The Conference Opening

December 1, 2008

December 1st – The opening meeting in one of four ‘great halls’ was impressive and awe-inspiring.  The sheer size of the room and the huge number of people in attendance (several thousand I would estimate) was moving in and of itself.  The knowledge that most of us were here as defenders of the Earth, was even more so.  But then there is that little gnawing feeling inside that not all of us are on the same page here; that while ostensibly the conference is to save the planet from our own blind, avaricious folly, there are still many fools in the room (more on that later… when I tell of the press conference by the US today).

The meeting was replete with a sedate, respectful, and understated equivalent of ‘pomp and circumstance’.  We were addressed by the outgoing president of the Conference of Parties (COP) from Indonesia, the host of last year’s Bali conference, after which there was a completely nominal and symbolic ‘election’ (assent by simple applause) of the president of the COP for the year until the final meeting next December in Copenhagen.  This year’s president is the Polish Minister of the Environment, as Poland is this year’s host.  The Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the entire FCCC also spoke, as did the Environment Minister from Denmark, next year’s host.  Dr. Patchauri, the head of the IPCC, the UN’s scientific panel on climate change… all 2500 of them, also addressed the assembled delegates, observers, and press.

While these speeches might on one level have seemed rote and dry, and indeed they were largely scripted speeches, they were awesome in another regard.  Each and every speaker drove home the same theme, namely that these talks are the ‘real deal’, that humanity is facing peril of gross proportions, and the dire consequences of a failure to act, or act quickly and resolutely enough, will be perilous in the extreme to the entire fabric of Life on Earth.  I believe it was the Danish environment minister who made the point that ‘this is not science fiction’.  But I think most people will still have to struggle to recognize the reality and imminence of the peril.  Maslow was right.

It is my hope that this conference will make first page news all around the world.  It is my wish that the community of journalists around the world will do an adequate job of conveying the gravity of our situation to the peoples of the world.  It is my prayer that those in  positions of power and influence take the dangers to heart, and that all self-interested motives be overridden and overwhelmed by a groundswell of public and private opinion, if not raw conscience of the remaining spoilers of the planet.

Ever so much I am reminded of my reason for being here… my deep commitment to do what I can to make a difference here in Poznan.  With the US delegation doing a press briefing today, I believe I will have my chance.

For the Earth – §