By David Simpson and Jane Lapiner
Opening Day of COP23
The opening day of COP 13 went smoothly, one blessedly brief speech by a climate luminary followed by another without a hitch but also without anything resembling the luster that an event of this magnitude might be expected to demand. Until, that is, the official sponsors of the event, the Fijians, offered up a rather grand cultural display that managed to poke through the turgid surface of official ceremony. It was a rare sight, a dozen or so large, brawny islander men, bare chested and slathered with some kind of oil, dancing and chanting if not feverishly, than at least with some level of heat that overcame the basic artifice of the performance place. What gave it potency was not only the strident masculine display of the costumed dancers or the throaty, drum-backed band of singers and percussionists but the fact that they were closely surrounded by a large crowd of quietly well- dressed, diplomats and sundry semi-officials. The broad, sweaty bare chests provided a sharp contrast against the field of polite silk neckties and tweed jackets.
Turns out that the dancing, drumming and singing display was a traditional Fijian ceremony called the Qaloqalovi. The dance, along with the hand-hewn war canoe resting in the reception area just outside the opening plenary event reinforced the awareness that Fiji was given the job of guiding this COP for the year. That choice for the first time puts the leadership of a COP in the hands of a nation that is one of those facing the most grave and immediate risk of destruction, in Fiji’s case by terminal flooding. It puts our fate more or less for the first time in the hands of a small island state (AOSIS) also designated as a Least Developed Country (LDC). This after another year of record high temperatures and huge, damaging climate events–quite enough to provoke a palpable sense of urgency.
One might say that Fiji’s selection to lead the COP this year was in great part symbolic. It seems, so far, to be a German/UN event. (Rumor has it that Germany’s contribution to COP 23 has been well-over $100 million and the UN’s, while considerably smaller, was still in the tens of millions.)
Ostensibly, though, one might have more reason to hope because of this regal appointment, even symbolic, that the scales would tip at least a little in favor of the small and the modest among the gathered 196 nations. It might end up working that way, but another force that has far too often emerged in these negotiations has unexpectedly raised its iniquitous head again
Yes, just when you thought that the old organ of denial, had petulantly removed itself from the climate stage, it’s back and supposedly trying to play the same old stingy games with the world’s future. The US is back! Developed counties have again been inspired by minions of State Department denialism to renew their now-classic resistance to accepting a higher level of responsibility for dangerous warming of the atmosphere and they are feeding at the fringes of our civilization again like werewolves arisen from their still-fresh graves.
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