, wasteland, they feel like they’ve got a lot of room to bury the rest of the world’s carbon. For a reasonable fee, of course.
Within the space of a sentence or two, we hear that “CCS is a mature technology” (well-developed and ready to roll) and that “CCS is in need of much more development” (not a mature technology).
Now comes Saudi Arabia, who says, “The most promising technology to achieve the objective of reducing CO2 is CCS.” Mr. Arabia is very upset about the fact that there are no CCS projects in his country (even though there aren’t any CCS projects anywhere), and demands in a petulant, teenager-like way, inclusion of CCS in the treaty.
The Saudis want CCS because pretty soon they're going to have a bunch of big holes in the ground where their oil used to be, and like Australia, they’d be very happy to let us stick our carbon there. For a reasonable fee.
Kuwait pipes up like Saudia Arabia’s annoying younger brother. “It’s true! It’s true!” he whins. “CCS works! Look on the internet!” I’m serious. As if all the delegates here are going to turn around, slap their foreheads, and say, “Oh my Allah, Kuwait! I never thought of that! The internet!”
And then, from out of the proverbial darkness, speaks Mighty Little Grenada, of Conquered-By-Great-Britain-In-A-Weekend Fame. In a voice of Truth and Clarity, he basically says, “Why are we spending so much time on an immature technology? Australia is full of crap. Let’s get on with it.”
Jamaica promptly gives Grenada the equivalent of a High Five and Buttslap, and Paraguay drives the point home with the moral argument that focusing on CCS implies that emissions can continue unchecked, and this sort of thinking will stand in the way of real plans to end dependence on fossil fuels. I started to cheer and applaud for Paraguay, when I realize that this sort of thing is frowned upon at formal UN negotiations. I’m such a barbarian.
More news as events progress...
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
This is a term with which the developed world is going to become increasingly familiar, so I thought I'd write a little primer. Basically, here’s how things look to the developing world (and this is a vast oversimplification, of course, but a place to start):
The last several hundred years of human history have been rife with one version or other of colonialism – from when Portugal and Spain could throw their weight around and the sun never set on the English empire to multinational corporations making gazillions of dollars while polluting the planet and owing no money or allegiance anywhere but to their stockholders, to whom they are unconditionally obligated to maximize profits.
The countries which have been getting the short end of the stick (pointy end of the sword/bang end of the rifle/downstream end of the sewer) on this colonialism deal are full of large numbers of very poor people who are only getting poorer.
These same countries, which have contributed very little to greenhouse gas emissions, are the ones who are currently suffering the most severe effects of climate change. Low-lying island nations like Tuvalu and Maldives are already experiencing rising sea levels which threaten their very existence. African nations like Sudan are locked in drought and their farmers have very little chance of growing enough food to feed their long-suffering people. Countries like Bolivia (or most of SE Asia) which get their fresh water from glacial runoff are having their water supplies threatened by rapidly melting glaciers.
As you might imagine, they’re feeling pretty pissed about it, and they want this climate treaty to make sure that the US and other rich countries pony up enough money to help them develop in a low-carbon, sustainable way, and help pay for all the damage they’ve sustained up to now.
As you might imagine, the rich countries don’t want to do that.
This is a big problem. And it doesn’t even get into how some of these countries feel about free-market capitalism overall, but I’m not going to get into that, because then you get into economic buzzwords that start with sounds like “com” and “soc” and people just stop listening to you completely.
The bottom line is that we’ve been eating all the snacks, using all the toys, and pooping in the sandbox, and the rest of the kids are tired of it.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I got this email from a woman named Helen Hill today:
global warming is a hoax to tax the people thanks for being taken in, and helping spread the scam. Be careful in your desire for fameLeaving aside any comments about her lack of punctuation (or any further comment on the whole hacked email hoax hoo-ha), here's my response back:
Helen, I wish it were a hoax.
But I am here in Copenhagen with people from all over the world - people from Pacific Island nations who are already suffering rising sea levels, and people from Africa who are already suffering drought, and people from the Andes and the Himalayas who are watching their glaciers shrink before their eyes - glaciers which provide their sole source of fresh water.
All of these folks are already having their lives threatened by climate change. I'm sorry you've been mislead by the climate deniers - who tend to be funded by big oil. Exxon-Mobil alone has funded 39 climate change denier groups.
The people - you and me both - have already had money taken from us to fund subsidies to big oil and coal. Switching to renewables can only serve us all, both financially and environmentally.
Best regards, Kathryn
Saturday, December 5, 2009
I'm staying in the London flat of my friends Alex and Elke - a lovely, slightly unlikely couple. Alex is an African-American actor from Los Angeles, Elke is a civil servant who works for the German Embassy. They met on an adult hook-up site, fell in love, and got married.
They've been in London for the past few years, and will be moving back to Germany this summer where Elke will divide her time between working at the embassies in Berlin and...Baghdad.
I took them out for dinner tonight, and we got into an interesting conversation about Purpose In Life.
Alex talked about how while he feels like he's here to make the world a better place, he's very non-political about it, and can't imagine engaging in a cause-driven life such as mine. He said that he's too much of an obsessive personality, and would end up pulling his whole existence, including his relationships and his marriage, into his work.
Elke said that she's very interested taking care of the people she loves, but that if she allowed herself to focus on the big issues of the world, it would just make her angry and incapable of functioning.
The remarkable thing is, though, they might not be cause-driven, but they're living examples of something really important.
Alex is devoted to his personal growth, and he's a loving, generous presence who brings a kind of peaceful music into the room with him wherever he goes. I guessed, and he confirmed, that when he's in a show, he's the go-to guy of the cast. When people have problems, they come to him. When conflicts need addressing, Alex is the peace-maker. When he's not in a show, he writes, plays his guitar, walks the city, and explores his inner life.
Elke loves her job - even though it's a fairly low-level clerical job. And she has no desire to go any further up the chain of responsibility. She's good at what she does, she finds it fulfilling, it supports her well, and she doesn't have to take it home with her. She's able to support both herself and Alex. While they do have a TV and a computer, they don't have a home full of extraneous stuff. They live a pretty simple, non-consumerist existence. And every few years, they get to move to a new country. After Germany, they're hoping for South Africa or Nepal.
I so admire the fact that they've created lives of such elegantly simple contentedness and deep personal devotion. Every time I visit them I feel like I've landed in a safe haven, a place of nurturing and relaxation. I can't help but note that with purpose, but without ambition and drive, they live pretty lightly on the planet.
Perhaps this is an active, vivid part of the vision of the future that we're trying to create for ourselves. Perhaps it's not the toys in our lives but the tone of them, the music we carry with us, which will help us find our way.
It will automatically update to reflect changes in the negotiations. Very, very clever.