Day 1-- Copenhagen Blog: Cynicism and Hope

I have never been to a global event in my life.   I’m not really sure what makes something count as a global event – the Olympics?  But from my few initial moments arriving in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 15) it was clear that I was dragging my bags through the airport to be a part of something unprecedented, something that could positively alter the course of our lives and our planet. And yet in spite of that idea, a familiar knot of cynicism and defeat was beginning to creep into my stomach.

As someone who lives and works in Los Angeles I most often feel isolated in the fight against climate change. Of course my colleagues share my passion for the issue as do many of my friends and family but living in a city (and country for that matter) that tends to focus on the insignificant and inane - on Britney Spears’s new hairdo for example, I’m often left with the feeling of despair.  Too often I find myself screaming inside “don’t you know our planet - your home is on the verge of devastation – people are dying because of climate change and all I’m hearing about on the news is the marital upheaval of a famous golfer!!!!” But in Copenhagen – I told myself prior to my trip – I should feel hopeful – I made an agreement with myself - at the very least I will try and be open. 

Right off the plane I was exposed to the hallways of Copenhagen airport. They were plastered with impressive ads urging whoever was walking past to take action on climate change.  A photo of a graying President Obama in 2020 with the quote “I’m sorry we could have stopped catastrophic climate change . . .we didn’t.”  A picture of the UK Prime Minister with a similar message.  This is a good sign, I thought.

Next up was a special passport control line for the COP15 participants. I’ve never been privy to a special line like this but indeed as an accredited participant at COP 15 I felt the pull to stroll through.  Waiting in line I took a moment to reflect. What am I doing here anyway? I’m not a scientist. Or a government official. Should I really be in this line? Well of course you should- you have a lot of critical messages to convey while here and. . . and then in my weary state I abandoned my internal philosophical rant and started to eavesdrop on the conversations going on a around me, in languages being spoke from all over the world.  I started to eye the passports of those standing in the line with me. Passports from every nook and cranny of the globe. Greece, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and a few I just couldn’t figure out.  Then as I stepped forward in line I was struck by something profound.  A concept that I had heard many a time before but it never quite had the weight it had at that moment: we are all citizens of the planet earth.  Our passports might be green or blue or maroon with different symbols on the cover but ultimately it’s true we are all inhabitants of the same place.  And we are all here together, unified.  I felt a small rumbling of hope.

I didn’t utter a word to any of these strangers yet I felt connected to them- By standing in that line I knew they shared the same concerns and passion about solving the climate change crisis. In their corner of the world solving climate change mattered. My cynicism continued to wash away as I journeyed through the passport line to the lost baggage desk. There in line with me was an elderly man from Japan, a head scarved woman from Turkey and a business man from India-- all in Copenhagen to attend the climate meetings. 

Even with a lost piece of baggage I felt optimistic – the world for the next two weeks will be focused on fighting climate change and I will be a part of it. I will be here not only representing my organization and our message but representing my little corner of the world and myself as a citizen of planet earth.  I will for the first time be a part of a global event.

Finally after 24 hours of travels I plunged into my hotel room bed and clicked on the TV for news –I am happy to report that there was not one mention of a wayward athlete or starlet –just news of a very important climate change conference.