Riding the Wave: Capital vs Copenhagen

Owen Holland explains why he and the 49,999 others who joined the Wave are likely to be disappointed by Copenhagen

I joined the Wave on Saturday. 50,000 people turned up, according to the organisers, covered themselves in woad and marched from Hyde Park Corner, via Grosvenor Square, to Parliament, did a lap of Parliament, then went home. No speeches, no rally. I found this a little odd, as if the organisers were trying just a little bit too hard not to put people off. I had a lot of fun covering my face in blue paint, but I think a lot of people who joined the demonstration might end up feeling rather disillusioned by the end of the week. The reason?

We live in an upside down world: ice-caps at both poles are melting faster than scientists had been expecting, and yet, undeterred by the threat of rising sea-levels, the agenda of the oil MNCs continues apace. Their plans? To drill beneath those very same endangered icebergs in order to extract the last few precious oil-drops, helping the ice to melt just that little bit faster. Which ‘world leader’ in Copenhagen has the cajones to tell Shell that they are not allowed to do that? ‘No ifs, no buts: no drilling.’ Not Barack Obama who, after much shilly-shallying, now seems willing to countenance off-shore drilling in the Arctic. Staring into the brink of an abyss, giddy with vertigo, it as if those in power are content to let us fall.

Cast your mind back. Drill, baby, drill! was Sarah Palin’s mantra – a horrifically instrumentalised vision in which the world, quite literally, gets screwed to death; the biggest one-night-stand in history, with no morning after.

To counterpoise an alternative: “Perhaps the true society will grow tired of development and, out of freedom, leave possibilities unused, instead of storming under a confused compulsion to the conquest of strange stars.”

No one, I imagine, is deluded enough to think that the end of this week’s summit in Copenhagen – Guardian coverage sponsored by Shell – will see the dawn of the true society. But neither, perhaps, would people go so far as to accept the idea that the assembled leaders are no more than a committee for managing the common affairs of the world’s biggest carbon-emitting transnational companies and corporate interests. No doubt they really want to solve climate change. The elephant in the room, however, is capital. And the executives of modern states are certainly still skewered – hook, line and sinker – into defending the c-word: carbon trading or capital. Take your pick.

Capital only knows one solution: create a market to deal with the problem. Then hope for the best. The short-sightedness of trading carbon emissions, meanwhile, has been detailed in any number of places (here, here, here, even here, for example). Even the summit’s hosts have already been embarrassed by one of the emissions trading scheme’s many loop-holes.

At least Sarah Palin and her kind are open about their intentions to destroy the planet. Obama, Brown et al. are, by contrast, forced to mumble about their commitment to stopping climate change before inevitably being forced to adopt the compromise posture of ‘drilling-lite’.

One of the more interesting sections of the crowd put it this way: ‘Carbon trading is not the way, Vestas workers show the way’. A lazy rhyme, but the point stands. Vestas, the UK’s only manufacturer of wind turbine blades closed earlier this year leaving 400 people out of work. Perhaps creating one million climate jobs – as demanded here – is the way out of the recession?


~ by Cory Morningstar on December 9, 2009.

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