Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tower of Copenhagen

They came from the whole world, according to the Genesis story. They spoke a common language, and had a common plan--a glorious one, a tower, reaching all the way to heaven. In that way their global city with its far-seeing tower would rival God's seat in the vista it would offer. But as we know, the plan went awry. God sowed confusion in their ranks, and they went away again, no longer speaking one another's languages, their tower unbuilt and their city abandoned.

Delegates from 193 nations arrived at Copenhagen with no less ambitious hopes. Princes, presidents, prime ministers, ordinary citizens and advocates, NGO's and scientists, all looked to build the structure that would steer our planet away from impending climate catastrophe and toward a more hopeful future. But the confusion of national and private interests weighed too heavily on the fragile foundations laid at previous climate summits. The negotiations collapsed and the legions of the hopeful went away in anger and disappointment. We are condemned to a babble of blame and recrimination, while the ice melts and the deserts spread.

The Copenhagen summit was an event of mythic proportions, in some ways larger and more universal than any previous conference in human history. The dramatic last-minute parleys of heads of state, the surge of dissident voices outside the Bella Center, even the address I happened to catch by the Prince of Wales on rain forest preservation, all coalesced to lend it an air of historic gravity--of kairos. And many years from now, when the climate crisis has wreaked its destructions and bent the nations and peoples of the world to its perverse will, some folk-narrator may tell the story of the failure of Copenhagen and the collapse of its proud tower--that is, if there is anyone left to tell.