This city has been transformed by NGOs and interest groups in preparation for COP-15. Public squares, billboards, subways, and even a local small college have been remade with artwork, exhibits, and forums. Many of these pieces are simple messages of hope or pleas to the people in power to “seal the deal.” Others are clearly part of a city/nation-wide PR campaign. Still others are heavy-handed symbolism: a polar bear ice sculpture left by the World Wildlife Foundation to slowly melt in a just-above freezing courtyard. One photographic exhibition with a clear message displayed in a plaza was entitled “Top 100 places to remember before they disappear.”
Naturally, interspersed with all of these are advertisements for the latest green industries. The city hall plaza hosts a giant ball about 3 stories tall made to look like the rotating Earth using projected light. The base of this globe was also the site of a Euro-rock show last night, though they skipped the cover band in lieu of speeches by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo De Boer and some local politicians.
Copenhagen is an interesting and, in some ways, ideal choice to host this 15th “Conference of Parties.” The city is several steps ahead of any other modern city I’ve been to with respect to green practices. I’m certain that some of this is a result of pre-COP-15 preparations (such as the corn-husk disposable plates), but most of the meaningful differences are reflected in the actions of the residents and the existing infrastructure. Windmills are everywhere… including a giant one that dwarfs the rather large conference center we’re in. I’ve also heard the statistic that 50% of the population here takes their bikes to work. I believe it too. They have much larger bike lanes on every downtown road complete with lights and curbs. Weirder still, they’re occupied! I mention this partially as a warning… as a San Diegan, I generally feel free to drift into the middle of bike lanes with semi-impunity secure that, if I get run over there, it’ll probably be by a car that drifted out of the road. Here though, pedestrian incursions are met with fiercely tingling bells and clumps of passing cyclists. It’s exciting how efficient the bikes are at getting around once they have a little infrastructure and room to move. Traffic is also essentially a non-issue… even with the extra 15,000-20,000 people in town for the meeting. It’s not just bikes though… the people of this town seem especially engaged in these issues. Our group had an offsite event yesterday evening, and a large number of the attendees were just people from town who were curious about ocean acidification.
Also curious about ocean acidification? More entries to come! Unfortunately my ability to write about what’s going on is being outpaced by seeing neat things to ramble about…
–Brendan Carter, Scripps Oceanography graduate student