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    The "Hopenhagen' Myth

    Stephanie Jan 11 '10 1

    Prior to the winter break was of course the COP15 climate summit here, which has turned out to be disappointing in many ways...

    We were into our last week before final reviews when the summit began, but I tried to make time to visit some of the displays they had in the public squares. What was presented vs. what was achieved are two very different stories of course.

    The 'hopenhagen' branding made it seem as if Denmark and Copenhagen are overachievers of sustainable technology and green energy. Copenhagen was announced the greenest European city in December. Around this time it was uncovered that millions of dollars of emissions credit fraud had taken place in Denmark (that was quickly hushed up). And, Denmark doesn't like people to know it, but it's an oil and coal economy here with windmills scattered around for show.

    In fact the government hasn't pursued sustainable energy for some time, and the only real 'move' they can be said to have made is to make it extremely difficult to own a vehicle. I see this not as motivated by a desire to green up, but to make more money. Cause it's not enough that we pay 25% VAT on everything... ('value added tax), or that the average income tax is near 50%.

    I wish I could be more positive about the environmental policies here, because it was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to school in Copenhagen. But as is typical of most 'reputations', Denmark's riding on an outdated series of small achievements, and it's getting old.

    Probably the issue that received the most press during the summit was the extreme way the Danish police force tried to control scheduled protests. While going to school I was disrupted more than once by police barricades, and I even got pushed around for doing nothing more than waiting where the Danish popo told me to wait.

    There are some good articles in the guardian covering the Danish need for control, so I'm going to leave that as it is...

    As far as practical matters go, the city has a confusing recycling system--bottles have to be returned to the store you bought them at, and screw you if you don't remember! Milk cartons and other card-type containers can't be recycled at all. We're still not sure where wine bottles go. Plastic is limited, and there's no organic waste separation.

    But, I guess you need to incinerate something for electricity. So instead of recycling, they just burn everything. Hurray for clean (?) energy!

    One weird thing that I've never seen before is that people set off their own fireworks throughout the holidays. And boy, do they LOVE fireworks. People started setting them off 10 days before Christmas, and they're still setting them off as of this evening. Maybe it's just me, but shooting smokey explosives into the air doesn't sound like a carbon-neutral activity.... (not to mention the fact that it's fricken dangerous to step out onto the balcony these days...)

    Suffice to say, my impression of this city has been going steadily down, and it's a struggle to find the positive.

    In terms of school, the week has been extremely slow so far. My class has had some communication issues with the department head, and our first assignment was botched... But we've started a new workshop this week, and it sounds promising.

    The premise is that we're working with the proportions and shapes of a tangram. We start out at a small scale, an imaginary cube of space 21cmx21cmx21cm. We use the shapes of the tangram to construct a roof structure with 3 support points. It's amazing how many roof shapes you can come up with! I'm not sure what we're doing next, but it seems to be more a lesson in proportion than in structure.

    Anyways, we still have 3 weeks until the new semester starts. At that point we'll be designing a chair... and the outline says we're doing it in groups *runs and screams* Let's be honest--group work is great when you're in a job where everyone has a distinct role and responsibility... not so much in school where everyone has a different agenda.

    I know that a trip to Milan is on the agenda for April, and it will be so nice to spend some time in Italy! We'll be there for a design show, and I plan to go down a few days early (over the Easter break) to do a bit of travelling.

    I feel like I wrote a lot of depressing stuff, so: to end on a positive note, it was really sunny the other day, and since we didn't have much to do for school my boyfriend and I took the train about 15 minutes north and went for a hike in the woods. At the end of the walk, we found a table set up with a thermos of coffee--for FREE! (free stuff is miraculous here, especially when the average cup of coffee is between $5-7). Anyways, it was really nice and a great way to relax and enjoy nature.

     

     
    • 1 Comment

    • mpsyp
      Apr 5, 11 10:12 am

      I'm saddened to hear this about Copenhagen... My wife and I have had this idealistic image of a progressive, green Copenhagen in our minds, so much so that we have considered moving there. We just assumed that everybody is happy, bikes everywhere, eats organic food, and recycles everything and throws away nothing. A naive assumption, perhaps, but backed up by various reports on the internet.

      I've never been to Copenhagen but I've been to Sweden and many European countries, and I've lived in Warsaw and Rome... surely Copenhagen is not so bad?? I'd love to hear an update on your thoughts of the city.

      Marc

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