Direct from Copenhagen, Denmark - 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference - (8 – 18 December '09)

Acting as the official High Tide COP15 envoy, distinguished ecological artist Aviva Rahmani will be immersing herself in the burgeoning eco-political activism in the city and sharing her experiences with us via this daily blog.

Why not get involved and join in dialogue with her? Log-on to share your views! This is the gathering storm…

Produced in association with FACT

Monday, 7 December 2009

10:45 PM Back at the Koefoed's After Reception at City Hall

Food at the reception...

MOST FUN TODAY was today at 6:PM when we all gathered for the giving of the fossil awards. Huge crowd, singing, booing the awardees, laughing.

Kseniya Lvosky, Program Leader for Climate Change at the World Bank, told me she expects a treaty agreement of 25% reduction in emissions a few months after COP15. Richard Damiana, Lead Environmental Economist for South Asia Sustainable Department of the World BAnk was more skeptical.

the people at are taking a poll on whether or not a treaty will come of the conference. I said my hunch was a treaty was irrelevant. It would be a question of how mad the little/poor countries will get with the developed countries that are destroying them.

I told the woman from the South African delegation that I was sorry about George Bush. She said, "well then, start raising money for us."
I told Susan, from Rwanda, that I was glad they had joined with other African Nations in demanding restitutions and holding firm to radical changes.

The food was delicious. City Hall was splendid. The bus driver on the way back, took us all the way around town back to the Bella Center. I had a long conversation with Vincent O'Hara, Senior Editor of RTT News, Global Financial Incentives and repeated some of my recent conversations. On the metro back to the Koefoed's, Alison Gannett, a firend and colleague of Jim White's, was wearing an enormous ski and the sign: "Save Our Snow." She had walked 250 miles from one city to another wearing the ski and the sign.

Just sent a mailing that began with:

"After Katrina, in 2005, I announced I had decided to stop flying as a protest against global warming. November 2009 I broke that vow and flew to Europe to engage, as an artist, with global warming policy makers."

Returned home lugging about 50 lbs of books and articles to read (literally. Tomorrow, I head out to see events outside the conference, including ARTPORT, making waves, which includes work by a number of friends, as, Insa Winkler, Subankhar Bannerjee, Kim Abeles and a number of people whose work I donn't yet know..

2:45 PM COP15 DEC 7, 2009

At the close of the open sessions, I watched an interesting exchange between Papua New Guinea (PNP) and the African & Arab states. PNP was anxious to move into a discussion of jow they are being impacted. Three times they requested some wya to talk at this point. each time, they were shot down by the President & the other states. Clearly the little countries, most impacted are having a hard time being taken seriously, despite what the opening Plenary speakers say.

Watching the Arab and African states was very instructive but confusing. Some, as, Saudi Arabia, made a point of speaking their own languages, so they were clearly addressing their own constituencies and being self-referential. Somalia gave a long & passionate speech about needing aid to deal with global warming. The delegate from Palestine requested permission to speak with other world leaders, preeumably a political positioning request.

From there I went to the US Center, where they were giving out (bottled) water and organic sandwiches. There was a lot of literature, a NASA film which didn't seem very informative and some milling people of indeterminate affiliation.

But in the next room, I hit informational paydirt: current research on the effects of short term black particle emissions on the Arctic: MAJOR and unregulated. The reason this is so critical is the albido effect: soot particles grey the snow, clouds and ice and these particles are deposited from long distances. In response to my question, I learned this will be addressed as a transnational regulatory question with various agencies, inc the IMO in the next week. Elena Kobets, a researcher from St. Petersburg, Russia, showed vivid maps of the effects of agricultural burning, esp from Russia and the Eastern Europe. I didn't catch everyone's name, but several points stood out: Southeast Asia is the worst source of black particle emissions in the Arctic, vividly demonstrating that no nation is an island, or rather, that we are all sinking islands in a chain of effects. Re: my earlier rant about the Arctic becoming a pleasure dome, the greatest danger of particle emissions is from traffic there: trucks, shipping, etc off-road and on-road. Problem is the treaties: without treaties there's no hope of enforcement and many countries, inc the USA, won't sign treaties (yet).

PRIMARY Particle Sources:

Residential fossil fuels
Residential solid fuel (woodburning)
Residential biofuel

The good news is that there is the hope of progress over agricultural burning and filters are available for wood stoves. It's a start.

Time for the IT sessions.

Guest Post from Shai Zakai, Director & Founder, Israeli Forum for Ecological Art

The following post about Tikkun, came in as I was sitting down at the Plenary. I thought it a useful mediation for the goals of the conference:

Tikkun is an optimistic word, it means that you can fix what is not functioning right. that it is fixable. Tikkun Olam on the other hand is more abstract, because how can you repair a whole world. ( Olam=world).
Judaism has adoptted the concept of Tikkun, in the spiritual level, to convey the message that human can always make Teshuva from their bad behaviors.
Every act we do on this planet begins with a lack of something- we eat because we are hungry, we sleep cause we are tired.. Does Tikkun needs to be better than the situation before? or exactly identical to the situation before it was spoiled?, the Gmara talks about it a lot. One of the ideas is that tikkun is a state of mind. the desire for better, while knowing that it is merely an essential part of the world which refine it and brings fragrance into it. I think of eco-art now, after 15 years of work, merely that.

The Tikkun is a force within us.
we can choose to develop it and be the person who can repair..
Try to think of the Tikkun not only as an act directed towards something that has happened in the past which needs Tikkun, but as a present, continuous situation.
The world according to the bible was created with faults; the flood, adam's sin, the snake, Hava. in its foundation, the world is not complete right from the beginning.
People are born with faults as well. if the world was perfect, there would not have been a place for Tikkun.

This is our place in world, otherwise we would not have a place in this world. All ideas for improvements is what makes the world a better place, and create the biggest changes. The Gmara talks about the idea that ideal state where everything is perfect does not exist in this world, what does exist , is a strong will to do the Tikkun, walk in the path of tikkun, as an essential part of this world. The trees are doing Tikkun every fall. i wish i could do the same. The idea that the creation is happening every day, and is not history, is essential to the idea of Tikkun.

The unfinished creation gives us the hope to v\create a Tikkun always. We can actually start fresh every day.
it is in a physical and spiritual level as well.
If our being is in a state of Tikkun, everyday, thousands of doors are opened before us, for better worlds. May-be one day i will enter in one of them, or create a door for someone else.

Guest Post from Oleg Koefoed, Culture Futures

Mannequin in Danish Design showcase before completion of display...

Here are some words from the launch of Culture Futures, that you may want to put in your blog:

Today, about 150 persons have made their way to Statens Museum for Kunst, the Danish National Art Gallery, for the launch symposium of Culture Futures. This symposium is the kick-off of a project that has been put together by a lot of different organisations within culture mainly, but also some other actors such as the city development company, Arup.

All morning, the team around the event, to which I belong as the representative of our small organisation, Cultura21 Nordic, part of a larger one, Cultura21 International, have been rather calmly getting the last details in place in order to host this event. The day today is, in many ways, a day of thanking partners and paying respect, which in itself is of course an action oriented towards the past. But at the same time, there are elements pointing towards those futures which the title of the project addresses.

The director of the cultural sector of ASEF, Dominique Guichard, spoke today of the ability of artists to "deceonstruct and reconstruct reality", and thus to be able to see the future and give indications as to how we might turn towards it and head into real change. The Malysian poet Cecil Rajendra spoke fervently in beautiful, but strong tones about the lies and destruction directions that the world has been taking for decades, even centuries. Following Rajendra came the talk of Arup's Peter Head, on the transition towards an "ecological age". If artists envisage the future, Head envisages certain very important elements of that future. Although there are elements in Head's approach which might be criticized for not questioning sufficiently the systemic models in for instance the economic field, there are definitely ambitious and eye-opening elements in Head's talk. Having heard him talk to artists in London in September, I know that his talk makes a sound impression on many of them. Not only because of his call to a deep cultural change, empowered and inspired by artists - although this probably helps to win their hearts. But their minds are also attracted by Head's many examples of city development which could entrail a positive change process.

I would still hold on, however, to the doubt regarding whether if Head's approach goes far enough. I am personally not too sure that we will see the success of the political and economic system, supported by a benevolent though engaged community of artists, in combating the trouble that we are in, if we do not dig deep enough to alter the systems on a structural level and alter deeply the way in which different sectors work together. There is a need, as far as I see, of taking Head's recommendations and looking deeper in the cultural looking-glass, so that we can understand not how to get to what he (and the Chinese prime minister) call the ecological age, but what the future looks like in which this has already become a fait accompli because we have found new directions for our civilisations, new processes for our societies, and new reasons for living at all, beyond the alters and idols of wealth, territory, competition and consumption. I hope that the next days of cultural actors responding to Head's invitation to help shape an ecological age will show that their communities, our communities, are capable of looking beyond the invitation and into new politics, new metaphysics, and new cultures.


Hope the tone is not too radical, it is written as I listen to Peter Head himself..

10:AM Plenary 2 COP15 Copenhagen December 7, 2009

Bhutan in a huddle on the big screen. Panning over the delegates, palpable excitement.

10:15 Still waiting for events to begin. Chatting with Karine Peloffy: Sustainable, Humourous & Innovative Thinking, about to take her first UN job on the environment, about CapeFarewell and whether artists should visit the Arctic. I'm strongly against it, altho I'd be thrilled to go. If I could go to the Arctic without carbon emissions, environmental impact to the ecology... turning it into a gentrified Disneyland with artists int he usual vangaurd to beautiful places..

Karine is opening interesting URLs: PlosOne; Open Access: "Oil in the Western Amazon."

10:28 We still haven't begun. The room now looks pretty packed. An imposing black woman in a vivid lilac purples silk thing and head dress just walked past the seated woman delegate from Azerbaijan in a tweed suit. It looks like 40-50% here are women.

10:29 the room is quieting.

10:42 We have begun. Clapping. References to and a film about the impact of climate change on children obviously geared to the first world: a child (white) awakens from sleep in a desert, flees opening crevices, loses her teddy bear, is approached by a tornado, a tsunami, clings to a tree, googles to Africa, world leaders describing migrations of climate refugees, ends with the child saying, "please save the world." More clapping.

Danish Girls Choir enters, in bronze and black, singing acapela. Harp. trombone in counterpoint. Instrumentalists and director men. A crowd of pretty, innocent, earnest faces and sweet voices. Audience attentive and quiet (no chattering). Sounds like folk music based sound. Several soloists folded in with the pure soprano (and one alto) typical of young girls. More clapping

10:58 Silence, panning delegates sitting at the main table. Prime Minister Rasmussen introduced with clapping. Until 2001, Denmark had a great reputation on climate issues but since then, with a new administration, they have withdrawn from investments in wind energy, etc. Nonetheless, he's asking for effective solutions, speaking to Denmark's determination to address the urgency of the problems. He is asking for political will, asserting that we here do all have the determination for significant, immediate action (despite the recent announcement from Saudi Arabia that they are just here to protest the climate change hoax and demand $ reparations) and calling on ordinary citizens for the ultimate responsibility (right: change a light bulb before the Tsunami). Concluding with a list of how Copenhagen has limited the carbon footprint of the conference (ie., tap water vs bottled) contributed money to fund climate scholarships. Ending remarks about qualities needed to inspire hope: courage, etc.

11:11 Mayoral address, Ritt Bjerregaard, beginning with a reference to Coca Cola's greenwashing "Hopenhagen" PR stunt (yuck. A bad sign of how corporations rule?): "let's turn Copenhagen into Hopenhagen. Quoting Al Gore, "if you want to go first, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." References to progress towards carbon neutral, ie bikes (yes, there are armies of bikes, whole families.)

11:17 Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair IPCC. "Warming .. is ... unequivocal... due to anthropogenic consequences.... Sea level rise 17 cm = island states, Bangladesh: every storm surge = threat to life." Article 2: stabilization of ghg emissions or- consequence- loss of ice, increase of heat, cyclones, loss of water, sea level rise of 7 meters. 20-60% species in danger of extinction. Causes include urbanization; coming desertification. 20% of 2 billion in way of river floods by 2020 75-25 million will be subject to water stress. Reduction of agriculture by 50%. Seas acidified serious impact on all marine life. High benefit cost measures to address issues now. First world must finance and act to mitigate: 3% of GDP. Limits must be achieved by 2015. Still may not be enuf. Holding Denmark up as an example for wind energy (but what about the Danish political retreat? Purchasing windmills from China of such poor quality that the Chinese don't use them and not supporting Danish companies). References to stolen documents from East Anglia to discredit IPCC, summary of IPCC review process. Conclusion: thanking for trust (makes me think of the EU negotiator who said it was all about trust).

11: 32 Yvo de Boer, Exec Sect of UNFCCC, opens with account of 6yr old boy surviving cyclone, flood, losing parents, brother, drifting all night: "(this) is what we're here to prevent. The time has come to deliver. ' 'Make a xmas cake: layer 1: capacity building, layer 2: financing $10 bil per yr. Icing: shared commitments.' Focus on the practical. Responsibility on developed countries (implicit message to Obama, China, India). 6 days before ministers. 2 days before world leader: endorsement must come the 18th. "The time has come to reach out to eachother: ...deliver."

11:38 Conclusion of opening of the Conference of the Parties (COP) & more clapping. speakers exit. Short break.

11:45 President of COP. "Conference... set directions for several decades... simple human solidarity.. fundamental changes of economic systems.. a historic moment for entire planet. We are are taking part (in history) ... let us see above our particular interests... to serve whole mankind.. to reach this goal."

11:50 Elected President COP15 Connie Hedegaard approaches: tall, thin, all energy, "let's get it done. This is the time to deliver. It is doable. I base my confidence... on my meetings with governmentas and ministers. The science is clear, The solutions are abundant. Political will, will never be stronger (USA conspicuously absent from list of countries making commitments)... we need money for mitigation, implemtation, adaptation... compromise, agree, find concrete solutions, use every skill available... to those that hold back... fearing economies will suffer... a global deal will drive drive energy security.... the time has come. It must be comprehensive. It must be immediate. Look eachother in eyes on September 18th.... open the door."

12: Organizational work begins.

Day 3 Copenhagen, Official Day 1 COP15

Woke to a bleary gray morning and the three year-old happily eating breakfast and got out the door by 8:AM, an hour later than I'd planned. At the entrance to Cop15, someone was handing out flyers: "Stop the Global Warming Hoax Which Will Lead to Genocide," to which I replied, "o, please, give me a break," and next thing I heard was the cheerful drumming of Friends of the Earth. Told them I was glad they were here and went on to join the crowd entering and passing thru security (like an airline).

Couldn't connect with Marilyn Averill, the UCB co-ordinator in time to pick up one of 4 tickets to be in the main room for the plenary speakers, but did get into Plenary room 2 in time to set up and connect my laptop.

Bright lights have just gone on in the room. It's three minutes to the first speaker, the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Leokke Rasmussen. I'm sitting between a delegation of young people from Oxford University Environmental Change Institute on my right and delegates from Denmark and Ecuador on my left. On the screens, about 75' ahead, there are close-ups of the delegates in conversation, milling around. We are being asked to take our seats for the welcoming ceremony.