System Change Not Climate Change

by A.A. French

After being in Copenhagen for five days now, there are some thoughts running through my head that I’d like to express and share with y’all. This is going to be short, and probably not all that eloquent, but it will help me get some points across that I think are really important at this critical moment in the fight for our climate. I do want to say that while this post is critical of the way things are happening at COP15, I still deeply respect the youth of all delegations who are inside this conference, trying to scrap out a decent deal for the world. I thank them for all their efforts, but am coming from a different perspective here.

I came to Copenhagen hesitant and nervous….not wanting to place too much hope into the talks that had effectively been castrated by the UNFCCC leadership and Yvo de Boer. But I still wanted to be here all the same; after all, it’s supposedly the climate party of the century! So I hooked up with some French activists and an amazing organization called Climate Justice Action and planned on doing all that I could during the two weeks of the conference. I wanted to rally, protest, take part in negotiations, have my voice heard and above all- help bring a fair, ambitious and binding treaty out of Copenhagen. But upon arriving in Denmark, I entered a catatonic state of dumbfoundedness… having finally come to the realization, like so many others (James Hansen, Breakthrough Institute etc), that these talks were doomed to fail and there was nothing anyone could do about it. As quickly as it had come, my dream of that fair, ambitious and binding treaty that we’ve all been working towards disappeared in a smoggy cloud of yen, dollars, euros and political and moral weakness.

Since 2006, I’ve been a part of the youth climate movement and I always believed that it was possible to achieve the sort of change we needed through the United States Congress, the United Nations Conference of Parties or other governmental bodies. To put it short and use that worn out term, I believed in “the system”. I believed that governments did have the power to stop climate change and did in fact want to stop climate change. I thought COP 15 would be a conference of folks dedicated to doing whatever was necessary to solve the climate crisis, regardless of money, corporate influence or politics.

I was wrong.

The first five days of the conference have been full of back door dealings by Annex 1 countries, oppression of “developing” countries like Tuvalu by official delegations and a lack of desire for a legitimate deal in Copenhagen by members of the US delegation. So, even with tens of thousands of people working on a global climate treaty for the past fifteen years, we have yet to reach any sort of legitimate, legally binding treaty that addresses climate change and climate justice while refusing to give into corporate and big business pressure. You would think that when you put the world’s top negotiators, scientists, governmental representatives and UN hot shots together for 15 years, they’d at least be able to figure something out right?

What’s the *#&$#@&!^ problem?

The answer is simple. Capitalism is the problem. Our global economic system is the problem. This “profit above all” attitude that we’ve been working with since the dawn of Adam Smith and modern economic system will no longer work if we want to continue living on this Earth with our fellow brothers and sisters. The evidence towards this is numerous and incontrovertible. Take this astounding fact for example. There have been two occurrences in the past twenty years when carbon emissions have not skyrocketed upwards, and have even dropped a little bit. The first was in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the former Soviet eastern bloc country’s economies essentially all collapsed. That bloc lost 40% of their production capacity, and thus, their carbon emissions went down 40% , a significant amount. The second time when global carbon emissions have not continued on their hasty flight up was this past year, during the “global financial crisis”, when emissions slightly leveled off due to the slow death of many parts of our modern economic system. Let this example be a wake up call, let it motivate you, make you angry and make you want to act!

With little more than a week to go in this conference, I don’t know what sort of hack deal will be put on the table. I don’t know if it will help protect small island states or fragile economies threatened the most by climate change. I am pretty sure it will be extremely lenient on big polluters like the US, India and China. My only hope is that the coming actions and demonstrations organized by the Climate Collective and Climate Justice Action will show the determination and passion of real people dedicated to real system change to confront the awful truth of climate change and tell the fat cat delegates from rich, polluting countries what this world really needs: SYSTEM CHANGE NOT CLIMATE CHANGE!

from Copenhagen with love and solidarity

© 2009 It’s Getting Hot in Here
A.A. French is a climate activist from Omaha, NE and currently studying in rural southern Maryland.

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