“Ahhfterall, green is the colour of munn-neee!”. They came in a flurry of jungle green vintage shoes, boas, pearls, cream linen, English lace and racing day hats. They carried trays of cucumber sandwiches, and platters of grapes, not to mention their flutes of champagnes. The air was awash with the lilting Danish gaggle of these dozen faux Victorian ladies, the popping of corks and the fizz of bubbly., interspersed with the odd English slogan. “Stop glow-bal Whiining! – You say coal stop, we say powershop!”
This greeted me en route to the Klimaforum, a parallel conference and hub of protest alongside the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. The performance was of course highly sarcastic, a comment on the hollow enthusiasm of corporations looking for a greenwash and one of many takes on the ‘real’ agenda of the conference.
The geographer Mike Hulme in his latest book ‘Why we disagree about climate change’ (he’s a scientist remember, not an expert on catchy slogans) suggests that instead of thinking about the debate as one of ‘What can we do for climate change?’, we should view it as one of ‘What can climate change do for us?’ Hulme’s point is that this physical phenomenon has been (re)constructed in the global imagination by a smorgasbord of political actors to suit often divergent aims.
The leaflets blanketing the tables at the Klimaforum attest to this. Climate change activism is indeed a broad church and its preachers are delivering sermons across the Danish capital on a huge variety of topics, including the food industry, I.hate.nuclear, I.heart.nuclear, ecodharma, the rights of indigenous peoples, and Islam (green in so many ways!).
For most climate change is emblematic of the flaws of the current capitalism system but few can agree on the solution. Socialism? Anarchism? Green capitalism? Some pin to it their aversion to globalization and modernization, advocating localism movements like ‘transition towns’ and simpler technology. For others, climate change is a call to step up investment in renewable technologies and the economies of scale of highly densified cities.
The closer we get to contextualized solutions to climate change embodied in actionable policies, the more obvious it will become that ‘solutions’ to climate change can never please all these groups. Yet in the mean time thousands of activism are meeting and greeting in the wide streets of this placid Danish city. They will be marching together, chanting together, and freezing together.
Future conflicts of interest aside, debates which had been marginalized even from already marginalized social justice debates have come to the fore in the last three years in a way that few environmentalists would have predicted. And they have the weather to thank for it.
Whatever the outcome of the UN summit, huge momentum has been given to the green movement through the simultaneous urgency and ambiguity of climate change. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it.