On Saturday night, after a week of living off of conference center snack bars, a group of us were invited to a delicious home-cooked meal with a real live Danish family. After spending the evening gawking at their stylish furnishings, a few of us had a question: Why are Danes so good at design?
“We’re control freaks,” our hostess replied instantly. “It comes from being a small country with not much power. We have to control what we can.”
When it comes to producing absurdly appealing light fixtures and shockingly comfortable desk chairs, that Danish form of displacement is clearly a very good thing. When it comes to hosting a world-changing summit, the Danish need for control is proving to be a serious problem.
The Danes have invested a huge amount of money co-branding their capitol city (now “Hopenhagen”) with a summit that will supposedly save the world. That would be fine if this summit actually were on track to save the world. But since it isn’t, the Danes are frantically trying to redesign us.
Take the weekend’s protests. By the end, around 1,100 people had been arrested. That’s just nuts. Saturday’s march of roughly 100,000 people came at a crucial juncture in the climate negotiations, when all signs pointed either to break down or a dangerously weak deal. The march was festive and peaceful but also tough. “The Climate Doesn’t Negotiate” was the message, and western negotiators need to head it.
When a handful of people starting throwing stones and setting off sound grenades (no, they weren’t “gunshots” as the Huffington Post breathlessly reported, the marchers handled it themselves, instructing the people responsible to leave the protest, which they promptly did. I was in that part of the march, and it barely interrupted my conversation. Calling this a “riot,” as the British Telegraph absurdly did, really isn’t fair to serious rioters, of which there are plenty in Europe.