Naomi Klein steps onto the brightly lit stage. The crowd is crammed way past capacity, way past safety. The sides of the sky blue circus tent bulge. You can smell hash, sweat, dreads, and expectation. Another young person in black elbows past trying to get some mythical place where they can actually see the speakers. Another digital is raised in the air to capture it all. She says: “ Climate change is a class war,” and a real conversation begins.
This conversation does not delve into the arguments behind this statement in great detail. These people are in this tent, in this mad-max-y, hippified, liberated, part of Copenhagen, because they understand the ‘cruel geographic ironies’ of climate change that Klein touches on. That a small minority of people have created a huge majority of the emissions, but that the poorest, least culpable countries will bear the most dire consequences.
These people all know that if the US landmass, like that of the Maldives, peaked at 1m above sea level that this would be a very, very different conference. That 1.5C would be the target, that carbon markets would be seen as ‘the final enclosure of the last space to hadn’t been privatised’ (Klein’s words, i.e a disgrace of a solution), that we’d have wrapped this up about 5 years ago. These people know that if these talks were really capable of addressing climate change they’d turn the world upside down – because when one does the accounting for industrialization it is the North that owes the South a huge ecological (and social) debt.
But this conversation, from which I’m already digressing, rather concerned a little piece of direct action that’s planned for the 16th. Climate Justice Action is planning to march to the Bella Center, storm it and occupy it. Tonight much of what was discussed between those masses of people was the manner in which this should be done. There are many a black-clad summit hopper here – northern activists used to confrontational direct action, with communities and identities based on anarchist principles of the ilk that seek out conflict with a system they see as inherently corrupt.
But what Klein and the other speakers tried to stress is that what is being built is mass-movement, one that includes groups with very different cultures of protests, and many people form the South that have a lot more to lose from being arrested than a night in jail.
The talk ended on an uneasy note. Their leaders had made good appeal to reason and strategy, but they had been more than a few contradictory mutterings. People fled the stuffy tent. Some of them came back inside to dance to electro beats delivered by DJ covered in projected images of riot police. Some of them joined other parties in Christiana…