For the past week a team of Ode volunteers has been handing out free copies of our special “Solutions We Need Now” issue that presents a series of inspiring and innovative solutions to the challenge of global warming (you can get a free digital copy here). Our volunteers have given away thousands of copies and have received great enthusiasm in return. They were looking forward to meeting with many more people over the weekend as Copenhagen witnessed large demonstrations. Interestingly enough, their meetings with the “broad coalition of hundreds of environmental groups, human rights campaigners, climate activists, anti-capitalists and freelance protesters from dozens of countries” as one report described it, were not nearly as successful as the meetings with the delegates, politicians and business leaders in and around the Bella Center, the main venue for the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen.
There was quite a bit of anger among the crowds on the streets this weekend. I’m not referring to the relatively few radical violent troublemakers, many of whom were arrested by the Danish police. Unfortunately such radicals will always misbehave at such events. No, our experience was that the many participants in the largely peaceful marches were not interested in solutions (which is what Ode’s special issue is about). They wanted their anger and frustration with governments and their leaders to be heard. It seemed that they were not (yet) focusing on meeting the challenge and solving the problem. Or maybe they cannot believe that governments will ever act the way these protesters hope.
I sympathize with that frustration. Many people from many organizations have tirelessly worked for years, if not decades, to raise awareness around the issue of global warming. And the political response, so far, has been largely disappointing. There is a radical challenge and we have seen nowhere near a radical response.
Yet at the same time, the one thing we don’t need is more discord. We need to close the ranks and join hands. We are facing a unique global challenge and I would argue an even more unique inspiring global opportunity. And it occurs to me that we need two radical responses. One has to come from the world leaders who need to swiftly plan the transformation from our current fossil fuel based economies into sustainable clean energy economies. The other has to come from environmentalists who need to embrace all the ones that they fear stand in the way of the progress the planet needs: the politicians and the industrial leaders.
I’m sure there are people out there who have but one focus: how to protect their vested interests. And yet my point would be that these people have children and grandchildren too. They themselves would also like to live in a cleaner world and go to their offices without negotiating bad exhaust fumes in their congested cities. In other words: ultimately we all share the same interests. Copenhagen is building momentum for radical climate action. That is very good news. “Old” anger and “old” frustration–understandable as these sentiments are–should not become obstacles.
I suggest that the environmentalists, who have led the issue for so many years, step up one more time and open themselves to the idea that those industrial leaders and politicians may be ready to join them more than ever. I think they may be surprised.
Global Warming is a big topic, the Climate Change Conference is a big event, and there are many points of view on both: Be sure to check out Care2’s daily coverage of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference which is taking place now at Bella Center in Copenhagen.