Instances of Non-Participation, Thursday 17th December 2009

COP 15 Remote Participation at the Forum Centre in Copenhagen. Photo by: Alex Eisenberg

COP 15 Remote Participation at the Forum Centre in Copenhagen. Photo: Alex Eisenberg

MARY PATERSON:

‘Crisis in Copenhagen – the pressure is building’ says an email in my inbox, from Avaaz, the international activists’ organization.  They want me to sign a petition to encourage the delegates at COP15 to secure a 2 C deal.  A 2 C deal is one that makes the whole world work together to stop the Earth’s temperature rising a further two degrees.  On Wednesday I heard someone say that people at the Bella Centre, where the COP15 talks are taking place, were resigned to a 4 C deal as the best they could hope for.  I overheard this comment at Klima Forum, the ‘people’s’ climate conference, organized by the Danish Government in a leisure complex in the centre of town.  Klima Forum is the place where everyone who has not been accredited for access to the Bella Centre comes to meet.  There are talks and discussions taking place here every day, an art exhibition, some relatively cheap food.  Sometimes I wonder if Klima Forum is just the Danish Government’s way of keeping all the NGOs and the activists busy, so they don’t make trouble.  Today it is too cold to make trouble anyway – the snowstorm last night has laid a thick white blanket over the city, and left a biting chill in the air – but yesterday, at 8am at Taarnby train station, a few hundred activists were looking for trouble.  They were gathered for the legal march to the Bella Centre, to protest against the ticketing system that has denied access to 15,000 accredited delegates.  The previous day, the American activist Naomi Klein stood up in the main hall at Klima Forum and urged everyone to join the march.  The 15,000 excluded delegates, she said, included representatives from NGOs from developing countries, some of whom had only flown out for the second week of talks, in order to save money.  They have flown out, she said, only to find that they cannot take part.

I had already picked up a leaflet about the protest, and hearing Naomi Klein talk made me determined that it participation was the right thing to do.  But when I arrived at Taarnby station the following morning, wearing an extra pair of socks and two pairs of gloves to guard against the cold, I felt out of place.  Other people were holding banners about Tar Sands in Canada and about relocalizing food production.  I trusted the banners, but I wasn’t informed enough to march in their name.  I felt like I had done earlier in the week, when a woman from Greenpeace asked me to vote in the Angry Mermaid Awards, a satirical prize for the least helpful lobbyist at COP15.  The woman handed me a list of international corporations that lobby governments to act in ways that exacerbate climate problems.  I said I would do some research before I cast my vote.  The representative from Greenpeace looked concerned, and said I must vote now, because the polls were about to close.  So I apologised, and she looked disappointed, and then she left.

At the protest, I stood around for a while in silence.  I didn’t join in when someone started a chant: What do we want?  Climate Action! When do we want it?  Now! I wanted to march with the 15,000 excluded delegates, but this group of young people seemed to be social protestors, willing to march anywhere, for anything.  The demonstration was planned to culminate in a ‘popular assembly’, a real and symbolic act to reverse the hierarchy of political power.  The marchers from outside the Bella Centre would be met by supportive delegates from inside, and together the two groups would overthrow conference security, disrupt the politics of exclusion and impose a true mandate for discussion.  At Taarnby, a string of four of five policemen moved silently past, and the crowd roared in protest.  I didn’t recognise myself in the emotions of any of the activists and wondered what kind of mandate this would be.  It reminded me of watching an England football match in a pub.  I got embarrassed when England scored a goal because I didn’t know how to join in with the shrieks and whoops of spontaneous sociability.

Photo: Alex Eisenberg

Photo: Alex Eisenberg

Leaving Taarnby, I sat on a quiet commuter train and glided back into the city.  This time, the train route did not take us past the Bella Centre, like it had on the way there.  Earlier, I had passed the site of the official talks while the sun was still rising in the grey blue sky.  It is a faceless place, like an aircraft hanger or a football stadium – a structure with no windows, and a lot of security.  Out the back, there is a model of the globe.  It was being watched by two officials in high visibility vests, who were not quite as tall as the globe itself.  The globe was lit up, its seas glowing blue and its land glowing green.  The metro train seemed to slow down as we went past, but there was nothing much to see.  A queue of people.  A building without any windows.  An industrial space, sightless and slippery, outside which the rest of the world slides by.

Instances of non-participation, December 2009

  1. Taarnby Train Station, 8.30am, Wednesday 16th December [not taking part in the protest for the popular assembly at COP15]
  2. Klima Forum, 4.45pm, Monday 13th December [not voting in the Angry Mermaid awards]
  3. Metro train near the Bella Centre, 8.15am, Wednesday 16th December [not entering the Bella Centre]
  4. Forchsammer Vej 11, 3.00pm – 6.00pm, Thursday 17th December [not going to a talk at Klima Forum in which world leaders were invited to answer the question, ‘Did we get the deal we came for?’]
  5. London (various), Sunday 6th December – Friday 11th December, inclusive [not travelling to Copenhagen for the start of COP15, New Life Copenhagen, and Question Time]
  6. Gmail inbox, daily [not signing petitions sent to me by Ricken Patel at Avaaz.org

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Posted: December 19th, 2009 | Author: Mary Paterson | Filed under: Text | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Statement: Hit the Ground Running

Each day Question Time hold a summit somewhere in Copenhagen- in cafes, street corners, domestic apartments, and train stations – after which a new statement of intent is produced towards an alternative declaration of the way forward on climate change.

Date: Wednesday 16th December 2009, 5.30pm

Attendees: Alex Eisenberg, David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Mary Paterson

Location: Café Zusammen
Minute Taker: Mary Paterson

I wasn’t impressed by it at all today, actually. We could talk about what an interview marathon is, if nobody comes. It’s a beautiful space. I was very excited about that before I came but funnily enough, now I’m here, it doesn’t seem that important. The fact that nobody came doesn’t affect the actual gesture in time and space What is prohibition? I dunno.  I just find that an interesting moment. The rocking chair was particularly meditative.  – The rocking chair was beautiful.  Did you put your head on the rest and just go with it?  – Yeah. I could have stayed there forever. His silences were really good.  He was really struggling with the questions. She was into the big.  We were small.  So it was a total ideological separation. What are we asking of people? Is our project really antagonistic?  We’re sticking to our guns and asking people to answer these questions, even if they don’t want to. Even if you say oh you don’t have to, it’s totally loaded. Human beings want to please other human beings, right? It’s a fucking inconvenience. One person asked me today, how does it feel, approaching people?  Because you’re really out on a limb? I think it gives you a license to do things that are not commercial. It’s a negative economy.  And it’s not sustainable.  Somebody has paid, and that somebody has an agenda. I don’t think they’re fully succeeding.  I think they need to be more radical to approach this. I’m gutted, that I haven’t been in a domestic situation, to cook for people. In London, if you give your room to someone it’s not a political act. Before you came we talked about that a lot: what the frame of ‘the art project’ is. That’s no more hideous that any of the others.  -Yes it is.  It doesn’t have an obscurity built into it. There’s that whole going-with-the-moment thing, isn’t there? She was a ‘young person’ – I’ve got a real problem with that – boring the tits off me. But, it came from a really boring place.  I made it sound interesting by accident, but really it was banal. I don’t think it matters if someone answers the question wrong. I’m very particular with the people I interact with. This has been much more challenging, but much more raw.  Hit the ground running.  Hit the ground running.


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Posted: December 19th, 2009 | Author: Mary Paterson | Filed under: Statement of Intent | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Statement: One of us/ Some of us

Each day Question Time hold a summit somewhere in Copenhagen- in cafes, street corners, domestic apartments, and train stations – after which a new statement of intent is produced towards an alternative declaration of the way forward on climate change.

Summit Date: 13 December 2009
Attending: David Berridge, Rachel Lois Clapham, Alex Eisenberg, Neil Bennun, Mary Paterson
Location: a bland café decorated c. 2002
Minute Taker: Mary Paterson

One of us lost all of his cards – the template for the score, and the prop for interaction. He left them somewhere. He realised he was losing something, but then he remembered that the score can be revisioned every day.

One of us realised that it is not a good idea to interview people in groups. It means they have an audience, which means they try to modify what they say to fit in with what their friends might want to hear.

Two of us have come to the conclusion that the score does not work well with young people. ‘Young people’ is a relative term.

Three of us said they like it when someone gets the game, or is open to the game, or is not open to the game but is somehow exposed through the process of questions. At least one of us said that she finds she does not enjoy asking questions all of the time. She wonders if this matters. She is open to the process changing her and her prejudices. Normally, this person is picky about the people with whom she interacts.

One of us had a boring day.

One of us said that Denmark is a good place to have babies.

One of us met some delegates – some real delegates – who have been at the Bella Centre. You could tell they were real delegates because this person had to be formally introduced. One woman who was interviewed found the process hard because she was in a targeted, negotiating space. She was throwing the questions back for reassurance.

Five of us said it’s about going to events.

One of use said that it is difficult to perform the score in environments that are not already discursive. Klima Forum is an ideal environment, but it is bustling with rhetoric and agitprop.

One of us said we should go into people’s homes. We should be like pizza delivery men, but we will not be delivering pizza. Five of us said we need a venue for a marathon by Tuesday.

One of us said that she loves the questions, but she’s the kind of person that she is. Three of us said it’s ok if the interviews are crap. They might get more interesting the next time you listen. One of us said she thought the whole point of this was to create an archive that we can treat at a later date. One of us said she doesn’t think she’ll have time for anything at a later date.

One of us said that he wonders about the relationships that are built around the score. Accumulatively, what do the relationships mean? What part does the score actually play in a conversation?

Four of us could not decide if this was about product or process.

One of us said he understands certain categories of response. Having identified them, it is now all a bit routine. How do we make something new?

One of us said she wants to carry out some more interviews. She said, ‘you have got interview fatigue, but I have only just arrived.’

Two of us wondered if we should get rid of the archive. It only shows that we’re failing, and it takes away the mystery of the project. Two of us thought it should stay. We always expected failure. The archive is just a tool for other peope to use. (The archive stays, for now.)

One of us said he has been romanced by the hopefulness of Copenhagen and New Life Copenhagen. Bigness is in the air.

One of us said it is always easier to leave a process, which is the reason why he thinks we should carry on.

One of us said we should make time to listen to the archive together. One of us said we could do that when we meet. One of us said, ‘no, nothing formal.’


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Posted: December 15th, 2009 | Author: Mary Paterson | Filed under: Statement of Intent | Tags: , | No Comments »

Emotions running high

 

 

MARY PATERSON: The newspapers and news channels are full of emotion about COP15. On Monday, 56 newspapers around the world shared an editorial which read: ‘Fourteen days to seal history’s judgement on this generation.’ The Guardian has created a Flickr group to capture its readers’ experiences, and a live blog. Yesterday Sky News halted its ticker tape of breaking stories for a second, its presenters stared glassy eyed and lost into their teleprompters, until they received the announcement that Obama would be attending the end of the conference. This means, they said in emphatic and long drawn out tones, that he might sign a deal.

A Deal.

Connie Heddegaard, the President of COP15, is hopeful about the deal that could take place. She said there is an unprecedented political will to reach not just an agreement, but an ‘ambitious agreement’. Meanwhile, the most optimistic headline I read this morning comes from The Guardian: ‘Hopes of a deal remain high as climate talks open.’ The implication is that these hopes will soon dwindle. The Daily Telegraph counters with, ‘Sceptics may resort to illegal attacks to stop climate change deal.’ The Independent dwells on Naomi Klein’s soundbite about ‘the capitalisation of hope.’ The activist is referring to the Siemens and Coca Cola logos brandished on the publicity for cultural events that support the conference. The article does not explain why capitalist corporations should be against a climate change deal or, conversely, why they should be pro- the destruction of the world.

The emotional tenor is so strong, that actual facts and figures are hard to find. While The Independent says that the MET Office has released information on world temperatures, for example, it doesn’t give any indication of what that information actually contains. Facts are restricted to the strategic movements of individuals, like the American President Barack Obama, whose support is greeted like a talisman for success. Or, more prosaically, the party political angling of the two main parties in the UK, each leader trying to grab the headlines in a country only a few months away from an election.

Instead, all the news reports refer to something intangible carried out on a massive scale – the judgement of history, perhaps, or the hopes of an unidentifiable mass of individuals. These are not just hopes that a deal will be made, but that a deal will be reasonable, that it will be good enough. This deal – this ideal – will of course be based in facts and figures, but it will mean a lot more. The real hope is that the world’s leaders can create a plan of action that extends beyond national interests. When the stakes are so high, the rules of the game also extend to new dimensions. Can the entire world fight together for a global cause?

And of course the conference does not get a mention in some newspapers, like The Daily Mail or The Sun. Elsewhere, away from Copenhagen, life ticks on as normal. Buses are stuck in traffic. It rains. The view across the Thames from the Southbank Centre on a weekday night is quiet and undisturbed. People are Christmas shopping.

This afternoon, The Guardian leaked a document that it claims gives details of how the richer nations plan to take advantage of the poorer ones. It is illustrated with a picture of a conference room, empty except for the delegate from Haiti, who holds her head in her hands. The picture is not a fact, of course – the Haitian delegate cannot have been alone in a conference room when she heard of the leak; she could have held that pose for less than a second; perhaps she was just tired. But on a day when headlines are also made by ex-X Factor contestants and I’m a Celebrity … outcasts, it’s the next twist in the live action from COP 15: The Soap Opera.


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Posted: December 10th, 2009 | Author: Mary Paterson | Filed under: Text | Tags: | No Comments »