A Few Words With the Protesters

From what I have heard the US media is primarily reporting on the growing violence of the protests at COP15. As usual they are only covering the violence and destruction caused by a small minority of protesters.  I actually got the chance to go around and interview some of the protesters during my stay here.  I think you will find that these people only wish to have their voices heard.

The first person I talked to was in charge of the oil sheik protesters ( I should have the video up soon).  They represented a coalition of Christians in the Netherlands and they came to Copenhagen to protest in a peaceful and creative way.

This is Hannah from a Methodist group in England.  She obviously feels very passionate about the environment.  I apologize for the sound.  It was very noisy and Hannah talked really fast.  As you can see many of the protesters were not environmental crazies.  Rather they are just people who want to prevent climate change from occurring.

This man is from Turkey and is studying in Europe.  He came with a group of friends however, during the protests he got separated.  Instead of heading somewhere warm he decided instead to stay outside the Bella Center and protest. This situation is not unique there was a lot of people who just showed up on their own because they wanted to voice their support for a strong climate change treaty out of Kyoto.

Hopefully this post has shown that the majority of the protesters and not crazy people trying to punch cops and interfere with meetings.  Rather they wish to make the leaders at COP15 aware of their concerns.  I really wish I had more interviews but the cameras battery died and it is not easy to communicate with people during a protest.

Ben Roberts

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Communication is Key

 My hope for the outcome of the Copenhagen conference is, like many people hope, a strategic plan for implementing a reduction in carbon emissions. However, as part of the plan, I believe a plan of communication needs to be the first step in moving toward a reduction in greenhouse gases.

A lack of effective communication, especially in America, is the key problem in the global warming debate. The main flaw, is the communication coming from the scientific experts. This is in part due to a distrust in science by the general public. In the article, “Death of Environmentalism” the authors state that , “Over the last 15 years environmental foundations and organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into combating global warming. We have very little to show for it.” Fighting global warming needs to be more of a multidisciplinary effort to be effective. The scientists have collected the data, now it is time for communication experts to relay the information to the public—effectively. For the most part, the data has been presented in a very direct, scientific manner which has not been widely accepted by society. This is supported by an article recently published by the Washington Post which describes a decrease in Americans that believe in global warming. In Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, the author talks about the large movement to undermine scientist, “Sometimes, the conflict over the legitimacy of scientific consensus may be fought over the terrain of language itself, by engaging in what one political consultant called the ‘environmental communications battle.’”

Communication about global warming has failed to effectively communicate the risks of global warming and also has failed to make individual citizens feel as if they are stakeholders in this issue. In Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, technical risk communication is defined as, “the translation of technical data about environmental or health risks for the public consumption; with the goal of educating a target audience” and outrage is “factors the public considers in assessing the acceptability of their exposure to a hazard.” Risk is comprised of technical risk and outrage. In most cases concerning environmental risk, the outrage is present but there is not sufficient data to support the outrage. In the case of global warming, many argue that the data, or technical risk, is present, but there is a lack of outrage. There is not enough of a perceived risk in a large portion of American’s minds.

Communication is going to play a huge role in the success of failure of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. We will never be able to make citizens feel like stakeholder’s in this effort to move toward sustainability if we have failed to communicate in an effective way. This is why it is so important to include an effective communication strategy as part of our overall plan to curb emissions and move toward sustainability.

-Samantha LaChance

Cox, R. (n.d.). Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere (2nd ed). Los Angeles: Sage Publications Inc.

Shellenberger, M., & Nordhaus, T. (2004). The Death of Environmentalism. Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

Protests Heat Up

I just want everyone know that despite the protests everyone from the Alma group is safe.  Professors Borrello and Vickery, Samantha, and I are safely in the Bella Center things are a bit tense inside and a lot of people are watching the protests on the monitors.  There have been no incidents inside and the police are going a good job keeping things stable.   Adam and Renee are out in the city volunteering at another event. Last I spoke to Renee (a few hours ago) she was safe.  A bit later Adam sent me a facebook message so I know he is ok.

There was a planned march on the Bella Center today.  The protesters want to open up the Bella Center to more people.  There was controversy about the procedure for getting people in on Monday.  (As Sam and Renee wrote about).  On Tuesday security started to require secondary credentials for entrance to the Bella Center.  For yesterday and Today only 7,000 NGOs were allowed in.  Tomorrow the number will be 1,000 and on Friday that number will only be 90.  This has angered many NGOs who feel that their opinions are being ignored by the UN.  That coupled with the usual radical protesters has caused the situation to get tense.  I just want to reemphasize that everyone from Alma is safe and that the situation at the Bella Center is under control.

Ben Roberts

Copenhagen or Queuenhagen Conference

Today has aided arguments towards the UN’s inability implement change quickly. With changes made to the schedule hourly and miss-communication, it is easy to see why people argue that nothing happens. Although, today I speak from an outsider’s perspective, because I never gained access inside the Bella Center. With approximately 1,000 sum odd people (or more) in queue to register to the conference by 7:30 am, most were turned away or discouraged as the line dragged on with no access to water or food.

As described in the Times article, only three times did anyone attempt to communicate to the crowd of why there were no more individuals being admitted after 2:30pm. Then they passed around a document well at approximately 4pm, stating the same discouraging statements:

So while they placed the blame on other factions (its security, its the UN, its the register system), all we acquired was confusion mixed with sleep deprivation, hunger, and cold.

At this point, I am not even so upset at my own experience, but that of people who had been planning this trip years in advance only to stay in a line for 9.5 hours and possibly never get inside the conference.

“Maybe if they put all the people on a treadmill, they could help power the Bella Center”- Matthew Christian, who is a cameraman for Choosing Green.com, jokes as I relay my experience to him along with his colleague Sue Ann Taylor, executive producer of the channel, who was in the same queue as me.

It has been stated that the UN has accredited 45,000 people with observer status for the conference, yet only 15,000 are allowed to be admitted in the building in accordance to fire regulations.  A slight oversight on UN to allow more than double the capacity of people the  credentials to participate in the conference? Quite the understatement.

I’m not sure why I called it Copenhagen (blame it on the jetlag)

Directly after someone finally decided to clarify what was happening (this was about 5:45pm), he informed us that they would only register those underneath the awning (of which we were 30ft away from), Politi presence tripled in size as they waited and heard our disapproval, a little anticipatory?

Politi Storms the Bella Entrance after UN no longer providing registration

I get up tomorrow at 5am in the hopes of being able to register with a secondary pass……..

I am not enjoying this Queuenhagen experience.

-Renee

It was an extremely disappointing day at the UN Conference.  Renee and I arrived on Sunday and made our way to the Bella Center around 8 am on Monday morning.  There was a very long line because a lot of new delegates had arrived over the weekend and there was no available check in most of Saturday and all of Sunday.  Although the line was long, I was very excited to finally be at the conference.  The line moved slowly but consistently until about 2:30 pm.  The line did not move after that and we were told at 5:00 pm that they would not be accepting any more delegates for the day.  This came after we had waited in line for nine hours without access to food, water, or a bathroom for the last eight hours.  Needless to say, it was extremely humiliating.  I have never been treated like that.  The mass of people waiting was mostly supportive of the climate change strategy the UN is trying to develop and it does not make since that we were treated that way.

I believe there was a major communication break down between the UN and the crowd of delegates waiting to check in. We were addressed by the UN three times in nine hours and they also circulated a paper document once.  The frustrating aspect was the lack of definitive answers.  From what I have heard, there was a problem with their computer system.  I continued to wait in line because I still hoped I had a chance to get registered before registration closed at 6:00pm.  It was a huge let down to be told that I would not be able to register after waiting in the cold for nine hours. I would like to thank our professors, fellow students, and one of the guards for trying to get us out of the crowd and inside.

Although it was hard to see anything positive at the time, the dedication of the massive number of people standing in line was extremely reassuring.  To be part of such a large group of people standing in line in those conditions really proved to me that a lot of people care about climate change and are committed to making a difference.  I will be getting up early tomorrow morning and getting in line to give it another chance. Wish me luck.

-Samantha LaChance

Some Pictures From the Protests

Sorry for the lag in postings.  I have been really busy with a lot of things in regards to the conference and my classes back at Alma.  I hope to have a few more posts up today.  For now I am just going to put up some of the pictures I took when I was out with the protesters on Saturday.  The protests were very peaceful,  I am not sure how the protesters were represented in the US.  But I can tell you from first hand experience that everyone was very polite and had no intention of causing harm.  You may not agree with what these people were protesting for however, you have to admire that they are fighting for what they think is right.  I had a chance to see some of the protesters that were causing problems.  It was mostly shooting off fireworks and breaking windows.  The police rightly apprehended these people.  There are some reports of innocent people being arrested at the protests.  I cannot confirm that however, Adam and I happen to live a few blocks down from the temporary prison that has been set up and we have seen a lot of buses and police cars going by the past few days.  That aside I now present you with some of the pictures.  Hopefully Adam and I can find a way to get some of the video I shot on the blog tonight.

Here is a link to my Smug Bug account with all the pictures I took from the protest.

Ben Roberts

Preventing Climate Change is Good for Your Health

There has been a lot of debate in the US about health care reform.  One would argue that more people in the US are talking about health care then the environment.  Health care is indeed an important issue that must be addressed in the near future.  However, I believe that climate change is just as important, if not more important then health care reform.  In many ways climate change continues to suffer from the fact that many people perceive it to be a far off event that can be pushed to the bottom of the priority list while the country deals with other problems.   This is the same type of thinking that has gotten us in to this miss in the first place!  I think that people who are involved in environmental issues need to start presenting climate change not as a purely environmental issue, but rather as a survival and prosperity issue.

To do this we need to start highlighting more of the serious problems that will arise because of climate change.  There are many problems to pick from, some examples are:  health, economic, social, and political problems.  I am going to go in detail about potential health issues that could result from climate change. I realize I am only scratching the surface but for the sake of convince I choose only to briefly cover one issue.

Climate Change and Public Health

Global warming poses a significant problem for world health.   Already many nations cannot feed their people because of the changing climate.  There are several clear examples of this in the already poverty stricken areas of Africa. The level of malnourishment is expected to rise higher as the climate continues to become more extreme.  Malnourishment serves as a catalyst for diseases such as: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, and several parasites.    Things are already bad and they can potentially get much worse if the world continues to allow a rise in emissions.

As people higher up on the social ladder in Africa begin to see these diseases spreading more widely through the population they are going to emigrate from their country to the more developed world.  Chances are that a few of the people emigrating will be carrying a latent form of a disease. One person with TB has the potential to infect hundreds of people, who then have a chance to infect hundreds of people and so on. In recent years, TB has been seen more and more commonly in XDR-TB (extensively drug resistant tuberculosis).  The potential of an outbreak of XDR-TB is a frightening prospect.

Another major health concern with global warming is access to clean fresh water.  Already many places (Including in the US) have had water shortages because of the lack of rainfall and higher than normal temperatures.  Obviously, water is of vital importance for any living organism.  A major shortage of water could result in thousands of additional hospitalizations and deaths.  This trend can only be expected to rise if nothing is done to curb emissions.

On the flip side of the coin climate change has also caused some extreme rainfall in certain parts of the world.  The places hit are often poor areas that already have very limited access to medical care.  These large amounts of standing water often wipe out crops and homes, further impoverishing people.  In addition the large amounts of water often carry a variety of disease and parasites. Again, these diseases can spread very rapidly and cause a worldwide health crisis.

In addition to extreme droughts and extreme rainfall, we are also poisoning our bodies of freshwater.  I am involved with the St. Louis Pine River Superfund Citizen Task Force and I have witnessed firsthand the amount of resources and dedication needed to clean up contaminated water ways.  I am paraphrasing my professor Dr. Michael Vickery when I say that the next major war will not be fought over oil.  Rather, it will be fought over water.  The population of the world keeps rising and along with it the need for fresh water rises.  Yet, we continue to shoot ourselves in the foot by wasting and contaminating our natural resources.

The general consensus in the developed world is that we will innovate our way out of this problem.  I agree that ultimately mankind will find a way to use science to solve the climate change problem.  However, no one can say how far off that is.  In the meantime we must be prepared to make small concessions for the sake of saving ourselves.  It can be something as simple as taking a shorter shower (something I have started to do) or turning off lights when you leave a room.  If you want to take it a step further you can write your congressperson and urge them to support sustainable projects.

I have only mentioned a very small percentage of potential health problems that will result from climate change.  Keep in mind that there is many different problems that could result, both predictable and unpredictable.  So next time someone tells you that climate change is not important, simply inform them that climate change is bad for their health.

Ben Roberts