With the tension at the Copenhagen climate conference so thick you could slice it with a slab of melting Arctic ice, I decided today would be a fine one to check out the meditation and prayer room. Tucked off the buzzing main hall, it’s a spartan and serene white room with a few plants and a sign telling you to take off your shoes.
I sat down in a corner and observed the cross-section of cultures around me. A woman wearing a heard scarf was kneeling on her colorful prayer rug, just next to another woman meditating in a cross-legged position. A group of suited men were reciting prayers diagonally in the corner. And others were simply sprawled out on their backs, worn out—one guy was even heavily snoring.
But the peaceful feeling didn’t persist. About an hour later, I walked right into a sit-in in the center of the main hall. Protesters were sitting in a circle demanding a legally binding climate legislation, surrounded by at least a dozen TV journalists. Before long the police were forcibly dragging them out by the arms, amid cries of “the world is watching!”
More protests—and several hundred arrests—occurred outside the conference center and around the city today in the driving snow. Tomorrow and Friday it will be even harder to get into the conference center as more heads of state arrive and security gets tighter. As of today nations were still deadlocked on the climate deal—what the U.N. is calling an “unexpected stop.”
In general, just getting into the conference center each day feels like a small miracle. I had waited outside for more than three hours on Monday morning to get my press badge, as did thousands of others—many of whom, including speakers, weren’t so lucky.
For instance, I stopped by the U.S. delegation tent this afternoon to hear National Geographic magazine photographer James Balog discuss his extreme-ice photographs—only to find out that Balog had been denied entrance. I wonder how many other folks have been left literally out in the cold this week.