Protest and theatre at the UNFCCC

There is little apparent NGO protest within the UNFCCC/COP. After all, NGOs are significant players in the negotiations (either directly because they are part of a country’s delegation or indirectly because they are attempting to influence a country’s delegation). There is a bit, however. This morning I saw a sign from Environment Jeunnesse, saying “The Children of the World Say: YES to Marrakech” (the sign asked delegates to support the Marrakech accords created at COP 7). And later that day, WWF staged a little inside theatre: a guy dressed in a polar bear outfit wandered around a small set kitted out in the trappings of a tropical island (very nice backdrop, BTW). The polar bear kept looking for an iceberg, finally fell to ground, and ‘died’.

The attendees of the conference just walked by these demonstrations. Of course, these may not have been for the attendees at all but for the media. And the media was attracted to these demonstrations like flies on…flypaper. Which leads me to wonder: can the press be so easily played? (Yes, that’s why NGOs do this.) Does the press assumes that this is the sum total of what’s going on at this conference? (No, but it’s easy and it makes for ‘good’ TV.) It’s also part of the mnemonics of the press: “Climate change conference? Protest. Flash. Police presence. Flash. Serious people talking. Flash. Some kind of chart or map. Flash. Politician. Okay, got it.” Kind of difficult to insert some nuance into this.

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