I have spent a day standing on a freezing market thinking about the reactions to events at Copenhagen, and about Pantomime.
I am sure there will have been thousands of comments, thousands of blogs. I have not seen or heard these.
Copenhagen is I think something quite extraordinary. A gathering of so many powerful people looking for the way to face up to this invisible threat; looking for the way to make change happen now. All of them I think individually feeling their way, uncertain of the right path. And there is all the positioning, posturing and national pride; the need to play to domestic audiences.
There were so many hopes and fear, such strong emotion. The young people freezing outside the conference hall, with the sense that this is the moment of their lives that mattered most of all.
The importance that everyone gave to the attendance of the leaders was telling. We were glad when we knew that Gordon Brown had committed early to being there. There was relief and expectation when we knew that Obama would be there.
Obama still has the aura about him. This is the man who brought hundreds of thousands of people out onto the streets of America, people who rose to the idea “Yes we can!”. People who felt this is the time, we have the power now to change our world.
Being in opposition, being a candidate, is in part about dreaming. Obama was able to catch the imagination with his vision.
Being in power is different. You learn that this is the art of the possible. You learn that you can in the end only achieve anything by and through others. It is not enough to have a vision, or even to be right. You have to learn to understand what others want, learn to compromise, learn to be patient.
Many people reacted badly to the partial imperfect deal that came out of Copenhagen. They wanted a great piece of Political Theatre, a moment that changed the world, a hero, someone who could slay the dragon with one swing of his sword. They got good but tired men and women, who did not sleep for days, practical people who accepted that there was no easy victory for today. This had to be a first step – part of a motion towards – part of the process of learning what was in each other’s minds.
And if there had been a binding treaty signed then and there, what would that actually have meant? Would the world have changed then and there? I do not think so. What we need here is something which has to be done by us. It needs the the small people, who do our jobs, and choose what to buy in markets all over the world, to play our part. This does not happen with the stroke of a pen, it happens with changes in millions of small choices made by millions of small people in every country every day.
Personally I think Copenhagen did change the world, but it is like the changing of the tide, it is a moment when nothing exciting, nothing perceptible happens, but after a little while you can say that is the moment that drew the line on the sand.
What has happened with Copenhagen and the months of building up to it is that many ordinary people who had not taken the time to think about global warming and its implications for their families and their world did begin to see this for the first time. It is also a point where many ordinary citizens throughout the world became connected into something much wider. They began to see this as their fight.
The miracle of social media means that this matters. It is far easier to make it count, It is far easier to find each other, far easier to connect, far easier to build this into a movement with an inescapable momentum for the right change.
The disappointment at Copenhagen’s failure to produce the big moment is predictable. The danger is that some people may see it as proof that a political approach can’t do the job and that leadership and heroes do not count. I have been thinking about pantomime. Pantomime does always have its hero, always just an ordinary individual who has the cathartic moment and triumphs over great odds, but the role of the crowd is always crucial. A pantomime without audience participation is meaningless. The hero can do what he does because we are there shouting “It’s behind you!”.
Copenhagen brought many people together. Relationships were made. The difficulties were clearly seen. What we will get now is months of work, much of it from politicians, to provide the framework that will make the actions which we take as individuals both meaningful and effective. We need to understand and respect this work. but we do not have to wait for it or to rely on it at the whole answer.
In the run up to Copenhagen my own MP asked consituents to use their contacts all over the world to involve their own politicians, to tell them clearly that we do want a treaty. I know that I personally failed in this. I did not know how to do it, but I have seen other little indicators on the web. Other people are thinking this way now. We can build the movement and we should seek to do so.
I believe that the big lesson we can take from Copenhagen is that the heroes we choose are an important symbol of our hopes. But if we want them to lead us in world changing action, we have to be ready to give our support, we have to be there and ready to shout. “Yes we can”.