Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can you Change the World? Messages of Hope from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Desmond Tutu, and God Himself

A Message of Hope from Arnold Schwarzenegger at COP-15

"Change starts from the grassroots," California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said today at his speech to the COP-15. The leaders of the Copenhagen conference need to listen to "ordinary folks" when journalists queried whether he honestly expected Africa to learn from the example of California on climate change. California leads the US in its mandate to cut greenhouse gases and become a green state. "We don't wait for Washington," he said, "We've given up on that long ago."

"But how happy we would be", he said, "if all the world's harbors would be as clean" as Copenhagen's! And Schwarzenegger presented California's dream of a clean state as a story of "transformation"... and the reason behind the COP-15 meeting, "...the desire, the hope and the need for planetary transformation."

And is the story a fairy-tale, a dream, a false hope, "and if it is not, how do we make it real?" asks Schwarzenegger. And why do we put so many hopes and eggs into the big, international agreement basket, when the UN has reported that over 80% of greenhouse gas mitigation will be done at the sub-national level? These are profound questions posed by the Governor of California, a man whose political mettle more than a few have questioned. Questions meriting an answer!

So what is your place in this story? What is your dream? Can you imagine living in a world where people took care of our planet the same way they take care of what is most precious to them in life? Can you imagine that you can change the world? What are you waiting for?

...to be continued...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

COP-15: Amidst Dissent over Climate Agreement in Copenhagen

In the heart of Copenhagen there is a loud shout going on and its all about what's happening with the earth's climate.. but not only that; it's about an age-old rift between the rich and the poor. Today, nearly 100,000 demonstrators march to show their dissatisfaction and put pressure as world leaders gather for an unprecedented event taking place just 4 miles away. The COP-15 is an unprecedented event and a veritable circus of activity and interests around the central theme of reaching a climate agreement that will put a stop to the earth's climate decline. With nearly 42,000 registered participants, 1500 journalists, some 110 heads of state from 194 nations, the possibility of reaching a legally binding agreement is becoming slimmer by the day. Today the demonstrations downtown have been mostly peaceful with the exception of 300 black-clad youths who capitalized on the moment, throwing bricks and smashing windows. They were a black spot on what is actually a colorful display of protest extending from the Arctic to Australia, intending to send a message to politicians to act now to save the earth and its peoples from the onslaught of climate change.

A draft agreement circulated Friday ignited significant debate over key issues: poorer countries complained that it failed to specify commitments on finance, the US contested it failed to commit China and other rapidly growing developing nations to strict emissions commitments, and the EU stated it did not go far enough to curb warming to 2 degrees celcius. Currently lack of agreement on these issues, and an apparent rift between China and the US, as well as lack of agreement between small island states and other developing nations who have allied with China, is blocking the process from moving forward.

This morning's debate was marked on both ends by an empassioned plea from the represenative of the small island state Tuvalu, Ian Fry, to save his island nation. "I woke up this morning crying", he said to the COP-15 President, Connie Hadegaard. "...And that is not easy for a grown man... the fate of my country rests in your hands." Despite disagreement by powerful nations such as India and Saudi Arabia, the COP-15 President promised not to "sweep the issues under the rug" in the midst of the pressured negotiations. The bold words of Mr. Fry, which cut a clear rift in the negotiations, symbolize the struggle of many small nations to defend not only economic rights, but their very existence.

Rich nations have pledged a climate fund of $10 billion and poor nations say this is insufficient. So the isues at stake in this debate are not only environmental; they cut to the core of the human rights debate and a litmus test of views on how nations should develop. "Some of the small islands will disappear, we accept that", said Crispin Gregoire, Dominican Ambassador of the 42-member Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), "but we want an agreement that will address our survival."

Which is one reason why police fill the streets of Copenhagen now...COP-15 has revealed the life-or-death issues at stake, and as the world awaits a decision which seems unlikely to some, the struggle in Copenhagen for a better life on and of the planet goes on...