(To parody the name of an infamous satirical radio show of the 1960s, That Was The Week That Was)

Have you noticed how it’s often the most long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated of events that signally fail to deliver satisfaction (while the really good and memorable things happen serendipitously and unexpectedly)? And you wake up the morning after feeling rather jaded, disappointed, and wondering just what went wrong?

Welcome to my mindset after Copenhagen.

I’ve spent most of the last year planning for this event, trying to figure out how I can be of most service. I have been virtually obsessed by COP15 – my 3 Google Alerts are my name (isn’t yours?!), “copenhagen climate change” and “copenhagen conference 2009”. As Beka of TckTckTck.org put it, “We breathe , eat and sleep this issue. We’re not going to go away on Friday just because COP15 is over.”

This morning my mood as I walked through the cold winter sunshine of central Copenhagen to the Fresh Air Centre was decidedly morning-after-the-night-before. The city squares, which for the last 2 weeks have been full of exhibits, trailers, tents, and people, were almost deserted. Everything had been broken down and removed with almost indecent haste.

National leadership - too big a ship to turn?
National leadership - too big a ship to turn?

So, I asked myself, what was it all for? All that effort, energy, and creativity, not to mention 40,500 tons of CO2 – was it all for nothing? No fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty. No commitment to take bold action on climate change. Not even an improvement in international relationships that might bode well for future negotiations – quite the opposite, in fact, with many developing countries leaving Copenhagen feeling disenfranchised and excluded. Money proved to be the strongest player, the process weak.

I don’t know what the pundits will say, or how COP15 will be viewed by the history books. But here are some positives that I will take away from the last two weeks.

– Devolution of power to elected officials of local communities: while national leaders (well, one in particular) struggle to get a clear mandate from their governments, mayors and governors are taking matters into their own hands. I have long wondered what the ideal unit of government might be – a country of 250 million (US) or even 60 million (UK) seems too big a ship to turn – and now it seems that the answer to my question is emerging, as increasing numbers of local politicians decide to provide recycling services, mandate composting, etc, at local level.

One of the faces of the future: Dominic Frongillo
One of the faces of the future: Dominic Frongillo

– Emergence of young leaders: as Bill McKibben said yesterday in a panel discussion at the Klimaforum, it seems patronizing to separate youth from adults. Mike Eckhart went further, and suggested that anyone over 40 should be excluded from climate discussions because they’re probably banking on being dead before the full effects are felt (although they may well be mistaken). In the last two days, two of the people who have impressed me the most have been 26-year-old Dominic Frongillo, an elected official in Caroline, New York, and a 17-year-old schoolboy from London who was helping support the Kiribati delegation. Both were eloquent, intelligent, and committed. If only the same could be said of all of their elders.

– My own evolution as an environmental campaigner: I arrived in Copenhagen naive and idealistic. While I hope I haven’t lost, and never will lose, my idealism, I now see the world more as it is, and less as I would like it to be. This is a much stronger position from which to create change in the future. Having the harsh truth come and clobber you between the eyes is not a pleasant experience, but trying to ignore it, or wishing it were otherwise, is a waste of time.

And now, on a lighter note, here are a selection of things I loved about Copenhagen:

1. Being able to sit right at the front of the Metro train – there is no driver’s cab – as it whizzes along tunnels. Feels a bit like a fairground ride.

Secret Kitchen
Secret Kitchen

2. Secretkitchen.dk – my favourite place for caramel lattes and cakes, just around the corner from the downtown Fresh Air Centre. Also great juices, smoothies, soups and salads.

3. Glugg – Danish mulled wine. Marvellously onomatopoeic. As is “hygge” (pronounced hooger) which means cosy, but also sounds like a big hug.

4. Pyt! – Danish word more or less equivalent to the French “tant pis”. Nearest English equivalent is “it happens”, but this lacks the idea of letting go. Pyt! (pronounced almost with no vowel sound – PT!) is a verbal flick of the hand, surrendering the stress and putting it behind you. As eventually one needs to do about the theft of a backpack full of all cherished worldly goods.

5. Friendly natives – helpful and polite, and mostly very good at English, even when facing a major invasion of COP15 foreigners. I would particularly like to mention the wonderful Gaard family, my hosts arranged by New Life Copenhagen. They invite a total stranger (and a strange ocean-rowing stranger at that!) into their home, give her a key, allow her free run of the house. Then when her bag is stolen, lend her a credit card and laptop. Incredible kindness and generosity, but delivered in a low-key and natural way. By way of thanks I arranged with UncaDoug to have some American goodies shipped over to Denmark. They had enjoyed certain all-American foodstuffs during their year in Chicago while Soren was doing his PhD at Northwestern University. The macaroni cheese mix and Aunt Jemima’s (!!!) pancake mix went down extremely well with the two young Gaards especially.

I leave Copenhagen tomorrow, with my luggage considerably lighter, my heart a little heavier, my head a little wiser. I’ll be pondering on what has happened here, and starting to evolve my environmental mission for 2010. As 2009 draws to a close, I’m looking forward to a period of reflection and rejuvenation, and preparation for challenges of the year ahead.


  • While Copenhagen was grinding to a halt, something started rolling in Dublin, serendipitously and unexpected for most. What makes things turn at http://www.steorn.com will be ridiculed at first but I believe its force may prove to be unstoppable.

  • It sounds like you’re suffering from what I would call “post-coital-conference tristesse” (PCCT). Anyone who has attended conferences … especially governmental conferences … will tell you that there is always a period of letdown and self-reflection after the conference. It’s just like sex. Even good sex can cause a subsequent tristesse, and even good conferences can result in uncertainty as to whether it meant anything, or whether anything good will come out of the conference. Let me take a couple of quotes off of Wikipedia which seem to bear on the analogy.

    “For as far as sensual pleasure is concerned, the mind is so caught up in it, as if at peace in a true good, that it is quite prevented from thinking of anything else. But after the enjoyment of sensual pleasure is past, the greatest sadness follows. If this does not completely engross, still it thoroughly confuses and dulls the mind.” (The philosopher Baruch Spinoza, in his Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione)

    “After sexual intercourse all souls are sad.” (Attributed to Saint Augustine)

    Rather than worrying about whether this was a good conference or bad conference, my counsel would be to simply enjoy the good aspects of your participation, and let’s leave it up to the history books to decide how this conference fits into the continuum of experiences that make up mankind’s existence on the planet. Something good will come out of the conference. Something good comes out of everything, if you take the time to look for it.

    And, no. I’m not going to write a song about PCCT. Although doing the hand-and-arm movements might be good exercise for you in the cold weather. 🙂

    “Oh yes, we’re suffering from P.C.C.T.
    Oh yes, we’re suffering from P.C.C.T.
    We came here, with great ideas,
    To save the world, and all the trees,
    And instead, they beat us to our knees.

    Oh yes, we’re suffering from P.C.C.T.
    Oh yes, we’re suffering from P.C.C.T.”

    Hmm. Don’t get me started. 🙂

    Have a safe trip home. You’ve been part of a truly important event, and you should be proud of yourself. Now it’s time to “detach” a little. Go within. Find peace. Be with loved ones. Renew yourself. It’s important to pace oneself in life. There are always new challenges and adventures.

  • Richard is right, Roz.
    Be confident that your presence and your blogging and the people you met have influenced others to some extent. The fact that the conference did not achieve all that you hoped for does not detract from the obvious fact that some progress has been made and that part of it was due to your influence.
    You deserve and have earned the respect of folk everywhere, including many who are confidently “deniers”.

    Have a happy birthday and Christmas with your family, and start the new year looking forward to Stage Three.


  • @FK in Belgium – The reason people will (and have) ridiculed it is because it’s impossible. If that device were truly creating more energy that it was consuming, it would be VERY easy to prove, and there wouldn’t be an opportunity to ridicule it. That is not the case, however. In other words, it’s a hoax, like all the other “perpetual motion” machines ever created.

  • Roz, yesterday I said I felt your pain and anger. [see http://j.mp/CommentWeep7780 ]. I have been there before, feeling powerless and impotent to effect the change I wanted, my way.

    Last night the draft text of new “Copenhagen Accord” was published by on ScientificAmerican.com and, although there is nothing binding and the initial targets are too weak to avert catastrophe for billions, the ray of hope is that every nation is now pointed in the same general direction — unanimous agreement that the direction is downward; agreement that there is an urgent need for reductions in CO2 emissions and deforestation.

    And the real ray of hope is the scheduled course correction from the initial target of 2°C …

    12. We call for a review of this Accord and its implementation to be completed by 2016, including in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective. This review would include consideration of strengthening the long-tenn goal to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees.

    Obama and the few who orchestrated the endgame, I believe, will come through sooner than might be imagined on this “morning after.” To me, adopting the current draft is one tactical move in a larger strategic offensive, and we need to step back and watch it play out in the next few months. I liken it to a Japanese master of the game go (碁) whose objective is to win by a single stone — very zen, yet very dangerous. But the players of the “save our planet” game must chose their moves to bring 190+ nations together, ultimately united and unwavering with a common verifiable implementation.

    Now it is up to us to put wind in the sails, huffing and puffing as in your dream. To put some wind in your sails, I echo the sentiments of the other comments posted above … take a break and enjoy the comforts of the holidays. In honor of “TW3” the weekly news wrap-up that I so enjoyed in the 60s and which you aptly reminded us by the title … ahem …

    Disappointment and sorrow.
    Pyt! Latte and cake!

  • Funny you should reference in your blog title “That Was the Week (Weak) That Was”. The second line of the theme song for that 60s show was “It’s over, let it go”! Celebrate the birth of a wiser Roz and the birth of the light of the world with relaxation, recreation, and reunion with family and loved ones. Be assured that you are making a difference (or why would I be commenting on this blog at 12:47 a.m?) and don’t give up on the human race. Margaret Mead has been proven right more than once since she pointed out that change always comes from the bottom up, rather than the top down. You/we *are* the grassroots she referred to!
    Meanwhile, you have earned a rest.

  • and I suppose it would be CRAZY to think that they could have come up with anything that was perfect in such a short time. Bill McKibben has been thinking and writing about this for 20 years. The rest of us, not nearly as long as that.

    This work in Copenhagen brought this issue to the front of the world. As Unca Doug said, a lot of real good things have already come and will continue to come from this work.

    Do not give up. There are a lot of people listening to you and supporting you (and the leaders of the world) and what you are doing is very important.

    It is most important not to give up.
    You may need to change your course (as in changing your route to Tuvalu) but good comes from ALL decisions. The most important thing is to keep going.

    with utter respect.
    And yes, it is okay to relax with your family for the holiday. Stop. Take some walks or deep breaths. Recharge.

    Laurey in Asheville where we are getting whomped by the second big snow in a few days. Our town is shut down. White Christmas? Yup!

  • Laurey, I personally think the weather is what it is to serve a purpose, once again it is humanity that is out of sync with the energies of the universe.

    For me currently it is Solstice Eve and whether or not people recognize it or not it has a HUGE impact on humanity. This is actually a time for withdrawal from outer activities, so that we can give birth to the light within our own darkness. The energies of this time stimulate introspectionand inspire seriousness for greater depths of meditation. It is a time in which universal energies facilitate illumination, forgiving, and forgetting petty resentments and great wrongs, and it is a time for new initiation. The energies touching all at this time of the year present opportunities to awaken the seeds of inner potentials that we most desire to unfold.

    Roz…..people born during this time serve as guides for humanity.

    I know you are a tired woman but I was shocked to read and I quote; ” While I hope I haven’t lost, and never will lose, my idealism, I now see the world more as it is, and less as I would like it to be. This is a much stronger position from which to create change in the future. Having the harsh truth come and clobber you between the eyes is not a pleasant experience, but trying to ignore it, or wishing it were otherwise, is a waste of time.”

    Say what?

    In a sense you are correct; just wishhful thinking is a waste of time; you need to “FEEL” it!!!!!!

    Respectfully yours,
    Nancy : )

  • Thank you for your thoughts, Nancy and Laurie and Claire (well, and everybody!) But especially these thoughts about the season and the solstice, for me, are a reminder (not that I really need a reminder) that five years ago in the wee hours of the morning December 21, I “woke up” to the realization that I needed to and wanted to change my life, my career, my focus. I did not write an obit, but I did a lot of introspection. It’s a good time for more introspection. Thanks!

    Happy holidays, everybody. Happy Birthday, Roz.

    P.S. Jeff, are you the Jeff Jackson I know who relocated from Sacramento to Chico by way of South America?

  • Blog template – not really sure. This website runs on WordPress, but I believe the template was heavily customised by my friends at Archinoetics. I was out on the ocean at the time, so I don’t really know all the details. Sorry I can’t be more help!

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