Swimming With the Current

This Conference Of Parties, COP 15 is not COP 15th.. It is not one among the series of 1st to 16th that comes before 16th and after 14th. It is ‘COP 15’ – a stand alone event and it is the best ever so far, most successful meeting right now. After weeks of hectic negotiations at COP15, five countries including India, China and the US arrived at a proposal. Not, as the media highlighted to be, something that was salvaged by the President of USA’s intervention for hammering out an agreement among the BASIC group, but the best outcome we got out of the four major polluters contributors to come up with a consensus. “BASIC” is something to celebrate and take actions toward the future and towards controlling climate change. This ensures that the five major polluting countries including the USA have take responsibility for the changing climate and have made a commitment to the future of less than 2 degrees of temperature rise and saving the earth from the deleterious impacts of climate change. This is an empowering context to operate from.

There is resignation and cynicism, because the countries involved and the groups they can form seem to be infinite. It seems like a struggle, between various groups of countries and among various countries, based on their size, their location, their level of development, and their claim to responsibility towards global warming. There is a group formed by countries that are low-lying small island nations. Then there are the developing countries (G77) and thenthe developed countries (G7), and then still another group plus India and China (G7+2). Permutation and combination for 187 countries has infinite possibilities.

The resignation and cynicism has set in thanks to the media, because we are swimming against the current, we were hoping to see actions, in order to reach a goal, so that we could have consensus on the issue and feel good about it. We wanted to feel good about doing something, and thought that actions should come first, so the goal of controlling climate change can be achieved. It is a struggle and as we are swimming against the current, hence resignation and cynicism is more likely to set in. What we normally do is that we set up a target and we act and we struggle to achieve it and that leads to us feeling upset, and angry about not getting what we want. Then we give up.

The natural flow/ direction of the current for us human beings is exactly the opposite. We are human beings and we are the only creatures who have language and the ability to conceptualize and create a ‘world’ using the words. We are the only creatures who can create a possibility for a future that inspires us using words, then we can plan actions towards achieving it, and then feel good about the completion of such projects. We create dreams using words, then we do and then we have the satisfaction and fulfillment on meeting the dreams we created. Hence the BASIC and USA consensus is perhaps the right direction.

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Environmental anthropologist by training, been in the field for over 20 years. I am mainly concerned with the infrastructure and technology project impacts on people communities and their physical environment. Their adaptation and mitigation strategies, interests me, now especially in the context of climate change and CDM.

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2 thoughts on “Swimming With the Current

  1. I’m afraid I have to disagree with the thrust of this essay. The cynicism that followed the “Copenhagen accord” is healthy, because the process itself was deeply cynical. Among other things, the White House actually announced a deal to the press before most countries had heard of it. That’s cynical; but it’s how you get the jump on the “spin” game. The US and BASIC got what they wanted for different reasons: a statement that sounds good, but has no teeth at all. Worse, it weakens Kyoto, which is a legally binding document. I read and wrote a lot about the Copenhagen fiasco at the Green Light Dhaba over the last two weeks. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty convinced this was a farce. (Here’s a good analysis of what happened: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8426835.stm –I saw it in today’s Hindu.) We shouldn’t kid ourselves–doing that is what will lead to long term cynicism and disillusionment. We need to be honest. Swimming against the current is no fun, but sometimes it’s the only way to get upstream!

  2. What was unfortunate about the COP was the way it was made into such a big mela…even when most of those decorated NGOs themselves declared later on that they were never expecting a deal anyways. And instead of realizing their failure to mobilize…they chose to join the “party” and wait…for nothing tohappen.

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