COP15 Proletariats

Posted on behalf of Anthony Berger, a student at the University of Iowa: Stepping off the metro into the brisk Copenhagen air, seeing the Bella Center's wind turbine circling ominously in the distance, and the sensing the invigorated buzz of conference participants mentally-preparing for the second week of COP15 to commence, I optimistically descended the steps from the metro platform. After gazing excitedly at the facade of the conference venue, I began my search for the point at which the registration queue terminated. Continuing my walk to the end of the line, I denied admitting that this was indeed a very long line. Though initially worried I wouldn't make a 9:00am meeting with my accrediting NGO (Mediators Beyond Borders), I convinced myself that the line would move steadily, and that I'd eventually make it to the meeting a few minutes late, at worst. I mean, the line had nearly quintupled in length, and my naivete precluded that most of these people would eventually be registered and admitted. Two hours later I had moved about 300 feet, maybe about 50% of the line from the point at which I joined. While not entirely crestfallen, I was, of course, frustrated at the ineptitude that would be perceived by my NGO superiors. Anyway, I let my worries go, and I continued to patiently stand in line, reading through some literature about my NGO's prospective protocol, and perpetually squirming my frigid toes. Around 10:45am, the line began to slow substantially. I felt I wasn't too far from the inimitable white tent (which, once you were under it, meant you were guaranteed you'd eventually get into the conference), and being that there were still 7 hours until registration closed, I felt that I would acquire admission at some point. Around 1:30pm, beginning to feel exhausted, in need of a washroom, and quite hungry, one large throng of people were permitted to enter the white tent. Any semblance of a line disintegrated, and the human stockyard shuffled blindly forward. This brought me within about 10 feet of the barricade, which had been placed to bar tenacious registrants.

Within ten feet, 4.5 hours to go, surely I would make it in. Here, the real wait began. Thirty minutes, no movement, no news. 1 hour. 2 hours. 3 hours, no movement, no news. At this point, the morale of waiting participants, including a bevy of journalists from media sources of worldwide fame (Le Figaro, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Nippon News) and dignitaries from India/Djibouti/Ethiopia/etc., became increasingly uneasy and agitated. The ignored crowd began rallying "U N, let us in!" and "We're tired, we're cold, we're accredited!"

Not only did this heighten the presence of police at the barricade front, but it also turned typically professional-acting personages into vocal protesters. During the rollick, people began pushing forward. After the shift had completed, my distance from the barricade had gone from about 10 feet to 3 feet. It was so densely packed (and therefore dangerous), that I had to spend the remaining hour and a half hunched over with my cumbersome, 30-pound shoulder-bag between my knees. Eventually, after the yelling had died down, and people were exasperated and woebegone, we all finally realized, beyond reasonable certainty, that we had just spent 10 hours waiting in the freezing cold in vain.

After enduring the complete disrespect received by ignoring registrants, at 5:52pm a UN flunky finally announced, "anyone who is not yet under the white tent will not be allowed to register." Interestingly, no one had been permitted access to that white tent for about 4.5 hours. Welcome to COP15!

Author: Jerry Schnoor

Share This Post On