Myths about Denmark

The "Hopenhagen" Myth

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, 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 But as is typical of most 'reputations', Denmark's riding on an outdated series of small achievements, and it's getting old.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. Small things, perhaps, but it seems like such a no brainer for a 'green' society like Denmark.

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...) 

It's really just an impression at this point, but it seems like the collective mentality is not a more caring or environmentally protective one; the green reputation of Denmark is simply the by-product of the implementation of EU legislation with a few extras thrown in for reputation's sake.