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R. PARTS PER MILLION

December 28, 2009

Layla rolled off the riverbank bench.  Mimicking ape evolution, she crawled, crouched, stood up and strode purposefully forward.

In an hour she’d flashed past the sandy Australian interior; glistened through the humid Asian tropics and baked her clay skin along the Indian subcontinent.  Another hour and she’d navigated icy Russian crevices, the iron mountains of Iran and Afghanistan and followed an autobahn into the brash smiley-faced Munich… the host of the years Climate Change conference.

Her palms gently cushioned the push and shove of the oops police and protesters who discontinued and parted giving her a route to tread softly.

Nine stunned and starstruck SWATs watched her cross the courtyard with beatific buoyancy.  Having entered the convention centre uncontested, six moody door bitches, skittled by her sudden and massive appearance in the foyer, wobbled for their holsters in fright then stepped aside pinching their sides or curtseying or saying “Hi”.

Layla meandered through the huge corridor on some search and came into view of BBC correspondent Livinia Rogers.  Livinia, conducting an eye-furrowing interview with the developing nation’s lead negotiator Peter Paul, was completely distracted. “Thank fuck for that.” her exhale sighed “Bored out of my tits.”

Livinia abandoned Peter and, dragging her technical crew along, intercepted this unexpected curiosity.

“Ahhh… Livinia Rogers BBC.  Welcome.  Welcome Layla Parkin.” gulped Livinia moving into tandem.  “We were lead to believe you wouldn’t be attending.”

“It’s been a rough few weeks alright but I decided to make the effort.  I’d have been here sooner except I got caught up in a mire of politicians at the airport.  All stuck to their spots in a race to get here last.  Eventually pushed through but, as you’d know Livinia, some of them are deceptively sturdy.”

Livinia’s eyelashes flapped furiously but tired before taking flight.

“Just a joke Livinia.  No pollies blocked my passage.”

Livinia’s freefalling inner person screamed aargh, aargh, stop the incongruity, can’t handle the incongruity.  She manfully stiffened her resolve.

“Quite. Quite. And what then is your impression of the proceedings thus far?”

“Wonderful.  Wonderful is the world that springs to mind.”

Surely, it could not be so.  And… surely she meant to say ‘word’.

“In what way?  There’s been overwhelmingly negative criticism directed towards all players here.  Overly theatrical contributions from island and developing countries… token gestures from industrialized economies.”

[Layla]:
“French President for example… last Friday… espoused a tremendously warm and inclusive view of humankind.  Cited how the scientific evidence compelled each country to act now in the best interests of the planet.  Rousing.  Don’t wish to gush but I don’t think I’ve heard such magnanimous sentiments since Copenhagen.  Is he married?”

“Hah, you’re joking again.  Are you criticizing world leaders for not matching their lofty words with deeds?”

“They are not world leaders.  They are national leaders.  With a duty to act in their nation’s self-interest.  I’m impressed that they’ve come so far given their mandate and the constraints it imposes on them.”

[Cometh the time, Livinia]
“Some might say this jeering at the tentative initiatives of your opponents is an attempt to gain credibility for the kumbaya one world government that you and your WCA friends seem so fond of.”

[Layla, enjoying the taunt]:
“Livinia, if you tried to give my kumbaya global community a good hip and shoulder you’d bounce right off it.

No, I’m simply acknowledging the difficulty they have.  Is it man’s fault?  Is it as bad as they say?  Given the vastly different time and place circumstances who pays how much to fix it?

The French President, the US President, the Chinese President… most of the heads of state… are well capable of articulating a compelling vision of world peace and prosperity… and they know what the obstacles to it are… they’ve all pointed out the need for increased trust.  And yet.”

[Livinia]:
“What will you do at this conference?  Do you have a specific aim? ”

[Layla]:
“I do.  I’m here to encourage global cooperation.  I think if we try it we’ll like it.”

Global cooperation.  Those words again.  They’d become a cue for Livinia to despise the utterer… but the other utterers… not udderly gorgeous Layla… another free pass for her.

[Layla, pulling up]:
“Livinia, so many signs… but I can’t tell… how do you find out… where these talks are?”

[Livinia]:
“You think you’re supposed to?”

A blinking Layla appreciated the opportunistic riposte.

“Very good.  Yeah, very good.  When things get complicated there’s usually misdirection involved.”

[Livinia]:
“Do you have a specific solution.”

[Layla]:
“A solution?  Well, I have a proposal to tackle the climate deterioration now and strengthen future international action.  It’s based…”

Mid sentence, cast-off interviewee Peter Paul re-appeared with two mates.

“Follow me, Ms Parkin.  I can take you to where the action is.  An… invitation… has been… extended… to you to meet the chief negotiators and… observe… some of the discussions.”

OMG Peter, she won’t understand your diplomatic twang.  Livinia, feeling guilty for her own incivility to the man, decided to mediate Layla’s interpretation of… what the uninitiated might feel was… an overly assertive interruption.

“This is Mr Paul.  He heads a negotiating team here.”

[Layla, offering her wrists]:
“Follow you?  Do you want to put chains on too?”

[Mr Paul]:
“Madam, that is wholly inappropriate. I might be white but I’ve spent my whole life in service to African nations and, besides, at any level, comedic or intellectual, it doesn’t work in the slightest.  You’re not black.”

[Layla]:
“Really, Mr Paul.  You should see my arse.”

Livinia panic-attacked until she realized she could hardly be held responsible for something she hadn’t said herself.  A racist Layla!  Exciting.  And Peter Paul… shame on you Peter Paul!  Might be White?  He’s ethnically Indian!  Thank God for sensible old England.

The crowd of a couple of hundred let Layla know that “three doors down on the left” was the knowledge Mr Paul had proffered like a tray of caviar.

As Livinia fought to keep herself, her crew and their wires physically abreast of the situation, she wondered if Layla’s crudeness was intentional.  In diplomatic negotiations, all forms of sneaky ploys and inhumanities were made digestible by a polite front.  Rudeness, though, was unacceptable.  It automatically resulted in your concession.  And yet… this buzz… suggested… suggested… the protocol might be irrelevant here.

The plenary hall participants had followed Layla’s customary unnerving method of arrival with mixed emotions.  The smaller threatened nations felt boosted, she’d certainly come down on their side wouldn’t she.  The new BRIC powers worried and rathered she wasn’t there but found solace in their belief that the big old boys had most to fear in any change of direction that might come about.

The American lead negotiator, Archy Carson was a great fretter and had taken Layla’s intrusion as a personal, existential threat.  His nemesis had penetrated the perimeter at a crucial negotiation stage; was casually and confidently using foul language; and was heroically dropping new proposal bombs.  His boss was scheduled to do all that in an hour’s time.

He’d got the call that, unless the situation could be brought back under control, it would be Air Force One cleared for take off back to Washington.  His visible terror lifted spirits in the hall.

He had decided to invite her before she gatecrashed.  He sent two envoys to prompt Mr Paul to bring her in under his terms.  Mr Paul, though, couldn’t keep his ego under wraps and had fucked it up… resulting in her imminent arrival… now… along with media and half of the conference grunts.

The thunderous standing ovation from negotiators and heads of small states bemused even Layla who waved meekly and said “Hi… do I need a guitar?”

“Layla, honey.”

A regal looking lady stepped forward.

“I, and many of my colleagues, are so glad you have come to the table.  The way forward is impenetrable for us but perfect for you.  Imagine the scope for wondrous fixes!”

Several contributed suggestions.

“You could adjust the earth’s tilt a bit.”

“Or bring some devastating floods and winds to THOSE people.”

“I… I suggest to create fifteen… no twenty eight… identical earths.  One for each climate change ideology.  Next time we wake up… the rest of the planet would be emptied of those with a different approach.”

“Unlimited energy balls” – “A space umbrella” – “Change our DNA”

Archy Carson lunged forward in an effort to put his arms around the situation.

“Okay, everybody.  Layla is here as an observer.  Let her observe… in peace.”

So far, so good.

“The main THRUST of her argument has been for countries to come together and forge forward via NEGOTIATION with each other and civil society.  That’s exactly what we’re doing, isn’t it?  Let’s HONOUR that and STICK to TASK.  Agreed?”

But Archy’s authority had been usurped.  A number of people took advantage; they hissed and booed.  It rattled him.

[Livinia]:
“You mentioned a proposal, Layla”

[Layla]:
“I did Livinia.

First, I’m not happy with this negotiating situation.  It doesn’t lend itself to the result most people want.  That’s kind of evil.  You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Everyone should know from my background that I love healthy competition.  This is competition but it’s not healthy.  It acknowledges the reality of our worst characteristics but treats contemptuously those human characteristics we tell our children are so important… trust… reliability… the equality of humans… service.  Fill in your own list of virtues.  That’s why it’s failing technically and failing all of us.

I know force is the negotiating trump card.  I can imagine the salivating when a negotiator dangles it over some wimp.  And I recognize the irony… that the only reason I’m here… and not out there… is because they’re not sure how to stop me.

The job of the powerful is to help those less powerful.  Isn’t it?  Can any of you say you’ve done that?  Good on you, if you have.

From what I’ve seen though, you are cleverer than that… you’ve realized that the powerful can do what they want and that it would be rude not to take your full measure because it’ll only go to someone less deserving.  Pecking order strategy?  Best you can do?

I believe in our ability to deal with this issue.  There must be a million solutions.  I want us to back ourselves, our curiosity, our science, our wish to help and trust each other.

We have to get off the carbon track soon anyhow right? And, my self-interest is in seeing more and more global cooperation because I believe it will lead to better and better outcomes for everyone.  So, consider this a practice run.”

Livinia stealthily docked her pompous English head into the frame behind Layla’s.

[Layla]:
“Here’s my proposal.  If we can get the atmospheric CO2 to 300ppm in 5 years and it turns out to be the wrong tactic I will do everything I can to help.

And we’ll burn all the scientists for misleading us.”

Livinia glumly noted some sheepish looking scientists.  She turned an evil eye on them before refocusing her efforts on maintaining a marvelously, supportive profile.

[Layla]:
“No.  We won’t be burning anyone.

Regardless of its rightness or wrongness… if we can achieve the target… Pippy has agreed to a fantastic prize… we’ll gain entry to what he’s called… the Pearl Planets.  We’ll be able to observe, wonder at and be entertained by the inhabitants of another planet and, as it happens, some other planet will be doing the same to us.

Feedback on how we are going will be accessible to everyone, everywhere on the planet.  The moon, to the naked eye, will start off red.  As the concentration of CO2 decreases,  it will get less red.  When it hits 300,  it will turn blue.  Then, it’s first contact… well first sight at least.”

Oh shit.  It’s all a bit risky and crazy.  Baby ban mark two.

“Layla?” piped up one of the negotiators “what about our negotiations?  Years worth.  The money to help smaller and developing nations adapt.  All that nitty gritty.”

Archy Carson boiled back to the center of the hall.

“No-one can, for ONE moment, accept that proposal.  It is SIMPLY pie in the sky ridiculous.  RESPECTFULLY, we decline.”

[Layla]:
“It wasn’t addressed to you.  There are other forms of government… other groups, organizations, family units and individuals… that might want to make a difference.  They don’t need your permission to have a go.”

As Layla left the hall, she turned again to Archy.

“I know you Archy.  How did a man like you… who received a Nobel prize for his contribution to the Climate Change issue… end up defending the indefensible?”

She was way down the corridor before Archy came careering out of the hall shouting:

“It’s no good bitch.  Your attempts to bully us into a 400ppm compromise have gone nowhere.  Nowhere.  Badly played.”

Distantly, he added.

“Where’s the money going to come from? Hey?  The trees?  Fucking idiot.  What about my family?”

But the moon did appear various shades of red.  Carping on about the inequalities of seeing it from various locations didn’t change the embarrassment caused in certain circles.  And it prompted a lot of ‘what would they look like’ drawing competitions.

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