To quote Shrek: “Ogres are like onions, they have layers”. And the same seems to be true for an event like COP17. Watching and listening to some of the political opening statements this morning was a little like trying to read between the layers. What was being said, what was really being said, and what was the agenda behind what was really being said? And then you start to wonder about not just what is being said but who is speaking. Of course you can see who is speaking, but who is behind that person and what are their agendas?
And pretty much completely separate from the rather obscure, laborious, and seemingly endless speeches of the political negotiations are the exhibition stands and side events. Here the myriad of NGOs, agencies, research groups and activist groups mingle in another multi-layered mess of agendas, ideas, paradigms and viewpoints. Where else are the boy scouts and World Bank provided with identical cubicles from which to speak to an audience of scientists, green activists, journalists and the occasional besuited political delegate who has wandered through the doorway?
Here the layers are more subtle. Its more a case of nuances as each stand approaches the climate change conversation from their own perspective. We have the population growth (or lack of growth) advocates, for example, who are convinced that their view is the most important. We have various science groups who have the answer to all the questions, and we have the NGOs who are spending the funders (who are also around) money the best. We all have our agendas, polished up in layers of brochures, pamphlets, banners and booklets. The underlying message is all the same: “Here, look at us, we’re doing good stuff”, but the means of communicating varies hugely. Some stands are completely bare and manned (or womaned) by a single person furiously focused on their laptop. Others, (like ours) are covered in posters, and banners and always surrounded by a range of chatting people.
But behind all of this are the real layers. And these layers are more serious and in some ways they are sinister. These are the layers of humanity, selfishness and greed, ethics, morality, truth and beliefs. And it is these voices that, while seldom heard, shout the loudest. It is within these layers, underneath all the niceties and polished layers above, that the real future of humanity surely lies? Because fundamentally the future lies in personal choices based on beliefs about self, others, the world around us. These choices are being made every second of every day and carve out the path of history and future. Where will these choices take us? My view is fairly pessimistic but I deeply hope that I will be pleasantly surprised!