Day VIII in Copenhagen: Where Do I Begin?

By Jacqui Patterson, NAACP Climate Justice Initiative Director

So much to share, but I will try to keep it brief!

This morning we started the day in front of the Canadian Embassy demonstrating against the proliferation of tar sands operations. This action was led by the Indigenous Environmental Network. In brief, “Tar Sands” refer to “bitumen”/petroleum heavy sands which are mined to extract oil. These tar sands in Canada are on lands where the indigenous people have not given permission for extraction and furthermore, the process of extraction and transport is one that is hazardous to the environment as well as using copious amounts of water, a precious and diminishing resource. Sharon Lungo of the Ruckus Society and part of the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation, explains more.

Courtesy of Alan Lissner at

On my way to the Canadian Embassy, the metro announcer stated that the metro stop for the Bella Center (where the climate talks are occurring) was closed due to overcrowding and that people would have to get off at the station before and walk.  When I later arrived at the Bella Center I saw why!  The line to get in for accreditation was unbelievable…hundreds of people were standing outside looking grim and frozen. When I got in to where the bag screening occurred, I looked over to the “organizations without badges” area and the line had stopped to such an extent that folks were sitting on the floor working on their laptops. What did that mean for how long the folks were standing outside and how much longer would they be out there?? When I got inside I saw a friend who had made it through and was in the last line before receiving accreditation papers. She and her line mates shared that they had been outside for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS in that line!  I had to put that in caps because last week I was feeling abused after my two hours and had lost feeling in my extremities, and it was warmer then!  I later saw another friend who had been out there for 6 hours. I must frankly say that the situation was inhumane and just wrong.  I’m sympathetic to the notion that they didn’t know how to plan for such a large meeting, but after it went so badly the first day, surely there were some lessons there that they could have used to do some on the spot reform? To add insult to injury some folks were turned away as registration shut down, after they had been standing in the cold for hours! This isn’t a Rolling Stones Concert…these folks spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to come here to participate in “democracy” and this is what happened. Simply appalling!

Courtesy of Associated Press

As I entered the building, I did film some demonstrators out front who were raising some noise on the issue of reparations and ecological debt, as well as stating that the World Bank had no role in the proceedings.

In the afternoon we had a meeting of the environmental/climate justice organizations from the US to talk updates and strategy.  There we learned that the G77 nations (developing countries) walked out of the climate talks today in frustration and a sense of powerless due to their perception that there were backdoor deals that were making the real decisions and the COP15 was a façade. Otherwise our group decided to draft a letter to President Obama stating what the EJ/CJ community would like to hear in his time in Copenhagen.

During  that meeting, I had the awesome fortune of sitting next to Reverend Gwendolyn Jenkins of the South Carolina NAACP! I was overjoyed to find a comrade within the NAACP to help advance the climate justice agenda! We have lots to do together! She shared her story of what brought her to her climate justice mission and how she sees NAACP units playing a role going forward.

Later that afternoon I finally caught the infamous “Fossil of the Day Awards”, staged by the Climate Action Network, which happens daily at 6pm in the exhibit hall in the conference center. It is a farcical presentation of “awards” for the worst abusers of fossil fuels.  Watch the video to see who today’s winner was:

We ended the day with a North-South Exchange where people from various countries from the global south and people representing various communities and organizations in the global north gathered. During this sessions there was also some insider information shared from folks who participated in discussions with some of the lead negotiators in COP15. One development was that the language on adaptation and mitigation had been relegated to the preamble which was the non binding section of the agreement.  Secondly another person heard a couple of the negotiators being very dismissive regarding the walk-out of the countries, indicating that the walk out would have no effect because of the lack of ticketing. Otherwise we discussed common struggles and how we might work together to advance common aims.

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3 Comments on “Day VIII in Copenhagen: Where Do I Begin?”

  1. Katherine Says:

    Thank you so much for this extraordinary insight! You presented a wealth of knowledge and took the opportunity to network and exchange information from other environmentalists from around the globe. Keep up the good work.

    • jacquipatterson1 Says:

      Thank you so much for the encouragement, Katherine. I felt the privilege of being in that space and the obligation to bring that back home in real time and share with you all. I didn’t do quite as much networking as I would have liked but I did start some relationships that I hope to carry on as we carry on the struggle for climate justice. I appreciate your cheering (I needed it out here) and hope you’ll keep in touch. Thank you!

  2. […] said Reverend Brendolyn Jenkins, president of the Aiken, S.C. branch of the NAACP, in a video shot by CJI. “We realize also that environmental and climate justice are acts of civil rights.” […]

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