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Copenhagen: An Anti-Globalization Movement Comes of Age

Ten years after the Seattle protests, climate activists are poised to make the U.N. climate change summit their "growing up party."

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In addition to the coherent narrative and the focus on alternatives, there are plenty of other changes too: a more thoughtful approach to direct action, one that recognizes the urgency to do more than just talk but is determined not to play into the tired scripts of cops-versus-protesters. "Our action is one of civil disobedience," say the organizers of the December 16 action. "We will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way--but we will not respond with violence if the police [try] to escalate the situation." (That said, there is no way the two-week summit will not include a few running battles between cops and kids in black; this is Europe, after all.)

A decade ago, in an op-ed in the New York Times published after Seattle was shut down, I wrote that a new movement advocating a radically different form of globalization "just had its coming-out party." What will be the significance of Copenhagen? I put that question to John Jordan, whose prediction of what eventually happened in Seattle I quoted in my book No Logo. He replied: "If Seattle was the movement of movements' coming-out party, then maybe Copenhagen will be a celebration of our coming of age."

He cautions, however, that growing up doesn't mean playing it safe, eschewing civil disobedience in favor of staid meetings. "I hope we have grown up to become much more disobedient," Jordan said, "because life on this world of ours may well be terminated because of too many acts of obedience."

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (September 2007); an earlier international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies; and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). Read more at Naomiklein.com.