Obama

U.S. Energy Secretary Chu on The Avengers

This post comes to you from Ashden Directory
Kellie Gutman writes:

Steven Chu, the 12th Secretary of Energy for the United States, has a post on his Facebook page about the new movie, The Avengers. Though his friends are not listed, he does have 18,963 ‘likes’ on his page. Chu lists his job:

As Secretary of Energy, proudly carrying out President Obama’s ambitious agenda to invest in alternative and renewable energy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create millions of new jobs.

About The Avengers  he says:

‘[It] focuses on a new, limitless clean energy source called ‘The Tesseract.”… While the “Tesseract” may be fictional, the real-life global competition over clean energy is growing increasingly intense, as countries around the world sense a huge economic opportunity AND the opportunity for cleaner air, water, and a healthier planet…’

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ashdenizen is edited by Robert Butler, and is the blog associated with the Ashden Directory, a website focusing on environment and performance.
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Performing the Press Conference and Workshop for Trigger Point Theory

by Aviva Rahmani

Published in the Winter edition of the CSPA Quarterly, which was focused on the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen.  To view or order back issues, visit http://magcloud.com/browse/Magazine/38626.  To subscribe to the CSPA QUARTERLY, join us! http://www.sustainablepractice.org/join-the-cspa/

The Horizontal Press Conference

My December 18, 2009 press conference in the Jasger Jorn room at the Bella Center for the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) was scheduled the same day President Obama was scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen. The same week that press conference was scheduled, outside Bella, at the invitation of Oleg Koefoed of Cultura 21 Nordic, I was scheduled to conduct a three-day workshop on the theoretical basis of my ecological art work. I was attending COP15 as as an official observer and part of the University of Colorado (UC) Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). What I would see as an observer, was an effort on the part of many, to help make sense of and advance progress on a problem shared by the whole world, regardless of what policy makers would say in plenaries. I was moved to notice that easily 50% of participants were under thirty. But I saw an equivalent push-back from those determined to cast a blind eye on history, for their own short-term comfort and advantage. 

What I experienced as an artist was neither light-hearted nor simple. But it was a lesson about what can happen when enough people converge on the same problem. The groups I was working, in touch, exchanging information with and learning about, from December 6-19, are too numerous to count. In addition to the UC group, Cultura 21 and Cultura 21 Nordic, they included Avaaz, the Yes Men, representatives from the World Bank, Island Nations, heads of American agencies, Greenpeace, 350.org, gallerists from Khoj International, New Delhi, India, ARTPORT and Poulsen in Copenhagen, High Tide (for whom I blogged), the Climate Forum, the Climate Pirates, Culture Futures, the eco-art dialog, World Wildlife Fund International, European Union negotiators, the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts and the Danish police. The press conference  was subsequently re-scheduled three times, as I worked with the United Nations press office to negotiate around the growing panic of conference organizers and police in the face of a perceived degeneration of civil control  towards the end of COP15.

The press conference I planned to deliver would have challenged policy makers to include language about art-making in their adaptation policies for climate change. It would have given an example from my collaborative work with scientists. COP documents speak of the need to address the “aspirational goals” and support the  “resilience” of vulnerable nations confronting the stress of adaptation to climate change. But they go on to define those goals strictly economically.  As others pointed out, you can’t address “aspirations” or resilience solely economically.

Early September 2009, Neena Bhandari reported from Sydney, for the IPC (which covers the United Nations) that  “An agreement by 21 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum leaders on Saturday to adopt ‘’aspirational goals’’ to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been criticised by voluntary agencies as grossly inadequate for saving the world from the effects of climate change.”

Art is the glue holding societies and cultures together, particularly when they are under stress. In Copenhagen, the press conference became the art and it was a collaborative, intuitive production.

My experiences in Copenhagen were fraught with paradoxes. It was terrifying for what wasn’t accomplished at the conference. It was inspiring for what I learned about work being done to mitigate climate change all over the world. Horizontal connections were made between disparate groups and individuals spontaneously connecting as equals at events that ranged from the formal reception and      diplomatic plenaries of COP15 to the Climate Pirates who sailed into port from Germany and the vast demonstrations in Christiana. It was frustrating because my COP press conference never happened.

Everything that happened in Copenhagen was staged for layers of media and an international audience. In that sense, the critical days, from December 7 to December 18, were one continuous, anarchistic media event, with no single individual, group or nation consistently taking center stage. Ultimately, the whole world became the venue for a giant teach-in, in the form of the largest Happening ever. It was attended by millions around the world, some of whom were reporters, all of whom had a stake in our outcome.

Copenhagen was the site of multiple realities about global warming. Many of us simultaneously participated in a wide range of activities with the broad assembly of groups in attendance. In addition to blogging, I went to and participated in sessions at the Bella Center; helped work on the press conference for the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change (EDCC ); showed up for various art openings and shows in the city, indoors and outdoors; participated in demonstrations; exhibited my own films; helped set up other people’s installations; attended several other conferences; hosted a workshop; networked at the COP reception; had dinner in restaurants with various groups, where other attendees were also dining and visited a few tourist sites, where ordinary Danes asked me about the conference while others staged elaborate art works to draw attention to global warming. The media were all over the Bella Center during COP15. Island nations, as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives took center stage the longest, as eloquent spokespeople for what needed to be done and why. The press ran with their passionate stories.

At every turn in Bella, through the halls and before plenaries, colorful demonstrations were attended by masses of flashing cameras of every size and type.  The extent to which sophisticated performance art has saturated activism and how funny many were was striking. The “Fossil Awards,” gave out awards to the country that had most obstructed progress that day, with great pomp and ceremony, every evening at 6: PM to hundreds of cheering, jeering and singing COP participants.

Outside Bella, in the streets of Copenhagen, was an installation about  immigration (of climate refugees) mounted by    Sacha Kagan on the basis of a work by students at the CCC Programme of the Geneva University of Art and Design. It included credible yellow wet-signs with the text “Caution Border”, police tape marking off parts of the street, printed with the slogan, “This is not a natural border” and slick black and yellow hand-out cards printed with provocative questions about borders. At demonstrations, the press caught glimpses of innumerable notable activists from every corner of the earth, from Wengari Maathi to Vandana Shiva. But the media also witnessed events turn violent at the hands of the Danish police.

Back inside Bella, at official Side Events, reporters took notes and shot pictures of government ministers speaking to crowded rooms, sometimes to the extent that many of us were sitting on the floor. In the Jasger Jorn room at Bella, press conferences filled out informational gaps in the Side Events held in other rooms.

After much internal conflict, I had flown to Europe for COP15, despite a previous vow in 2006, after Katrina, to reduce my carbon footprint by eschewing flight. The press conference I planned would have been an opportunity to present my work with Dr. Jim White, of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, UC Boulder as a model for how we need to look at problems arising out of global warming, using virtual communications. The work with Dr. White has been premised on a series of experimental research projects applying Trigger Point Theory Theory as Aesthetic Activism to problems caused by global warming. We conducted our work in desktop sharing conversations, including other scientists and artists. The press conference would have included a presentation of our work, SOS Gulf to Gulf, comparing the impact of global warming on gulf systems internationally. It connects problems with Somali pirates, Katrina, education in Bangladesh, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and lobster migrations in the Gulf of Maine.

Trigger Point Theory is a way to look at situations and see where to apply the least pressure to effect the most change.  Flying to Copenhagen, working virtually, doing a press conference in Bella, were ways I was applying that principle. My ideas developed, out of my collaborative ecological art practice, from monitoring change at the sites of two environmental restoration projects I initiated and other related experiences. Trigger Point Theory Theory as Aesthetic Activism, evolved as a strategy to analyze causes of ecological degradation and create environmental restoration plans out of that analysis. It is presently my dissertation topic at Z_node, Institute for Cultural Studies, Zurich University of the Arts, (ZHDK) Zürich,  Switzerland and the School of Technology, Communication and Electronics at the University of Plymouth England.

Trigger Point Theory works by diagnosing a very small “patch” (in the language of landscape ecology), in a degraded  system, comparable to identifying an acupuncture trigger point on the body of the earth, in a greater degraded ecosystem, whose restoration could catalyze regional healing for a larger landscape. Acupuncture identifies tiny points in systemic meridians of energy flow. Comparably, many indigenous rituals also seek to harmonize human needs with a whole ecology approach to sustainability. Diagnosing and identifying that process is the heart of my theoretical work.

The Trigger Point Theory Theory as Aesthetic Activism workshop was held in the Global Room at Verdenskulturcentret, in Copenhagen. The workshop brought together a number of people concerned with global warming, involved in events that month. The participants represented a spectrum of interests from those engaged in the most radical demonstrations to simply concerned citizens.

The workshop was organized around applying Trigger Point theory to our various activist concerns with free-hand  mapmaking. I presented approximately twelve premises to observe situations for possible “Trigger Points.” As, how to  identify where many factors come together, creating ecological edges that enhance each other and the importance of   establishing buffer zones to insure resilience. 

The last day of the workshop was scheduled the morning of the second scheduled date for my press conference:     Wednesday December 16. It was rescheduled when word spread that NGOs would be issued secondary passes to enter Bella towards the end of the last week of sessions.

What I had to say in Jasgar Jorn had been transformed by my first ten days in Copenhagen. The press release I wrote Tuesday night opened with,

 “Protestors world wide see COP15 as a conflict between money and legalisms.  This press conference asserts that is why art needs to be at the table.  Art can help build capacity and facilitate the adaptation COP15 needs to address with vulnerable nations. We will present SOS Gulf to Gulf, a virtual model for a role for art in creating resilience. ”

 COP treaty negotiations need input from artists because art conveys the “aspirational goals (COP15 treaty language)” of culture. Culture is what contains civilized behavior despite chaotic transitions. Much of the plenary discussion framework was about the crisis of adaptation to the effects of global warming. Yet there was no mention of art’s role in cultural  sustainability.

That afternoon, violence against the demonstrators on the part of police, closed down Bella to anyone who hadn’t already entered that morning. I went there anyway. After much discussion, the police allowed me to hand 500 press releases for distribution through the fence gaps erected around the building to Marilyn Averill, the UC’s NGO co-ordinator, who was already inside. 

After the Wednesday closure and cancellation, at Bella, we rescheduled the press conference again, back to Friday  morning. No one knew what would happen next, especially about climate change. By Friday, access to Bella was restricted to 93 passes for 45,000 registrants, effectively locking me out of the building and closing my door to Jasger Jorn and the webcams there.  Instead, the Friday before I left, I recorded the press release I’d prepared for COP15, at the Poulsen    Gallery, for the Yes Men and Avaaz.

The Yes Men and Avaaz had set up a fake Bella Center (Good COP15 http://www.good-cop15.org shadow Bella Center). They taped a number of presentations, some of which have been mounted on the website. The tapes illustrate that everyone has aspirations in relation to global warming. Most are light-hearted, often humorous general proclamations and   wishful statements about the world we need.

What was ultimately seen by the world beyond Copenhagen didn’t just come from Jasger Jorn, the Poulsen Gallery or the streets. It also came from hundreds of blogs (including my own http://high-tide-cop15.blogspot.com/) and a thousand candle light vigils around the world, many initiated by 350.org, the group started by Bill McKibben. Arguably, 350.org was the most effective group because their message about carbon particle reduction was so simple.

The experiences of developed countries are particularly mediated through media. Media can be another venue for visibility or a portal for an audience to go to another site, another world. The denouement of COP15, challenged us all, arguably especially artists, to give some hard inspired thought to how we can help the media show people some new doors to open. What I might have had to say or what anyone else had to say, is part of an immense jig saw puzzle. It may adequately address global warming if we can just wrap our brains around how to perform a really effective horizontal press conference.

The Aspirational Press Conference 

“When we take “aspirational goals” seriously for the Least Developed Countries (LDC), we see that the arts in each culture and between cultures are a means to express aspirations, sustain it’s people, bridge communication gaps and be a container for important historical information, including indigenous environmental knowledge. Art is a means to intimately connect people.” –  excerpt from my SOS Gulf to Gulf press release prepared for COP15.

The international experiences we’re having now because of unchecked global warming  terrify any sane person. Global warming can be also be connected to terrorism. The consequences of rising carbon emissions include massive migrations of culturally disrupted climate refugees, for whom terror and rage are appropriate responses. The fact that many of these disrupted cultures have a history of sexism, privileging violent machismo in response to crisis and excluding women from full socio-political participation, contributes to chaotic behavior.  Contemporary art that confronts this complex reality is an intensely intimate expression of connection between people, binding the aspirational goals of all life. In Islamic Jihadist rehabilitation, the creative act of “making” is considered a healing option to violence.

The meaning of doing a press conference as an activist performance in Copenhagen (COP15) for me, hinged on defining an artist’s relationship to policy. My intention for the press conference had been to provide context for and an alternative model from which to negotiate.

The first week at COP15, when I met and briefly worked with EDCC, I paid close attention to how they framed the need for accountability in the treaty policy language and made the decision to follow their example. One of the discussions that stuck most firmly in my mind centered on the relationship to press as partners in public education. I realized from that in addition to presenting a new model I had to explain a new definition of art.

At the end of the second, informational page of my press release, I wrote (with references to treaty documents):

1. Gender issues relate to questions of art and culture. Disproportionately, artisans in indigenous cultures are often women. Their practices often preserve the, “[land use, land-use change and forestry sector]”; (and represent how to) p. 92 “respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples [, including their free, prior and informed consent,]  Deforestation is often a consequence of the cultural disruption that displaces gender roles.

2. Art and humanities foster creativity through out all sectors of society. In transition periods, creative problem-solving is as essential to survival as financial or regulatory support.

3. The costs of sustaining cultural communities in relation to other ecological costs is not only minimal but has historically transferred wealth, in a variety of forms back into an economy. This will help cultures in transition maintain identity and independence, a response to the need to, “develop low-emission [high growth sustainable] development strategies.”

Early 2007, Marda Kirn put Dr. Jim White and I together to develop a collaborative project for the “Weather Report” show on global warming, curated by Lucy Lippard for the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. White and I began work with a passionate commitment to explore how to address global warming. Our work together further radicalized us about the urgency of associated problems, particularly migrations. A few months later, the idea to attend COP15 and hold a press conference there began  gestating at a party after the opening.  A number of us were sitting around a kitchen table,  including Subankhar Bannerjee, Mary Miss, Lillian Ball and Marda Kirn, talking about art’s role in public policy. I  suggested we hold a joint press conference in Washington, D.C., to present our ideas. Over the next few months, we tried to organize something. But the logistics daunted us and the plan went on my back burner for a year.

Late 2008, Jim and I began working together again and the same questions about migrations arose. It was then that I said I wanted us to go to Copenhagen (COP15). Dr. White couldn’t go but by August 2009, I had my official status to attend. Simultaneously, Oleg Koefoed, whom had organized the Culture Futures conference the first week of COP15 in Copenhagen, invited me to lead the Trigger Point Theory as Aesthetic Activism workshop.

Many of us who came to Copenhagen are still making sense of what happened there, what was accomplished, how we all connected and where we might go from here, from islands to artists. Post COP15, the larger degraded landscape to restore, has emerged as the “aspirational goals” of this planet. It still needs mapping. But one thing is clear, change will come, if it comes at all, from horizontal coalitions in civil society, taking the messages we all heard in Copenhagen and beyond, from press conferences to policy people to the world. Artists are poised to take a great part in that adventure.

In Case You’re Wondering what it means #COP15

Here is a good summary of points from Grist.com

The Copenhagen Accord contains these provisions that President Obama called a start to global action to solve climate change:

1) A commitment by developed nations to invest $30 billion over the next three years to help developing nations adapt to climate change and pursue clean energy development.

2) A provisional commitment by developed nations to develop a long-term $100 billion global fund by 2020 to assist developing nations in responding to climate change and become part of the clean energy economic transition.

3) A goal to pursue emissions reductions that are sufficient to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius.

4) Pledges by nations to commit to concrete emissions reductions, though the specific levels of reduction were not set.

5) A general goal to subject participating countries to international review of their progress under the accord.

6) Diplomatic space for the United States and China to work together to solve climate change. A commitment to complete an assessment of the effectiveness of the accord in reducing emissions by the end of 2015.

Full Article HERE

#COP15 Political Wrap Up

It is now December 19th, the day after COP15 was intended to end. It didn’t though. It went well on into the the night. I stayed up watching the live feed until a recess was called around 4 a.m. However, I was able to get the idea.

We’re not there… yet?

That is perhaps one of the most bizarrely intended phrases I’ve ever written. Did we get a deal? Sort of. Did we get the deal we wanted (and mind you I’ll refer to everyone with this use of “we”)? No, no one got what they wanted. Is there hope that there might be a future for political action on this issue? I think so, but we must match that with our feelings of failure.

Sigh… Failure.

That’s a bit of what we’re left with. This failure has been attributed to the strong arm tactics of the United States and our president, Mr. Obama. But, I don’t think it looks like our fault. I do think it looks like our (I’m speaking as a citizen of the United States) political system: big, unwieldy, dispersed and slow.

And so it should be to some extent. If we were to railroad it through as a 350 ppm agreement, would everyone suddenly have been happy? No. Sadly, of course, very sadly, no. It is what is ecologically necessary, if not, as I would hope could be pointed out, almost generous as a target. But, I’m on the environmental side. I work in the realm of the arts and typically non-profits/NGOs (Or a hybrid like the CSPA). I could probably get pigeon holed as a leftist activist and you wouldn’t be far off. But, there are other people, who are not like me, in the world. And, despite my spite, I need to respect them and what they want/need (Or, what I, in my bias, will say is what they think they need, but only actually, acutely, want).

Do I give credence to the Rushes of the world who claim that global climate change is a hoax? No, and you may have noticed that to diffuse that, I refer to it as ‘climate change’ and not ‘global warming’. In that early morning recess I listened to some clip talking about how climate change is a great world-wide conspiracy against capitalism and the United States. Which of course is like saying that the peace movement is un-american. No, it’s not, it’s ultimately without nationality. But as McLuhan said, all violence is about threats to identity.

Rush Limbaugh’s Right-Wing America-centric identity is threatened by  taking a worldwide view. The Danish Police, ordered to keep order, have their identity threatened by dis-order, the masses of people coming towards them together. Demonstrators (predominately, but not exclusively peaceful ones) see the locked doors of the Bella Center and the police surrounding it as a threat to their identities. Developing nations see their unequal share of the climate change issue as a threat to their (developing) identity. Low-lying countries see rising tides as a threat to their identity perhaps most drastically.

If we act on the violence, if we don’t seek balance, we’re lost. And trying to get a lot of people to agree on something that is balanced, though rarely entirely fair, is not only hard and time consuming, but very American. The conflicted American attitude that oscillates between leadership and isolation consumes more than 300,000,000 people.

More than 50 times as many people, through unequal representation (favoring the big, rich nations on financial backing of political will and favoring the small, poor nations on per capita representation), are conflicted right now between self-interest and common identity, both reinforced and condemned by their peers. If anything, this isn’t an anti-american conspiracy, it’s an americanization of global politics. Our experiment in democracy, in which we’ve tied everyone’s hands to move forward quickly is binding the world together. And it follows, that people will be angry with us, as we’re a threat to their identity and individual will. Not through our strong arming, but our entropic nature. And if you think about it that way, Obama showed up to do what we hired him to do at home, set an agenda and get things moving. He is a powerfully positioned political man, with very little ability to make unilateral change anywhere. I’ve found myself explaining this to many people here, Obama doesn’t do much directly. No president of the USA does, no individual leader in a democracy does.

Anyway, it was dizzying to me to think we could negotiate anything that works for anyone in 2 weeks when we’re trying to protect billions of lives. And we didn’t. We failed. We failed in trying to get the entire planet to move together. It’s a 6 Billion + 2 legged (a second one on either end) race with ourselves. We’re all lined up at the starting line together. And the, pardon the stereotypes, Kenyan marathon runner is tied to the next contestant on “The Bigger Loser”, who is tied to somebody on crutches.

If we want to get anywhere, we need to figure out how to move together. We didn’t do that in Copenhagen. Instead we sort of figured out how to figure out working together. And there were so many people ready to go, we’ve got some forward momentum. We’re getting closer and closer to critical mass, where it’s not about what’s preventing us from getting go, but what if anything could prevent us from stopping. We’re over coming (and I do mean to say we are doing, not trying) a whole lot of inertia. COP15 failed, but Copenhagen succeeded in bring more and more of the world together, even if we are extremely disappointed (let us not at all downplay this) that this wasn’t enough to tip things in our (unfortunately that refers to everyone, even the climate deniers) direction. We’ll only feel we were successful when the COP comes with us.

Shame on anyone who says we’re going to get things to change at Cop16. Shame, because it’s not going to happen at COP16, it’s going to happen now. Every diplomat prepared to not let the Copenhagen Accord rest, every reporter, NGO and activist inside and locked out of the Bella Center, every climate action, every tweet with #COP15 trending, they are all going to continue without waiting for a year. We all got a chance to be in the same place, at the same time, break bread and see who was here.  We reified the sheer mass of the movement. I think there is something to be said for that as we pull each other along.

So, we failed. Failed to save the world, failed to stop climate change, failed to create a binding agreement for nations to move forward, failed to find faith in leadership. But we only failed in terms of Friday, December 18th, 2009. But each following day we’ve got more hands on the wheel bring us hard to port.

Some Recap from around the web:

3 More Days in Copenhagen (and London)

It is now the morning of the final day of COP15. Obama is in town. We are, of course, meeting for coffee.

No we aren’t, I’m technically closer to Obama right now than I ever am in the States, but I’m sure he’s busy anyway. That was the most common question I had before coming, “Are you going to be there when Obama is in town?”

Regardless of our Head of State, it’s been a very busy and exciting few days since the last marathon check-in. Hopefully you’ve been following as we highlight the arts happening around Copenhagen as they respond to COP15. I also hope you’ve been following the progress of the demonstrations around Copenhagen and the extreme tension that has built up between those inside the Bella Center and those forceful kept out.

As we left it in our last re-cap, Christiania had been raided and evacuated by Danish police. Miranda and I left the following morning for London and had to watch from afar for 24 hours. Miranda continued on home to Los Angeles, but I was in London to take care of some business.

My first goal was to get a copy of the the catalogue from the Central School of Speech and Drama’s Theatre Material/Material Theatre conference. This was the first time we had appeared anywhere using the name of the Center to talk about what we were working on. It’s a beautiful little volume with great material.

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That evening was really what I had come for though, the launch event for Arcola’s new space in Dalston. The event was held in London’s Living room on the 9th floor of the London City Hall. Ben Todd appeared, introducing all of he partners in bringing together support behind the project. We’ve got the city of London, ARUP, Hackney, BOC  and so on. We celebrated with a couple of drinks and a fantastic view of the tower bridge.

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The next day was truly the highlight though, I’m only a bit sad that it’s not the right time to got into great detail about what happened. What I can say is that myslef, Ben Todd, and both Peter McKinnon and Liz Asselstine from York University got together in the morning to discuss an ambitious international coalition for sustainability in the performing arts. We followed this meeting by crashing Ben’s next at his invitation. We met with Alison Tickell and Catherine Bottrill of Julie’s Bicycle to discuss both their efforts to green the music industry and how we can all work together. Before heading back to Copenhagen I met, for the first time in person, William Shaw of the RSA for coffee in their London offices.

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I returned to Copenhagen to a city near lock down. Police are now milling about everwhere. As I’m sure you are likely to know, the demonstrations advancing on the Bella Center on wednesday turned ugly. I hesitate to say violent, but it’s hard not to since police were using force to literally beat back demonstrations. The metro station at the Bella Center is shut down, as are the next in either direction. NGOs have been shut out from the talks, credentials removed and there are a whole lot of angry people as the temperature and snow began to fall.

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Moving about Thursday brought with it a sense of tension. We’re in the home stretch and at that time we hadn’t had many world leaders appear yet. There is so much work to be done for the climate talks, and so little time, and it’s very cold. Today was my first trip to the Klima Forum, the concurrent meeting for mainly NGOs. Here I was able to interview Aviva Rahmini about her workshop, which I was sad to miss while in London. We were also there for the candle light vigil that evening and a few performances at Øsknehallen.

Sara, my host here, and myself met back up and went to the RE:Think – Kakotopia exhibition at the Nikolia Copenhagen Center for Contemporary Art. It’s a good exhibit, one of three locations with a variety of interesting work. You may have seen more about it here before. The work ranges from the witty Safety Gear for Small Animals, to the generative Most Blue Skies, to the strangely fascinating  Link.

It was in watching Link that we found ourselves sitting next to police that seemed to be taking shifts in from the cold. They were checking their email on iphones and chatting. Wandering around the galleries and looking at the installations. It is very cold outside and we’re right next to the central shopping district and a few steps from the center of the government. But, it’s one thing to walk by police as they patrol, even in heightened numbers. It’s another thing to sit with them in full uniform in a gallery watching this short Finnish film.

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We walked home, having dinner along the way. We passed a digital sign post recording the number of bicycles had past that day and since June 15th. There were fireworks, but we don’t know from where. It was hard to tell if it was a dud from the fireworks or something intentional, but we crossed the street at some point after a small explosion went off in front of us. With the about of anger in the air, my mind went to it being something nefarious, but I doubt there is much to that.

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Today, Friday, the final day, I’m going to meet up with the Wooloo.org guys at their office. I’m going to try and see the final day, and likely the largest and more active of the demonstrations. There is a Yes Men event this evening at the Tck Tck Tck Fresh Air center which I hope to get into.

Pittsburgh Opera joins citys green renaissance with renovated building – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh has had a lot of attention turn its way as it has been transitioning from the heart of the steel industry and industrial epicenter to a green industry powerhouse. This is from an Article in today’s Tribune Review. Thanks to Thomas Rhodes for brining it to our attention!

Original By Thomas Olson and Kim Leonard Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Pittsburgh Opera uses the three-story brick building at Liberty Avenue and 25th Street as a headquarters with rehearsal and performance space. The opera expects to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification by years end from the U.S. Green Building Council, which already has designated seven other pre-World War II buildings in Pittsburgh.”Pittsburgh is serious about being part of the green revolution,” opera General Director Christopher Hahn said. “And we wanted to be part of that.”The citys burgeoning “green” reputation is one reason why the Obama administration chose Pittsburgh to host the Group of 20 summit for two days starting Sept. 24. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the worlds largest green convention building, will host the meeting of the worlds finance ministers and top government leaders.

via Pittsburgh Opera joins citys green renaissance with renovated building – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Obama Cites Michael Pollan’s Sun Food Agenda

by Jeff Nield

In a recent National Public Radio interview, Michael Pollan talks about how he was approached by a Democratic party staffer about his New York Times article, Farmer in Chief. The article is an open letter to the next president concerning U.S. agriculture policy. The staffer wanted Pollan’s consent to summarize the article into a page or two to get it into the hands of Barack Obama. Pollan declined, saying that if he could have said everything that needed to be said in two pages, he wouldn’t have written 8000 words.

Despite the snub, it looks like the article created enough of a buzz that it made it into Obama’s stack of pre-election reading material. In an interview with Joe Klein, Obama refers to the article, explaining how Pollan’s ideas fit into the concept of a new energy economy.  We’ve received no word on whether John McCain has read Pollan’s article.

Here’s the portion of the interview where Obama addresses the issue:
“The biggest problem with our energy policy has been to lurch from crisis to trance. And what we need is a sustained, serious effort. Now, I actually think the biggest opportunity right now is not just gas prices at the pump but the fact that the engine for economic growth for the last 20 years is not going to be there for the next 20, and that was consumer spending. I mean, basically, we turbo-charged this economy based on cheap credit. Whatever else we think is going to happen over the next certainly 5 years, one thing we know, the days of easy credit are going to be over because there is just too much de-leveraging taking place, too much debt both at the government level, corporate level and consumer level. And what that means is that just from a purely economic perspective, finding the new driver of our economy is going to be critical. There is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy.

“I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That’s just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.

For us to say we are just going to completely revamp how we use energy in a way that deals with climate change, deals with national security and drives our economy, that’s going to be my number one priority when I get into office, assuming, obviously, that we have done enough to just stabilize the immediate economic situation. In conversations with folks like Warren Buffet, Larry Summers, and the other people that I’ve been spending time with on this, I described it as we’ve got a boat with a lot of leaks and we need to get it into port. That’s what the financial rescue package is about. But once we get it into port, once the credit markets are functioning effectively, then it’s time for us to go back to the fundamentals of this economy. Now, the one other point I want to make about this, though, we can’t divorce the energy issue from what I believe has to be the dominant political theme underlying everything — the economy, healthcare, you name it. And that is restoring a sense that we’re growing the economy from the bottom up and not the top down. 

“That’s the overarching philosophical change that we’ve got to have. It’s the attitude that Henry Ford had when he paid his workers a decent wage. That means they’re going to be able to buy their cars. The irony of McCain trying to make this whole Joe the Plumber thing as his sort of mantra over the last few days, if you look at the transcript of my conversation with him, the point I was making was two-fold. Number one, I want to give you a tax cut sooner so you can save sooner to start your business sooner because the average plumber starting off sure isn’t making $250,000 a year.”

This article originally appeared in Treehugger.com, but I found it on Bioneers