Climate conference proved to be one unique experience Moravian College group attended the historic Copenhagen event
A Christmas tree in City Hall Square, Copenhagen, is lit by pedal power from a stationary bike.
Diane Husic of Kunkletown and Hilde Binford co-teach a course called Climate Crises: Past Present and Future, at Moravian College.
They applied for non-governmental observer status at the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change held in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Binford, a music teacher, trained with Al Gore on climate issues. During graduate school Husic's class began a study of carbon dioxide levels when that was still not in the public consciousness. She is involved with the ecological revitalization project at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.
With provisional approval of their application, a call went out to the college community. Within a week they received 50 responses, most from alumni. Twenty-one were accepted, seven of them students.
Husic believes that non-governmental organizations should have a voice in international negotiations that affect the globe.
She flew from Newark to Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen. The city is a mix of old, large buildings in the center with some modern, Scandinavian-style buildings toward the outskirts. Public transportation was convenient and registrants received free passes. Wind turbines in the Baltic Sea are visible from the trains. The city is bike-friendly and these vehicles are available for use.
A group of senior citizens kayaked on a stream dressed in Santa costumes with the kayaks decorated for Christmas.
To be in a convention hall and city with thousands of people from around the world (close to 50,000) - many in traditional dress representing their cultures - was truly a unique experience, said Husic.
Besides the negotiating sessions, there were many side events including panels, formal presentations, groups representing indigenous people and more.
A peoples' forum was held downtown - the Klimaforum - which attracted a younger and alternative crowd that was more radical in the ideas expressed.
Husic said she knew that the United States was not always viewed positively, but did not realize how bad it was.
"We are viewed as arrogant, rich and irresponsible in terms of the environmental damage we have caused on many fronts and our overly high levels of consumption that come at the cost of people in the poorest countries of the world," she said.
While Monsanto and genetic engineering were disliked, President Barrack Obama has caught the imagination of many in the world.
She said it was interesting to see how the stories were being spun in the U.S. - both the demonstrations and the final outcomes.
Al Gore said there are problems with getting so many countries to come to a consensus in multilateral negotiations. He indicated that we cannot make all the necessary changes at once and have to learn to "walk before we run."
When he attended a reception he said being there was like being with family.
"There is always a sense that we are between hope and despair," he said.
When Husic and other representatives were caught in bad weather in Amsterdam, she had the opportunity to talk to some of them. Many were disappointed that a legally binding agreement wasn't reached and that the outcomes were less than what was needed, but most felt it was a positive action.
Although there were complaints that important issues were ignored, Husic said she believes those same issues were front and center and discussed loud and clear. The issues were not provisions of the final formal document that came out of the negotiations, a document created at the last minute with input from Obama.
"Getting China to agree to more transparency and monitoring is huge," she said. "Given all that is on the plate of President Obama and Congress, not the least of which is the economy, the U.S. has come a long way in the past year in changing its position on the importance of climate change and the way that science can be used to make important decisions.
"But we cannot ignore the economic impact of proposals we make or override our political process even if we don't like how slow and cumbersome it can be. Moving to a goal of trying to keep the temperature increase to less than 2 percent Celsius is not the 'l. 5 to stay alive' motto of the island nations and coastal population centers in Asia and Africa, but it isn't 'business as usual,' either."
For more information check http://moraviancollegeatunfccc.blogspot.com. Husic said the blog is different from others because they were trying to educate the campus and local community about the negotiations.