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Postcard from Copenhagen

December 7, 2009

COP 15 commences in less than 12 hours.

As I sit here in a quaint European-style dining room in the suburbs of Copenhagen, Denmark, I cannot help but imagine how the next 2 weeks will turn out.

Will this “most important political meeting of our time” finally bear us a wave of audacious political leadership? Will we bear testament to moral courage which finally rises against the tide of skepticism and despair? Or will we end up leaving the Danish capital with broken hearts, disappointed and angry? Will we tell posterity that Grandpa/ma was at Denmark, and watched the most powerful men and women in the world not take action against the most pressing environmental issue of our lifetime?

One week ago, when I was preparing for my usual university weekly essay, I could not help but be intrigued (and not for the first time) by Jared Diamond’s coherent and well-argued book, Collapse. A re-acquaintance with Professor Diamond’s well researched historical data will remind us that great civilizations in the past have faced sudden and tragic collapse at the most unexpected of times. It scares me to realize that more often than not, it is a time of unprecedented technological and economic growth which precedes societal destruction. The native Easter Islanders could not survive to tell their tale. Neither could the Ancient Pueblo People of North America or the Mayans of Central America.

When asked, Professor Diamond stated that he is a “cautious optimist”. It is perhaps ironic that the very same technological brilliance that puts SUVs on our roads and tons of CO2 into our thin atmosphere is at the same time sufficiently advanced to reverse our destruction of this planet, if our political leaders find the moral courage to do so. Solutions to climate change and a whole array of other environmental problems exist, but political inaction, financial short-sightedness and economic selfishness hinders them from being in place today.

We need to act today. We face the fierce urgency of Now. We know that yes, we can. We know that yes, we must. And we know that yes, we will. Or will we?

Live from COP15,
Hu Ching
ECO Singapore

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