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Climate demonstrators ignore weather

June 6, 2009

Anthony and Taylor with green helmets

We joined hundreds of demonstrators today in a march through the rain from the Rhine River to the Maratim Hotel, the location of the UN conference. Whether you were a local or a foreigner, a toddler or grandmother, a psychoanalyst or a union worker, you wore a green hard hat and a white clean-up suit. The suits and hats were complex symbols. We were the construction crew for a movement. We were the clean-up team for a disaster. We were the melting ice caps and the tundra ecosystems. We were green jobs. We were dressed in industrial garb, but denouncing fossil fuel emissions. It was powerful.

Before the march, there was an aerial photograph of all the participants in an open area of Rheinaue Park. A huge lift raised photographers far above the crowd to take spectacular shots of the white-suited demonstrators lying down on the green grass to form a huge exclamation point and the emerging message from the international climate movement to the UN delegates–“Yes You Can”.  The message reworks Obama’s campaign slogan to urge action that meets the IPCC recommendations for climate change mitigation. Young Friends of the Earth already posted a video of the event. Robert van Waarden posted more photos.

 

Here’s a sample of the English chants that we heard at the march and the following rally: “Climate Justice Now!” – “Oh-oh, it’s getting hot in here! There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere!” – “Take action, take action, and get some satisfaction!” – “Island nations can’t go on vacation! Contribute funds for adaptation!” (My personal favorite) – “U-N-F-C-C-C, act now with some urgency!” – “There’s a movement among us, let’s all act for justice” (Rejected for poor attempt at rhyming)

Stepping back from the experience, one of the insights I’ve gained from listening to both delegates and NGO members is that demonstrations are, for better or worse, an influential (and routine) part of the political process at UN conferences. It’s difficult to quantify the effect of a rally or a critical newsletter, but it’s clear that the more disruptive work of some NGOs does not go unnoticed by delegation teams or by home governments. It may provide the public support that a decision-maker refers to making a decision that isn’t broadly supported. It can give a decision-maker new language to describe a challenge or a goal. Or, it may undermine the delicate compromises that are needed for certain decisions. I’ll be interested to see how the demonstrations at Bonn affect national and international policy outcomes.

Marching to the Maratim

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate permalink
    June 8, 2009 11:13 pm

    Oh my goodness, I wore a very similar green hard hat in D.C. Not the suit, though. And I ended up having to give the hat to a senator.

  2. Eric Wolfe permalink
    June 11, 2009 6:27 pm

    Congratulations on these initiatives, guys!

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