Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My COP15 Journal: Day Five

Day 5: Hold onto your seats, this one is a stemwinder.

Once you get here, it isn’t that expensive, because there is so much free stuff. For delegates, all the public transport is free (buses and subways are mostly honor system anyway — a few random conductors roaming to check tickets and keep the system honest). You can eat quite well just by attending receptions. You can sleep overnight in the Free City of Christiania. We withdrew a hundred dollars at the airport ATM last Friday and we still have most of it, although we have to acknowledge the kindness of our hosts has been a grace bestowed.

Today began with two very fiery deliveries from the least expected of sources. We took a full Volvo downtown to a palatial ashram where Hildur Jackson and Hanne Strong had assembled a crop of select clergy from dozens of faiths — lots of beanies, saffron sarongs, beards, beads, and shaved heads. After meditation, the first up was Joan Chittister, a Benedictine sister, who took a hatchet to the athropocentrism of the Judeochristian tradition.

“The major problem facing the modern world is that the Judeochristian ethic has been used to justify domination,” she said. “Our Western religious tradition teaches us this superiority....” From her iPod she quoted Genesis, “... be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth and subdue it and have dominion over it.” Judeochristianity thus became the most exploitative of all religions, she said.

Our audio recording of Sr. Chittister is downloadable from The Great Change.

“Our creation is a procession of stages. Humanity outranks the universe. It is considered moral that we put our needs above the needs of all others. We teach that man is the crown of creation. We teach that God planned the world for man. We teach that Man is given nature for his use — a free lunch of enormous proportions. Humans are above nature, beyond nature. Its an incomplete, very partial world view, but tidy and simple. Those that lack the power to dominate the resource become the resource. Other sexes, other races, other cultures. Nature has no purpose except to serve civilized man.”

No sooner had the dust alighted on the mirror polished by Sister Joan, than up popped the master of the Sri Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry, Sraddhalu Ranade, who, speaking without notes, dissected all the religious traditions of India in much the same way. Speaking without notes, Ranade said that “Each one having his own way to find awakening does not find the manifestation of the divinity in every form and every thing.”

But its okay, he said. “We recognize our limitations. The Eastern religions specialized in an other-worldly spirituality. The Western ones specialized in a real-life mastery. They both contained a grain of truth. We need a realization of divine materialism. Mastery is not to be found in the sense of dominion but of identity.

“We all know of the Mayan Calendar which ends in 2012. The calendar comes to an end, not because it terminates but because it starts a new cycle. The ancient Indian tradition describes yoga similarly, as cyclic. The first phase is a spontaneous expression of good intention. The second phase is not spontaneous, but comes from a recognition of the good, so we force ourselves to live by our better instincts. The third phase comes when we forget we had the intention and we create conventions to bind us, because we don’t feel it from our hearts. The fourth phase is when it breaks down and we don’t even follow our conventions, until finally, we have a spontaneous realization and the cycle repeats.

Our audio recording of Sraddhalu Ranade is downloadable from The Great Change.

“Its exactly like the way we make a New Year’s resolution. The first days its so easy. We feel the commitment when it happens. And after that we have to force it by our will, by tricking ourselves into staying with it. And then we fall off our commitment and don’t even remember we made it. We go through a lapse until the next year, when we re-develop the resolve.

“The whole of humanity is passing through an introspective process. They used to think the world served them. Now they realize they are steward to the world. It is a profound oneness. The means we perform this is an introspective process. It is by inward contemplation, and that is the contribution of religion.

“There are a few more prophecies I will mention. About a thousand years ago there was a great Sufi saint who said 1000 years from now when man first steps on the moon, Islam will rise to its peak and then vanish altogether. And about 500 years ago there was a mystical pope who predicted that the pope after the one we have now will be the last. Within the Tibetian Buddhist tradition it is said that the 14th Dalai Lama will be the last.  When the 14th Dalai Lama was asked if this is true, he said, ‘It is possible.’

“We are at a point of transition at which the formal structure of all religions will break apart. The future religion is one for each human being. We are receiving indications of this from science. We are in a mass extinction. One hundred species going extinct every day. This a part of a million-year-old pattern. The magnetic field of the earth is reversing. All of these coincide with humanity’s consciousness crisis. We are still living in an evolutionarily obsolete consciousness. When the dinosaurs didn’t change they went extinct. We can choose. The meeting here is a collective choice, which is the sum of individual choices. It is a civilization value that must change. That will take a couple generations, but it has to begin right now. This shift of consciousness is what we are all about in this gathering.”

Whew. We had a lunch to go to so we bugged out before Andrew Harvey began a synthesis of  those two talks. There was plenty to chew on as we passed through Kgs. Nytorv, where the street and advertising art, themed to climate change, had exponentially expanded in the previous 24 hours. What if, we wondered, the advertising world and the art world conspired to bomb American cities this same way: New York, San Jose, Des Moines, Hartford, Oakland, Houston, Tampa ....

In the metro there was an animation being projected on the wall behind where the trains run. Black guy gets coffee from a machine. No milk. Another black man offers milk, and proceeds to squeeze his nipple until a stream fills the cup. “Dude, you’re freaking me out — you’re naked!” says the first man (in subtitles). “Well,” says the second, “as the climate has gotten hotter, I started taking off clothes. Eventually I took them all off!”


At the Bella Center we drifted from meeting to meeting to catch a sense of the buzz. Most delegates foresee one of four possible outcomes from COP-15. The Russian NGOs put these most succinctly:

  1. An ideal outcome — a legally binding agreement. Details to follow.
  2.  Two-stage scheme. The COP adopts a resolution on the mandate and sets a date for completion of the legal agreement with a detailed description of its structure and content (without brackets). A package of urgent aid measures is approved for developing countries most at risk.
  3.  Postponement. Work in frames of the AWG KP (ie: updating the Kyoto protocol) continues but the AWG LCA (Kyoto’s successor) becomes a debating club. Anyone not included in Kyoto (China, India and most of the developing countries) would remain outside the system of monitoring and verification. Conditions will force the process back on track after 2010, but much time will have been wasted.
  4.  Imitation of a decision. No legally binding resolutions, just a formal acknowledgement of voluntary efforts. Some pledges are honored, some are not. The world does not move towards legally binding obligations to reduce emissions by 50% by 2050. Revisiting this later will be harder because it will be shrouded with an aura of finality.

Our common goal as NGOs in Copenhagen is not to allow postponement and definitely not imitation. There are realistic possibilities for coming away with a two stage action scheme, and a long shot at the ideal outcome.

The Climate Action Network began giving out its Fossil of the Day awards. Monday’s top prize went to the Annex F (industrialized) countries “for their deficit of ambition.” Second went to Sweden, Finland and Austria for proposing a cook-the-books approach to forest credits. Third went to Canada for Environmental Minister Jim Prentice’s statement that his nation “won’t be swayed” by Copenhagen.

Speaking of sway, after the IPCC science briefing we heard from Stephen Schneider (IPCC lead author) that a lot of the science community was dazzled by the skillful presentation at the EU plenary event from Johannes Lehmann about the power of char. Way to go, Jo! We’ll have more of the same tomorrow with our own side event for delegates and a modest demo of the Beaner stove at Vartov Cafe in City Center. 

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