How the Tar Sands Demonstrations Europe Project Began - Part One: Copenhagen

submitted by Derek Leahy


How does one go from being a care-free individual giving walking tours to subsidize his many many travels in Europe, to organizing demonstrations in five major European cities to raise awareness about the tar sands? 

BERLIN, GERMANY – When I told my Grandmother last March that I was going to organize tar sands demonstrations in Europe her response was: “Derek, I wish you never went to Copenhagen!” No matter what I do, she always worries about me (God bless her!). She was right too. None of this would have happened had I not spent three weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark last December during the UN Climate Change Summit or COP 15.

I had come to Copenhagen to see the city and to learn. I wanted to learn about climate change, something I knew was a reality, but did not understand the exact science behind it (particularly embarrassing for me since my father, Stephen Leahy, has been writing about the issue for years). I wanted to learn what the issues were and why it was so hard to reach an agreement. I wanted to learn what the solutions were to save the planet. After going to every possible demonstration, and every side summit (even a climate change deniers conference) and talking to as many people as possible about climate change, I walked away from COP 15  realizing for the first time in my life that it is 'now or never'.

Now or never in the sense that if we do not agree to major emission cuts by 2020 there is no more stopping climate change, it will be adapting to climate change. Ten years is doable, but not a lot of time. Now or never for me in the sense that if I wanted to do something about climate change, I had to begin now. I could no longer say that I will “get involved” when my traveling days come to an end, or when I am done living for myself. I could no longer stand idly by and let this happen.

But there was more. It was that domino effect of the movement to stop climate change that really hooked me. Until Copenhagen, I had not realized that by focusing on climate change we can solve many of the world's problems. The solutions we need to stop climate change from passing the point of no return are the same solutions we need to stop wars over resources, poverty, hunger, etc. What better cause to commit myself to than the cause connected to many causes?

That was it. The guy who had never got involved, was going to get involved. He just had to find somewhere to start. That is for another post.

I do often wonder what the world would be like if everyone had a COP 15 experience like mine. Maybe I should ask my grandmother.