By Mohan K. Pillai
We were standing in the bright sunlight which washed over us, on that cold winter afternoon. We were thankful for the little warmth that the sunlight gave, and huddled closer together to fight against the winter air. We were almost thirty in a crowd which amassed a hundred thousand. Copenhagen, 12th December, 2009.
We were there to protest. To hopefully open a little more, the eyes of those leaders, those ‘representatives’ of our nations, sitting, talking and bargaining, behind closed doors, in Bella Centre. To show them that we cared, that we, the citizens of the world, the ones who elected them to power, wanted them to do their best and agree upon a global movement to control global warming, by cutting down on emissions and progressing aggressively with reforestation and preservation programmes. To exercise our right and responsibility as members of democracies to voice our opinion, and try our best to make our countries make the best decisions. We were students from Sund folkehøgskole, Inderøy, Norway, protesting at the Conference of Parties organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for peace, for Mother Earth, for understanding, and to plead for a move away from the reckless capitalism which is driving our world today. With placards screaming «There is no Planet B» and «Stop Norway’s Oil Addiction», chanting «Climate Justice Now!», responding with goose pimples to the invigorating music, listening to speeches by leaders of NGOs, and environmentalists, like Vandana Shiva, we stood, and later, marched, from Parliament Square to Bella Centre, through the streets of Copenhagen. The energy and hope of a hundred thousand souls in unity kept us going.
Amidst this orgasmic concoction of fervent hope, stubborn energy, despairing anger, and foundational love, in the atmosphere, I found my thoughts drifting. Thinking of nations, of the environment, of the rich and the poor… I could not get myself to understand, or forgive, the greed for economy exhibited by certain developed countries, and their attitudes to the developing ones. I could not agree with the stances taken by my own country, India, in the climate change arena. My nation had to do more.
It is a fact that the developed nations have been the largest contributors to greenhouse gases which cause climate change, and that they have a responsibility of paying for their history. It is also a fact that billions of people are starving in developing countries, and those countries cannot be asked to sacrifice the welfare of their people for battling climate change. Especially when the developed countries themselves were doing only so little.
As we marched, though, I was filled with hope. I felt the hundred thousand souls along with me, right there, and I knew that change was possible. Maybe Copenhagen would truly be Hopenhagen.
Sigh. The audacity of hope. The news from Bella Centre, a week later, made it not Hopenhagen, but NOPEnhagen or FLOPenhagen.
I had wished, I had desperately hoped, that those ladies and gentlemen in pinstripes could help the World. But deep down inside, I knew, that change cannot come from those few. Change cannot come from the policy makers, nor from politicians, or our nations’ lawmakers.
It all has to start within each one of us. It has to start in our Selfs. We have to realize the situation we have in our hands, that of Mother Earth being torn apart, and we having the power to change this. We have to change, and accept change. We have to be convinced to move out of our comfort zones, and make the choice to respect the Earth, to ensure a safe world for us, and to have a world at all for the generations that shall spring from us.
And that dear ladies, gentlemen, and others, is what I intend to convey through this article. The change must come from each one of us. Each of us should feel, and take action. Each of us should be ready to settle for lesser comfort. Choose trains over airplanes for domestic travel. Reduce holiday plans to nearby locations. Don’t buy that thing just because they’re new or they look good – do you really need them? Eat more local produce food, less imported food. Eat less meat. Make your opinion heard, unite and write to your government. Change yourself first, and then protest – challenge others to change. Let our differences unite in our common feeling to respect the Earth. Only in this convergence of souls can revolutionary change take place. And that is what we really need right now. Revolutionary change.
Mohan K. Pillai, student of Sund folkehøgskole, on a Fredskorpset exchange programme to Norway, from India. Artikkelen er tidligere publisert i Folkehøgskolen 1/2010.