Sunday, 20 December 2009

Klimaforum09 Closing Ceremony

Now in cold Bonn glad to be out of a suit and away from the high tension and high security of Copenhagen and the COP15.

I want to bring some attention to the Klimaforum09, one of the more positive things to come out of Copenhagen. Unlike the disappointing end of the COP15 in the Bella Center the closing ceremony of the Klimaforum was a celebration of success. The various movements banded together in Copenhagen to put on a fantastic conference and several large peaceful demonstrations (Read the Earth Times Summary). The 'System Change not Climate Change' declaration was finished and ultimately shared in a short presentation to the Plenary inside the COP15.

During the closing event Tor Nørretranders gave a very moving speech about the sexiness of helping others. His speech (Read more on his blog 'What it Means to Be Human') centered around the theme of sex and success. Tor Nørretranders tells us that a basic aspect of evolution has been overlooked in Darwinian thought. What Darwin failed to notice is that evolutionary success is not just about being the fittest, sometimes it is about being the most generous. In other words, sharing and caring are also part of reproductive success - being attractive - being sexy. Being attractive is being generous.

Tor Nørretranders has several books out and is certainly worth keeping track of.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Hanging around in Copenhagen

The COP15 organizers (UN, UNFCCC, City of Copenhagen, Denmark) have either done a terrible job organizing this event or they have deliberately messed this up, either way 45,000 registrations were given for a conference that holds only 15,000 people, therefore civil society is left out in the cold. In some cases civil society has even been roughly evicted from the Bella Center. Luckily the IFOAM staff is extremely resourceful and industrious and have been organized enough to find a new space for a side event at Action Aid here in Copenhagen.

Despite the exclusion from the COP15 the NGO world has been active. The side events I witnessed today at the Klimaforum and Action Aid were phenomenal. IFOAM hosted a 2 hour side event dealing specifically with soil carbon and organic systems. Gundula Azeez of the Soil Association Timothy Lasalle of the Rodale Institute, Urs Niggli of FiBL as well as people from IATP, La Via Campesina and others presented information about organic systems.

Great day!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The situaton inside the COP15

Not only are the Danish police both bumbling and heavy handed here in Copenhagen the UN organizers of this 'Conference of the Parties' COP15 event have really made a terrible mess. The IFOAM delegation numbers have been restricted so severely that most of our delegates cannot gain access and we probably cannot host the side event we scheduled for tomorrow. The Friends of the Earth have been restricted completely (The chair was escorted and banned) from entering the event and the venue entrance is now filled with a sit down demonstration of several hundred NGO members who have gone through security but are still not allowed to enter the venue.

The UN organizers informed us last week that that tomorrow 'civil society' will be cut down to 1,000 and by Friday down to 90. Now it seems they have changed the story and intend to cut our numbers down today and restrict access altogether by Friday. The general consensus is that civil society is being marginalized here. For UN organizers to register 45,000 people for an event that they planned to limit to 15,000 attendees is wrong and it is terribly costly to the organizations. People have come from all over the world at great expense. Researchers in organic agriculture from around the world have come to present at our side event and take part in our press conference only to stand outside in the snow for up to 8 hours and then be turned away. Everyone is very upset. Andre Leu even said yesterday that the organizers of this event are incompetent on Australian National television.

What is left of the NGOs inside the COP15 have planned an organized walk-out from the Bella Center today. With less than 1,000 inside the place is quite empty and now that the Plenary sessions will allow only 300 and may not even allow us to speak. The collective understanding is that it makes more sense for us to concentrate our energies on the growing movement outside of the venue.



Reclaim Power COP15

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


The early bird gets the worm here at the COP15. It appears that Urs Niggli and I are the only members of the IFOAM delegation to make it inside the COP15 today.

This morning was a necessary early start here at the COP15 in Copenhagen. Half asleep without breakfast or coffee I made my way from our IFOAM flat in the north of the city to the Bella Center to join the ranks of shivering NGO workers. The line outside stretches from one tram stop to another and the line for those not yet registered is even longer. The que outside is probably already beyond the capacity of the center which is a real bone of contention for us -why would UNFCCC register more people for the center than capacity? There are some 40,000 people registered with a capacity for 15,000 for this event. Standing together in line with the rest of the members of 'Civil Society' we discussed the implications of this poor organization on the part of security staff here in Denmark. The lines are neither marked nor is the purpose of each line known to the security staff. It is a mess.

The Party members are now pouring past the IFOAM Booth with entourages of support staff and security. No plenary sessions officially start until after 1700 but these guys are on the way in to pick up tickets and see Prince Charles, Al Gore and Arnold Schwarzenegger speak to the issues.

That is all for now from the COP15

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Can Organic Agriculture Feed The World?

My story has changed a bit in regards to organic agriculture as a global solution. I am sharing my ideas with people every day. I am thinking of it as the good news. My, now zen-buddhist-philosopher father was a preacher when I was young and I can remember him talking about giving people 'the good news' - maybe it is in the blood.

Anyway, sitting at the IFAOM Booth at the COP15 (H-017F) I have been approached by many people who want to hear about yields and argue about the merits of a high input conventional system for the necessary yield increase for a growing world population.

My response, thus far, has been to report the fact that the world is already producing more than enough food to feed everyone - the problem is giving access to that food to the people who need it. Another argument has been to point out that the yield potentials of high input systems is based on the additions of resource inefficient and biologically hazardous chemicals. The pesticides and herbicides remove the potential for the farmer to harvest nutritionally important non-crop food sources. This is a big problem in a world where 1 in 3 people is a farmer and most of these farmers are marginalized people on degraded land and a tradition of gathering food in nature as well as from cropping systems.

After a short chat with Australian Water Lilly farmer and IFOAM World Board member Andre Leu I have learned that the yield potential in organic systems in no lower than in conventional. Having a quick cruise around the web and a read of his 2005 work on the subject I can see that he has strong scientific support for his arguments.

Have a look:

Andre Leu 'Organic Can Feed the World'

Science Daily 'Organic Farming Can Feed The World'

Christos Vasilikiotis, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley 'Can Organic Farming "Feed the World"?'

Catherine Badgley, University of Michigan 'Scientists Find Organic Agriculture Can Feed the World & More '

New IFOAM Publications at the COP15 in Copenhagen

The staff of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has been sleepless for the last few weeks finalizing two publications to promote organic agriculture as a mechanism that should be included in the talks here in Copenhagen.

New IFOAM Climate Change and Food Security Publications
In time for the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference IFOAM and IFOAM EU Group have published two new publications to raise awareness of the important role of organic agriculture in mitigating and adapting to climate change and securing food supply.

Organic Agriculture - Guide to Climate Change & Food Security
Contribution of Organic Agriculture to Climate Change Adaptation in Africa

I am here at the IFOAM booth blogging and pressing organic (H-017F or those who are here). Smiling behind my green both and mac laptop shell I am trying to catch the attention of the passing delegates and other country officials as they walk past on the way to the negotiations and plenary sessions. Singapore, Uganda and Japan have shown strong interest this morning asking for more information and taking copies of publications with them to the inside.

I have been inside from dawn to dusk each day andI have not had a chance to see what it is like outside the event other than a quick chat with greenpeace activists and the wind powered coffee man. Security is getting tougher and it seems that soon our delegation will be limited by the UNFCCC event staff, perhaps then I will hve a chance to dance and chant with the protesters and the un-invited. Tomorrow in the center of town I will go to see Vandana Shiva speak at the Klimaforum 'People's Global Climate Forum' and get a chance to see what it is like for everyone outside the event. Meanwhile I am well dressed, cheerful, warm and full - I hand out 'fresh off the press' publications like a suited newspaper boy and push organic.

Stay tuned for more on the progression of COP15.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement/ Samwell Naikada and the Maasai Herders

'As long as we think that the other forms of life are here for us
we cannot give them the respect they deserve'
-Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai

Just returing to the busy IFOAM Booth (H-017F for anyone who is around) after an inspiring but packed side event with Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, Brighter Green , Nobel Womens Innitiative and a young Maasai herder.

Wangari Mathai has started the Green Belt Movement in 1977 in response to serious soil and water resource losses in her region. It all started when Maatthai decided that the way forward was for the women of her village to plant trees, she found some foresters to teach them how to do it and has since invigorated the land and helped her people through the many benefits of reforestation. Maatthai has since started the Pan African Greenbelt Workshops to encourage and support other communities around Africa to reforest and regenerate natural places in their countries. Maathai then asked for the help of the Kenyan army for reforesting the country. 'While you are protecting the country the country is disapearing' she told them 'To protect the country give it complete protection'. Her requests got the attention of the commander of the Kenyan army who has since had his troops plant many trees. 'They come in uniform' she said. 'Even the UN Blue Helmets should be involved in tree planting.'

Samwell Naikada is a Maasai herder who told us about the changes his people are experiencing in Kenya. The Maasai people (Maasai Association) have about 500 hectares of forest left. This loss of forests is being suddenly felt by the people there. There are now wild grassland animals grazing in the forests and orangutan coming from forests to feed on young goats and sheep in the fields. These are things the Maasai have never seen before. Naikada runs a small organization to try and encourage people to raise fewer animals and stop cutting the trees in Kenya. He says that when he tells the Maasai herders that the animals are part of the problem they tell him he is lying. 'You are not speaking the truth' they say.'When you are a man you need to have cattle' he told us 'not just a few cattle you need many of them. In my family we have five men' he said 'and we will need to have 500 cattle.'

Ultimately it was a packed event with a load of information about the benefits of community involvement, of a sensible agricultural policy, of good governance and of the necessity for giving access to carbon funds to communities, especially communities of women, and small scale community forests.

That is it for now from Hopenhagen.

Mor Useful Links:

Maasai Women Development Organization (MWDO)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

FAO Climate Change and Food Security

Sacco vuoto non può star in piedi.
An empty sack cannot stand upright

Just returning from a workshop with the world agriculture leaders. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the US Agricultural Minister Tom Vilsack among others were there to discuss in a panel about the role of agriculture in these COP15 climate change talks.

Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Eva Kjer Hansen spoke about agriculture as both a challenge and a solution in climate change. Agriculture produces 14% of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) with another 17% being produced through 'land use change' (converting land from forests and fields to agricultural lands - this contributes to 90% of all deforestation by the way). She went on to say that we need to address hunger and climate change simultaneously, that these are the same project and that organic agriculture can play a large role in this.

Next we heard from Director of Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) Gilberto Câmara who spoke of the fact that with the projected climate change scenarios Brazil will have Savannah instead of the Amazon by 2050 - that the coffee will need to be imported from Argentina and that Brazil is doing everything it can to change that. He told us that Brazil will cut emissions by 20% below 2005 levels by 2050, that they will use 55% renewable energies (up from 46% today).

Ajay Vashee president of the International Federation of Agriculture Producers (IFAP) (600 million family farmers member organization) spoke about the problems of hunger, loss of biodiversity disease and the social and economic implications of climate change. He spoke about the importance of access to carbon funds to small producers (or conglomerates of small producers), access to capacity building and income improvement. He pointed out that 1 out of 3 people in the world are farmers and 1/3 of the land surface is agricultural land, farmers play the largest role in human impact on nature therefore the rights of farmers should play a big role in the talks about climate change.

Jaques Dioff of FAO spoke briefly about the agriculture situation in the world. 1 in 6 is hungry, the world population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050 requiring a 70% increase in food production and that means a 100% increase in many developing countries. Making this change, he says, will require many billions of dollars, maybe even tens of billions, but in a world where we spend over 300 billion on arms we ought to be able to find the money. He warns that we should steer away from this movement toward biofuels, the production of biofuels will compete with the need to produce food and conserve water.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had a lot to say about agriculture from the US and agri-industry perspective. The party line here really seems to be that science and technology will save us, that we need more technological advancement and Dr. Norman Borlaug is our hero - and we should follow his vision so that other countries can have as much extra food as we do in the US. He did (possibly unknowingly) say some inspiring things about the need for more recognition of the role of soil in carbon sequestration. That is clearly in favor of organic.

So, that is it for now. The conference continues.

Cory's Dr Green Blog Posts:
Small is Beautiful
Give Organic a Chance
No Work Farming
Growing Organic

Visit Farmers for the Future

View Cory Whitney's profile on LinkedIn

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

COP15 in Copenhagen

Now sitting over my morning breakfast and getting ready to head in for another day of the COP15 here in Copenhagen. The sun has not yet risen but the rest of the IFOAM staff is already huddled around the kitchen table working on the final draft of a guide to climate change and food security.

We are here selling Organic Agriculture as a viable, affordable, and realistic way for people to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The guide is co-authored by IFOAM, FiBL and the Rodale Institute and is designed as a definitive work to describe the role of organic agriculture in the steps we need to take in the face of climate change.

The food served here at the COP15 is 75% organic which is already a big win for us and says something about the amount of understanding that people already have about the role of organic in climate change. However, few people know about the benefits of organic in sequestering soil carbon, increasing biodiversity and increasing food security. That is where we come in: networking, talking and generally making a fuss about the potential of organic agriculture.

Cory's Dr Green Blog Posts:
Small is Beautiful
Give Organic a Chance
No Work Farming
Growing Organic

Visit Farmers for the Future

View Cory Whitney's profile on LinkedIn