LIVING FOR CHANGE
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Jan 3, 2010
At Copenhagen President Obama disgraced himself, the United States and the American people by caving in to the oil and gas lobbies who virtually own the Senate and offering up a pathetic 4 per cent cut by 2020. As UK reporter Johann Hari has pointed out, Obama’s position actually meant demanding the right to a significant increase in U.S. emissions, once you factor in all the loopholes his negotiators demanded.
At Copenhagen the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also disgraced his country and betrayed his people. China is now the world’s single largest overall emitter of greenhouse gases, although it has a far larger population than the United States and a greater need for development. The Chinese people depend on the rivers that flow down from the Himalayan glaciers and are rapidly disappearing. Yet China vetoed the 80 per cent target by 2050, and refused to allow other countries to carry out basic checks to ensure it was carrying out the smaller cuts it committed to.
As Hari has also pointed out, Copenhagen was a failure because no International Environmental Court was established to police cuts that the leaders of big nations pledged to make. So the cuts will be purely voluntary.
Moreover, although the governments of the rich countries said at Copenhagen that they want to drastically cut their use of fossil fuels, they did not pledge to leave these fuels in the ground. That is the only step that can bring about the urgently needed cuts. Peasants in Peru and Paraguay are already doing this and West Virginia and Kentucky mountain-dwellers are demanding it. But big nation leaders forfeited their claim to world leadership because they didn’t even discuss “keeping the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the tar sand in the land.”
Also, at Copenhagen, despite the reality that the big and rich nations, especially the United States, have been the biggest emitters of the greenhouse gas emissions that now imperil life on Planet Earth, the leaders of these nations, including President Obama, only offered crumbs to the 77 nations whose people are already suffering from homelessness, hunger and violent conflicts because of the floods, droughts and desertification caused by global warming.
But Copenhagen was not all doom and gloom. New actors and new ideas emerged in the life and death drama that we all play a role in as we enter the 21st century.
Small island states like Tuvalu and the Maldives created an alliance that is making the world unforgettably aware that a billion people in low-lying areas are in danger of being swamped if sea levels continue to rise.
Lumumba di-Aping, chief negotiator of the G77 group of nations and China, said the text of the final agreement robs developing countries of their “just and equitable and fair share of the atmospheric space.”
At Copenhagan people from small and developing nations created a new concept of “climate colonialism” to help those of us who live in the rich nations decolonialize our hearts and imaginations, and begin to recognize the debt we owe humanity and Mother Earth.
Copenhagen also went far beyond the 1999 “Battle of Seattle” because it gave Americans a vivid sense of the terrible harm that our obsession with economic growth and our own comforts and conveniences is doing to other peoples.
We still have a very long hard road to travel, but I am glad that 2009 ended with Copenhagen, so that we can begin 2010 with new New Year resolutions to grow our own souls by living more simply so that others can simply live.