What light indeed? Like the fake forest with piped music of crickets and insects that is installed in the African Pavilion at COP-17, and the inviting pathway through the gloom toward a bright light, so maybe, is COP-17? Cynical you may say … perhaps.
Today the website news24.co.za has the COP-related headline of “COP 17 first day crime free” — how more cynical can you get!
The opening day of COP 17 saw the “Fossil of the day” award for 1st and 2nd place go to Canada (see here) for saying they were coming to COP to “play hardball” with developing nations, and for stating they will not be pressured into a second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol. So why are the Canadian negotiators here? Their government’s attitude, for now, seems indefensibly unethical!
We sit here today with the inherited choices of our past, and the delegates are deciding our legacy for the future. History does not augur well for any dramatic shift from self-interest at the expense of others. It seems that when strong leadership is lacking, a personal crisis is necessary before change can be effected. And so, while it may seem abhorrent to hope for a crisis to change the minds of those in positions of power … one wonders what magnitude of damage must first occur?
Thus, the challenge of COP-17 is inherently ethical. COP-17 is a power struggle, one where altruism often takes a back seat while each nations seeks to assert their own agenda. Meanwhile, the paradoxical combination of globalization and polarization continues, all the time increasing the risk exposure of the vulnerable.
The human capacity to acknowledge danger while ignoring the consequences seems unfathomable. Like an obese fat man who doesn’t exercise while on a diet of steak, and who ignores his danger until the first spasm of a heart attack is felt in his chest , so the global powers are leading the world to a heart attack, and the first spasms are already being felt in the climate system.