A Doog fomentry on CoP-17 | Centre for Science and Environment

Friday, December 9, 2011 - 22:03
Friday, December 9, 2011 - 22:03

A Doog fomentry on CoP-17

Three doog lines from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by T S Eliot provide an objective correlative of what happened November 28 to December 9, 2011 at the Nkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention centre, where the 17th climate conference is being held:

“Let us go then, you and I

When the evening is spread upon the sky

Like a patient etherised upon a table”

If you are a believer in the climate CoP process, you really think it is a multilateral environmental agreement that will deliver freedom from climate change, the lack of decision-making is sure to frustrate you. Indeed, it could not only frustrate you, but actively get your Goat.

 And as the CoP tries to reach closure, as the procedure of the high-level segment—where a plenary is held where one minister after another delivers a speech, while diplomats outside hold a flurry of matins-- tries to reach closure, it could also get your Pig, Cow, Buffalo, Chicken, Asparagus, Granny Smith Apple, Kudu and Ostrich.

Now a way out of such a negative emotions—such carnivorous thoughts—could be to take recourse to lines from From a German War Primer, by Bertolt Brecht, such as the following:

“General, your tank is a powerful vehicle

It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men

But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.

General, your bomber is powerful

It flies faster than a storm and carries more than an elephant

But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful
He can fly and he can kill

But he has one defect:
He can think.”

But there are some who feel hopelessly fenced-in, their idealism arrested and imprisoned, placed in the labour camp of a fascist neo-liberal imperative. Such might be in a mood to recite just the beginning of Death fugue by Paul Celan:

“Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening 

we drink it at midday and morning we drink it at night 

we drink and we drink 

we shovel a grave in the air where you won't lie too cramped 

A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes 

he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margareta 

he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling he whistles his hounds to stay close 

he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground 

he commands us play up for the dance 

Black milk of daybreak we drink you at night 

we drink you at morning and midday we drink you at evening 

we drink and we drink 

A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes 

he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margareta 

Your ashen hair Shulamith we shovel a grave in the air where you won't live too cramped”

Wikipaedia informs that The Soviet Union occupation of Bukovina in June 1940 deprived Celan of any lingering illusions about  Stalinism and Soviet Communism stemming from his earlier socialist engagements. Deported to an internment camp, Celan was pressed into labor, first clearing the debris of a demolished post office, and then gathering and destroying Russian books.

The above paragraph is not germane, or relevant, to the climate CoP. The lines themselves are a gross, bad post-structuralist re-contextualisation. But accept it, for the sake (the Japanese drink) of trying to be intelligible about CoP 17. 

In any case, it’s just too dark. 

So let’s moodshift the ingellitent fommentary on CoP 17 via a copy-paste from a chapter of Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Rabelais, a novel whose “noble leaves appear/ Antic and Gottish, and dull souls forbear/To turn them o'er, lest they should only find/Nothing but savage monsters of a mind,—/No shapen beauteous thoughts”.

The following extract, from the beginning of Chapter 1.V, seeks to understand what negotiators do through the cross-hairs of saturnalia:

Then did they fall upon the chat of victuals and some belly furniture to be snatched at in the very same place. Which purpose was no sooner mentioned, but forthwith began flagons to go, gammons to trot, goblets to fly, great bowls to ting, glasses to ring. Draw, reach, fill, mix, give it me without water. So, my friend, so, whip me off this glass neatly, bring me hither some claret, a full weeping glass till it run over. A cessation and truce with thirst. Ha, thou false fever, wilt thou not be gone? By my figgins, godmother, I cannot as yet enter in the humour of being merry, nor drink so currently as I would. You have catched a cold, gammer? Yea, forsooth, sir. By the belly of Sanct Buff, let us talk of our drink: I never drink but at my hours, like the Pope's mule. And I never drink but in my breviary, like a fair father guardian. Which was first, thirst or drinking? Thirst, for who in the time of innocence would have drunk without being athirst? Nay, sir, it was drinking; for privatio praesupponit habitum. I am learned, you see: Foecundi calices quem non fecere disertum? We poor innocents drink but too much without thirst. Not I truly, who am a sinner, for I never drink without thirst, either present or future. To prevent it, as you know, I drink for the thirst to come. I drink eternally. This is to me an eternity of drinking, and drinking of eternity. Let us sing, let us drink, and tune up our roundelays. Where is my funnel? What, it seems I do not drink but by an attorney? Do you wet yourselves to dry, or do you dry to wet you? Pish...

No, no, no, no, on. The purpose negotiators meet, consult and hand over their draft decisions to ministers to come to decisions, is to make the world a better place. Calling their actions ‘saturnalian’ is a travesty. 

So, on the same subject—what negotiators actually do—a better characterisation could be the last two lines of Thomas Bernhard’s novel Cutting Timber: an Irritation:

“And as I went on running I thought: I'll write something at once, no matter what -- I'll write about this artistic dinner in the Gentzgasse at once, now. Now, I thought -- at once, I told myself over and over again as I ran through the Inner City -- at once, I told myself, now -- at once, at once, before it's too late.”

It is too late.


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