I arrived in Copenhagen with Dave (journalist and Love Trees colleague) and our two young children full of hope. Hope for my kids, and children everywhere, that the planet would be saved.
My hope felt justified as an estimated 50,000 people flooded the streets of Copenhagen calling for an historic deal to stop global warming. Here we all were one world, one goal. And then it happened. Monday December 14 was the day I lost hope in Hopenhagen.
I'm a really optimistic person, so it takes a lot for me to lose hope. I was one of thousands of delegates, journalists and members of non-governmental organizations who had been approved for accreditation before arriving in Copenhagen waiting for hours below a subway platform to get into the Bella Centre. I was there with Dave and the kids before the conference even opened. It was so cold that Dave took the kids on the subway to warm them up every half hour but after a while the crowds under the metro became so crushing that police prevented trains from stopping at the conference station. The children had been great sports but eventually Dave and the kids had to leave.
Still determined, I continued to wait for eight hours standing in the freezing cold. People shouted "Let us in, let us in" and called for an explanation from the UN. We were pushed up against each other flanked by police, some with police dogs. Overhead, helicopters circled. There was chaos and even the police didn't know what was going on. It was a logistical nightmare and the police were just there to keep us out. After eight hours I had reached three rows from the front barricade. I would have re-booked my train to Munich that night if I thought there was any chance of getting in but it was clear nobody cared about us. We felt ignored, uninvited and invisible. I couldn't believe it. How could they promise us that we would have some input and then leave us all out in the cold?
The UN says they denied access to thousands of registered COP15 participants because of problems with the accreditation process. As I looked around I saw people from Latin America, Africa and Asia who had traveled so far hoping to be heard. I thought if the UN can't figure out how to get accredited participants into the conference how will they ever come to a fair and legally binding agreement to help the planet? I said goodbye to the friends I met at our UN meeting under the metro and raced to catch my train to Munich on my way back to Canada. A few days later "the deal" was reached. How could this have happened? How could we have left our children with so little hope?
Journalist, author of The Wish Trees and founder of two children's environmental education and tree planting organizations: Love Trees (love-trees.com) and The ChariTREE Foundation (charitree-foundation.org).