It takes more than hope to save the world

'Hopenhagen', by Chris JohnstonI recently became the holder of a dual citizenship. Upon recommendation from a friend, last week I became a 'citizen of Hopenhagen'. I'm one of over 300,000 people worldwide to have done so.

The citizenship was easy enough to get. No queues or re-directions or anything like that. I just followed the website link and signed up. A few clicks and I was a citizen.

But what would this new citizenship get me? Was I entitled to vote, to apply for social benefits? It sounded like it was somewhere in Scandinavia, so I was quietly confident that I'd stand to gain a few Euros or Kroner or whatever they had there. And could I move there for the summer?

It didn't take long before the penny dropped. This place was not so much a city-state as a state of mind.

On the homepage, a map of the world had messages of hope scattered over it. Someone from Canada had posted, 'The future gives me hope'. 'Hope gives me hope' read another. It was all becoming a little more conceptual than I'd initially contemplated. Not to worry, I thought, perhaps this citizenship was still going to be of some value.

The site invited me to sign the UN Climate Change petition, which urged world leaders at the upcoming climate change negotiations in Copenhagen to do the right thing by our planet. So I did. I agreed with the idea. And certainly, it was no skin off my back.

But I couldn't help but be reminded of that Make Poverty History campaign of a few years back.

Certainly, just like that one, this flashy campaign, launched by the UN and the International Advertising Agency, would do well to attract support. Soon enough it would be splashed all over Facebook, and any company wanting to display its social responsibility would provide the link on its website. Celebrities would be wearing T-shirts for the en vogue cause. Channel 9 would jump on board and soon Richard Wilkins would be interviewing Madonna.

But I don't wear my Make Poverty History wristband anymore. I suppose it's somewhere in my top drawer. It wasn't a conscious decision to stop wearing it, and it's not like I no longer agree with it. But one day I looked down at my arm, and I just wasn't wearing it anymore. Nor was anyone else, it seemed. The concerts had finished, the G8 summit in Gleneagles had been held, Bob Geldof had stopped doing press conferences.

Reflecting upon that campaign, I couldn't help but wonder what would become of my Hopenhagen citizenship. The specific targeting of the Copenhagen summit would likely mean that a use-by-date loomed.

And that wouldn't be a problem, provided that the campaign could meet the goals of creating awareness and putting pressure on world leaders. But again, I had my doubts. What awareness would it actually promote? At least Make Poverty History had drawn attention to those Millennium Development Goals. This one didn't promote a whole lot other than the actual campaign, as if it were a virtue in itself.

Rather than offer any working plan or framework for the negotiations at Copenhagen, the petition I signed urged good will on the part of the leaders. It was hard to see how, in a debate marked by slinky political arguments, this sentiment could translate into real political pressure.

And while I could of course bank on a few celebrity comrades taking up arms on this issue, what real clout would they have? I remember Bono being careful not to be too radical in his meetings with Bush in 2005. There, his pro-bono work seemed to take a back seat in favour of a more cordial, pro-Bono approach.

With the significance of my new citizenship declining at a rapid rate, I decided to pop over to for some guidance. All this climate talk was getting a bit passé. I needed a better cause to get behind.

There, I was pleased to find the Celebrity Paw Prints Campaign, which was for a cat charity or something. Anyway, it included the likes of Phil Collins, painting pictures of cats! Phil Collins! Painting a cat!? Imagine that!

I forwarded the link on to my friend, and from there, was able to move on to address the other pressing issue of the day, namely, what I was going to have for lunch.

Francis KeaneyFrancis Keaney has spent time studying international politics in China and the Netherlands. He is currently in his final semester of a Law/International Relations degree at La Trobe University.

Topic tags: Hopenhagen, Make Poverty History, Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, G8 summit in Gleneagles



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Existing comments

great to see a fresh young voice - with a discerning eye - on the Eureka Street page.

i enjoyed the article and will refer it on.
kathleen cahill | 26 October 2009

Great article Fran, especially liked the pun-work on Bono, but so cynical for one so young. You are supposed to be moving towards 30 before the stars start to fall from your idealistic eyes! cheers

Geraldine Carrodus | 27 October 2009

Dear Author Keaney, Nicely put together, easily read, well to understand - with thoughtful writers like you there is no Hoping about the future - it's a certainty that we are in safe hands with such as you on the beat...
Michael G Devlin | 27 October 2009

Cynical but sadly, true. Looking forward to many more 'in depth' discussions Fran!
Michael Keaney | 27 October 2009

I see no cynicism in this article.

I'm a couple of decades older than author Francis, and can expect to live the majority of my allotted years before the worst of what we've done to our only home becomes apparent.
David Arthur | 28 October 2009

Billy Buggalugs is no longer a myth! Congratulations Francis; I and many others at Simonds are proud of you. Will pass this article on to them. Hope they might find use for it.
Pam Fleming | 29 October 2009

Well written mate. Along with a lot of people our generation, good causes seem to go by the way side unless a fancy wrist band or a 'every dollar from your smoothie goes to' sort of craze comes into fashion. I'm thinking Madonna's next gig might be in Haiti, with a few thousand iTunes vouchers in tow. Good reading, I'm sure you enjoyed La Trobe just as much as I did.
Chris Poropat | 05 February 2010


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