I’m beginning to think that Copenhagen was what it had to be, what it could only be. It fulfilled its Buddha-nature. Thus, I don’t consider it a failure. Nor do I consider it a success. It was what it was, what it could have been, what it had to be:
A gathering of emissaries from the 64 corners of the earth.
Isaac Asimov observed in Foundation (ISBN: 978-0553293357) that “diplomacy, is the art of speaking for a long time without saying anything.” Most of the diplomats in Copenhagen had multiple agendas. Unfortunately for billions of the world’s poorest, the public agendas of sustainability and the abstract “Gaia Hypothesis” were distant fourth and fifth behind the private agendas of power, money, and influence.
The inconvenient truth is that much of Bangla Desh, California, Louisiana, Southern Florida will disappear, submerged, like the mythical Atlantis. China will continue to build 2 coal plants per week. And people will die.
But disregarding this notion, a Chinese diplomat said, “You’re having dinner, you’ve invited us to dessert, and you expect us to pay the entire bill.” As I’ve said elsewhere, (click) this metaphor is not apt. It’s more realistic to say “We’re in in an opium den. We’re stoned out of our minds. We’re one toke from a fatal overdose. And China is banging on the door trying to get in while there’s some dope left to smoke – and they want to mainline it into the carotid artery.”
The Marxist East is as materialistic as the Capitalist West. Marx, after all, argued against Capitalism, not Materialism.
China demonstrated this with acquisition of the Hummer brand by Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery (CNN Money / NY Times). India, with purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover by Tata Motors, is focused on proving their power to England: Oedipus writ large. India has embraced colonialism. Like the US and Canada, they have shaken off the shackles of colonial subjugation. However, they have embraced their colonial past, and embraced the culture of Empire. Their role now, and China’s: to lend us money so we can buy their shoddy merchandise.
And their role in Copenhagen: To prevent agreement.
And now, as Monty Python used to say, “for something, completely different.” Consider the East Anglia College e-mail security breach. Elizabeth May, Leader of Canada’s Green Party did (click here) noted that the break-in and consequent publication and distribution of private emails occurred immediately prior to the Copenhagen conference, the hue and cry was about a quote taken out of context, misrepresenting a discussion on how to present the data. What was lost in this was, the fact that an email server was hacked. “Who,” she asked, “broke into the computer? Who paid the perpetrator? Who benefits from the crimes?”
What does this mean for you and me, for the nascent sustainability community? For students in the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at UVM (click), The Marlboro College MBA in Managing for Sustainability (click), the Presidio MBA in Sustainable Management (click), The Fowler Center for Sustainability at Case Western Reserve (click)?
The obvious answer is “it is not just some Americans who have their heads in the sand, but the Chinese and the Indians as well. The science is in (click here and here). People in New Delhi, Beijing, and Washington are fiddling while Rome – and the rest of the world – is burning. We have our work cut out for us.”