It felt, at the start, a little like Seattle at the start. The same kind of joyful spontaneity that marked the first hours of the WTO protests, before the cops and the bandana-clad anarchists started trading blows. People gathered in front of the Danish Parliament building in the first sunshine seen for days (and it doesn’t last long at this latitude in December) to march to the conference headquarters about four miles away. The crowd—as many as 100,000 strong—was incredibly diverse: young people from around the world have swarmed into Copenhagen for the week, and they were dressed as penguins and polar bears and dinosaurs, singing, dancing to stay warm against the cold breeze. There was one other odd thing—many carried photos of other protests from the year past, ones they’d helped organize in their home countries. We saw shot after shot from our Oct. 24 350 rallies; it was as if people were delegates to some kind of global convention, carrying the hopes of their friends back home.
And meanwhile, back home: there were some 3,000 vigils around the world, organized by 350.org, Avaaz, and other members of the TckTck coalition. Most were candlelight affairs, solemn gatherings from people filled with hope and faith that something may yet be accomplished in these fractured talks. That’s what was different from Seattle: this gathering was just the tip of the iceberg, and a very large berg it was. By the time the long line had reached the Bella Center (mostly avoiding the few clashes with police taking place in other parts of town) the sun had, of course, gone down, and the candles had come out here as well. The pictures are quite beautiful, and they merge with the images from all over the world. A global movement is a beautiful thing.
Nearly two decades after writing a book that popularized the term “global warming,” MoJo contributing writer Bill McKibben founded http://www.350.org/. He is chronicling his journey into organizing with a series of columns about the global climate summit in Copenhagen. You can find the others here.