In its final hours, COP17 gets Occupied

Perhaps it was the spotty Internet service, two weeks subsisting on pre-sealed sandwiches, or just maybe the fact that on the heels of the latest Conference of the Parties (COP17) in Durban, the world seems no closer to enacting climate change solutions. But Friday evening, hundreds of NGO delegates had had enough. In yet another reminder that the fate of the world rests in the hands of the few, the powerful and the uncompromising, demonstrators filled the main COP17 conference urgently addressing the US, Canada and China with chants of “climate justice now” and “don’t kill Africa!” Some were more direct: “Obama, where is your political will now?” in response to the US’s refusal to agree to binding greenhouse gas emission limits until after 2020.

Other messages seemed directed to delegates from the other attending countries, like “Stand with the people, not the polluters”. One FES attendee tells me, “I think they’re reminding the marginalized negotiators and delegations that they are speaking for the world even if they feel powerless here.”

Many of us remotely observe the COP17 with a skeptical eye. It often appears to be simply a political circus where negotiators rub shoulders, read meticulously prepared statements void of any actionable content, and this latest development may only add an exclamation point. Patrons of the arts (or many beleaguered high school students) might be reminded of the final act in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, when there is much talk about what to do and no action. It’s absurd and infuriating that the most important decision our species has ever faced comes to this. Our play must not end here. What is the next act?

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Photo credits: Maya Breitburg-Smith

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