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No Closed Doors at Parallel Climate Summit

Posted on 08 December 2009 by editor


Indigenous leader Angélica Sarzuri from the Bolivian highlands speaks at Climate Bottom. Credit: Matthew McDermott

Indigenous leader Angélica Sarzuri from the Bolivian highlands speaks at Climate Bottom. Credit: Matthew McDermott

By Enrique Gili

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Two blocks from the Metro station on the busy M-1 Line, the first indication that pedestrians are slipping into the space-time continuum known as the “Free City” is the ubiquitous graffiti and occasional “boom!” of small explosive devices like M-80s echoing through the cobbled streets.

Hippies, bikers and freethinkers rule here, in the largest autonomous – and what many would argue unruliest – neighbourhood in all of Scandinavia.

Located on 85 acres on the grounds of a decommissioned military base is the alternative community of Christiania, where the sentiments of the 1960s still prevail, and the police tread lightly for fear of setting off the street battles that periodically rock the area.

For the next two weeks at least, Christiania has become the gravitational centre for radicals and environmental activists who have descended on Copenhagen to make their presence felt at the Dec. 7-18 U.N. Conference on Climate Change.

They are focused on a broad spectrum of social issues, ranging from indigenous rights to illegal mining.

In another part of the city, official delegates are negotiating future caps on carbon emissions behind the fenced perimetre of the Bella Centre, guarded by a cadre of polite but firm Danish police officers.

So, many of these activists will instead gather at the parallel Climate Bottom meeting in an improvised space consisting of a large circus tent located on the grounds of an eco-village.

The event was organised by Christiania community members eager to capitalise on the confluence of policymakers and stakeholders present for the COP 15 here.

Residents of Christiania note that it is not just Native people facing the prospect of being uprooted, sharing the common bond of having to adapt and change to new realities. Whether it’s a local municipality acquiescing to real estate developers, or the ever-present danger of losing one’s home to drought and wildfire, climbing temperatures linked to global warming are starting to affect nearly everyone on the planet.

“Christiania is being threatened by the local government because of our land,” said Doris Kruckenberg, a coordinator for the day’s discussion on North-South development issues.

Change was in the air as the sweet smell of marijuana wafted through the tent. Dreadlocked 20-somethings and bored-acting high school students gathered to listen to the presentations of activists about the plight of developing countries faced with the prospect of climate change.

Roberto Perez, a biologist and agronomist for the Cuba-based advocacy group Conservation for Nature, observed that tropical storms are raging through the Caribbean at unprecedented levels of intensity, compounding the misery of already poor island nations caught in the path of seasonal hurricanes.

“Climate change is a fact. We are already suffering,” he said.

It was a sentiment shared by many of the speakers attending the conference on a chilly and wet afternoon. Parts of the planet are getter hotter and wetter, while others are experiencing unprecedented drought. Glaciers are melting in the Andean range, and in Bangladesh, floods are sweeping valuable cropland into the sea.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, there will be 200 million displaced people roaming the planet by 2050 as a consequence of climate change.

Although no climate model is 100-percent uncertain, evidence of disruption can be found in Micronesia and Asia as peasant farmers and fishing communities find themselves forced to abandon their villages.

“It’s important that the people being devastated by climate change get to this event,” said Christian Fris Bach, a coordinator of food relief efforts and international director for DanChurch Aid.

Not all voices speak in unison as to what needs to be done or how to proceed. Tove Pederson, a spokesperson for Greenland’s climate delegation, contends that global warming presents a challenge and an opportunity to a nation covered in glaciers.

Retreating ice could expose vast deposits of previously inaccessible oil and mineral resources, potentially presenting a financial windfall for Greenland’s tiny native population, which depends on subsistence hunting and the odd tourist for their incomes.

“We have to live in this world. We can’t just sit down and cry and be paralysed by the fact the climate is changing. We have to face the challenges and take advantage of the new opportunities that arise,” said Pederson.

Attendees called for pushing past the boundaries that limit the parameters of the COP 15 to matters far more spiritual in nature.

Closing sessions featured calls to prayer and songs to the land, sea, and air, all common deities among traditional cultures around the world.

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