Saturday I visited The National Museum (NATIONALMUSEET) in Copenhagen. I was walking back from the 100,000 person march against climate change billed as “Planet first. People first”. It was a few degrees below zero and I had been out for two hours. Inside I began to thaw. I decided to ask about the Vikings. Rather than sound too touristy, I inquired about the 900’s to the 1100’s and was directed to the Vikings section by a very pleasant blonde attendant.
The Vikings founded my city, Dublin. They constructed a quay from a field very close to the Coombe hospital where I was born. The Coombe and the Liberties are new names for the first settlement of Dublin. The Vikings, like the Coombe hospital itself, have “ceased to be“, their remains flattened below the offices that manage the new City of Dublin. Modernism is not the friend of history.
I’m Dublin! Three generations on all sides (and much more) so it is likely that I carry Viking blood in my veins (in fact my cousin checked and I’m related, as is he, to Guillaume Bâtard (better know as William the Conqueror, a hard assed Viking if ever there was one). Maybe I’m the result of a drunken crush finally consummated with a blond warrior on a foggy night in the 12th Century or a rape in the 10th. century invasion? These details matter little now. Danes accost me in the streets of Copenhagen asking directions in Danish so I reckon I’m at least a cousin.
What does matter is what our great leaders decide in the COP-15. Maybe the delegates might want to visit the MUSEET before they accept the lobbyist shilling? There they will find that the Viking age happened just after the Iron Age. With a huge leap in technology the Danes sailed forth to conquer parts of Europe that they had never before seen. They went further, settling Greenland in the 11th Century. Others ended their lives as warriors protecting the Eastern Emperor of the Holy Empire in Constantinople.
But why the lust for travel?
The Vikings had no choice! Their weather changed. Their families suffered famine. They chose to go to war, killing to survive. Every other animal on this planet does it. This is not the place to argue the divine difference between man and other animals. Suffice to read the history books who now write books little read. For the price of that dense tome that is none too fun we can hop on Ryanair, take a break from grim reality, recession, overpopulation, climate change? What a bummer.
Best to take a wait and see approach! No?
In his keynote speech today in Copenhagen an Indian environmentalist told us that eighty billion Indians depend on their knowledge of regional weather patterns to grow enough to feed themselves. They are poor. They don’t store food. Anyway, how long would it last?
Their weather too has begun to change.
We are different in one way, from the animals, even from the Vikings. Our knowledge of science gives us a good idea what is to come, we watch weather patterns from space. We can choose from alternative futures. Thousands of scientists dedicate their working lives to provide politicians with the information we need to make a decision here in Copenhagen. The best of them work for the IPCC. They have reported four times since 1990. Their fifth report comes out in 2014 but they think it might be too late then.
Our politicians are not scientists but they have advisers who interpret their findings. They too foresee what is to come if we don?t make drastic changes now. Some leaders think about this more than others. The island nations in the Pacific have been thinking long and hard on the options, the people in Mali and Bangladesh too.
Nnimmo Bassey is International Chair of Friends of the Earth International, he also works with Oilwatch International. Mr. Bassey grew up in Nigeria like many of the people living now far from their homes in the neighbourhood where I was born. They are early refugees of oil wars. Last Monday Mr. Bassey gave a speech on Climate Change with Naomi Klein opening the alternative conference here in Copenhagen called Klimaforum09. He gave us this piece of advice:
“The stone age did not end because of the
lack of stones and the oil age does not have
to wait till the last drop of crude is gone?”
The lobbyists in Copenhagen are paid by organizations who don?t agree. They sleep in five star hotels renamed “Bright Green”. Quarterly results blur their vision.
They don’t go to museums any more.