30 March 2009

some good news

Todd Stern, US chief negotiator at climate talks in Bonn.

"We are very glad to be back. We want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us," Stern said to loud applause from the 2,600 delegates to the U.N. negotiations.

They clapped again when Stern said the U.S. recognized "our unique responsibility ... as the largest historic emitter of greenhouse gases," which has created a problem threatening the entire world.


Stern said no one on his team doubted that climate change is real. "The science is clear, the threat is real, the facts on the ground are outstripping the worst-case scenarios. The cost of inaction or inadequate action are unacceptable," he said — a total change of tone from his predecessors.

Full associated press article here.

And Earth Hour photos looked excellent, too! Much discussion on Earth Hour, at our place. By the way, there were postcards and newspaper ads here in Amsterdam, but I don't know if there were any official switch-offs in the city. I note some commentators are taking it rather literally, like John Quiggin, who does a calculation of the emissions stopped by people taking part for one hour, compared with switching over to a few energy-saver light bulbs for good. I have total respect and admiration for JQ in his persistent use of fact, logic and his outspoken stance on climate change and target setting in the Australian political sphere. But I think that perspective is a bit too literal and doesn't really reflect what the event is about, in terms of mass acceptance.

I personally think WWF are doing a pretty good job trying to shift the symbolism of it towards a statement of "please government take more action". And surely there aren't many Earth Hour participants who think "that's it" - an annual switch-off is enough to stop global warming. Really. It's simply a good way to count how much of the population does actually 'get' this thing - that we, humans, have stuffed the balance of gases in the atmosphere by burning oil and coal. And according to Earth Hour in Aus anyway, that's more than the commentariat like Miranda Divine would have you believe.

Acknowledged, some may say it's about 10 years after this mass awareness would have been really helpful. But anyway, Earth Hour. Not a bad thing at all.

I like the photos because they show people in charge of these landmark buildings do actually believe those fundamental things. That industrialisation has warmed the globe, and that we have to make a different choice on energy use / energy supplies to fix it. Its kind of like the relieved feeling when you go on a march .. "oh, right, its not just me.. lots of people feel this way." Either that or their boss believes it is good enough PR to put the order through to turn out the lights for an hour!

Oh, and there's another thing - I'm now here in Europe spring. Easter in a couple of weeks. With life bursting out all over, birds singing, flowers literally shooting up before your eyes... a spring fertility festival makes so much more sense. In the south, it falls just as everything is in senescence. Dur.

I would love to see these kind of change-of-season rituals adapt in Aus to have a bit more meaning. They are so old that the western world has mostly forgotten the roots, and whoops, changed them to be about Jesus, etc. Perhaps an annual lights out at the onset of Autumn, in Aus, with it's associated candles and parades and outdoor 'light' related festivals could a be perfect new tradition for marking the moment. Nights getting longer, darkness closing in, an embracing of the dark, the uncertain, the dreaming. Earth hour could have the unintentional hallmarks of a seasonal event that is fitting to the rhythm of the earth, that is something the family can do together, that is a bit mystical, and a reminder of how to tread lightly, and just a wee little bit pagan. (Sssh.. don't tell the editor of the Herald who sponsors it!)

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