Missed Al Gore but what a whirlwind day!

Posted by Mary Platt

Mary Platt

Delegates from 192 countries are here, and the place looks like a mini-United Nations, with folks in saris, robes, Native American garb and all sorts of national headgear mingling with the business suits.  We rushed to hear Menas Kafatos’ presentation for Responding to Climate Change, about “Building an Asian Network” for responding and adapting to global warming.  Menas, for Chapman University, was the sole non-Asian member of the panel, and his presentation was received enthusiastically by our friends from Korea University and the other educational and NGOs in the room.

Then we grabbed lunch at one of the many cafe/restaurants located right in the Bella Center.  Nice salad bar for only 25 kroner (about $5).  Having just come from what seems like a two-day trip aboard British Airways, I feel like I haven’t seen a vegetable in days!

An impromptu protest rally in the Bella Center.

After lunch, we went into the Exhibit Hall to find our Korea University friends, and decided to split up so we could all attend different presentations, and meet back at the Korea booth at 5 p.m.  We need to distribute the flyers we brought about Chapman’s upcoming “Beyond Copenhagen” Conference (April 2010), for one thing.  I decided to get the lay of the land and just wander through this huge conference hall for a while.  Out in the main hall, just outside the Media Center where the press gathers to work, seems to be the center of excitement – big or small, impromptu or planned, this is where the visual demonstrations seem to erupt. First it was a group of about 30 people who suddenly donned bright blue raincoats and chanted “We stand with Africa!” and “Don’t Kill the Kyoto Accord.”  Then it was a group of people in bright orange shirts who all silently lined the edges of the hallway, each carrying a different country’s flag.  Then it was white-robed “angels” on stilts, als,o calling on us to “for heaven’s sake, don’t kill Kyoto.”  It is UN, campus protest and circus rolled into one. But it all seems very earnest and good-hearted.

Bella Center: The main atrium is the "town square."

I fear most of the people here may be a little too earnest, because by all accounts most of the hope that this conference might actually accomplish something lasting and real is fast dissipating.  Most, of course, seem to be blaming it on the Western industrialized countries. There is bound to be disappointment at the end of all this — although we could be surprised.  I would neither call myself an earnest “Hopenhagen”-er or a total cynic – I AM skeptical that this much diversified humanity could ever come to an agreement about anything much, though.  But…one never knows.  I’m hearing various people calling this conference “the most important week in the history of mankind!” and “the last hope for the planet!”  And whenever rhetoric like that starts getting tossed around, one really has to wonder. Maybe dialing it down a few notches and being somewhat more realistic would help get something accomplished.

You can’t say they didn’t pull out the big guns, though.  The ripple of excitement through the hall this afternoon was caused by Al Gore, here to speak at what turned out to be a beyond-packed session on the Greenland ice sheet that we couldn’t get into.  Manny and I were able to get some photos and footage of him , though.

Now the afternoon sessions are winding down and the conference will close in about an hour.  It’s been an exciting first day – oh, forgot to mention that Menas has a short paper on investigating climate-change-related hazards (fires, floods, hurricanes, etc.) in one of the top publications available at the conference, the Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) magazine.  So thanks to him, the Chapman University logo is much in evidence here at COP15.

Will check in later with more…

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