At about 2pm, they started to stream down corridors and sift down escalators, weaving through the halls leading to the negotiating rooms and out through the main security gate - hundreds of them.
The United Nations climate change talks had not been going well - perhaps an understatement - and for the first time in the 18-year history of these negotiations, the environment groups and civil society organisations had had enough.
It was time to walk out of Poland's national sports stadium in Warsaw - groups from all corners of the world donning white t-shirts and streaming out of the talks, known as COP19, beneath a giant United Nations sign reading “Welcome”.
Speaking exclusively to DeSmogBlog outside the talks after checking in his UNFCCC badge, Kumi Naidoo, the human rights activist and executive director of Greenpeace International, insisted the walkout was not a sign of them giving up.
“It is clear that what's happening here is not just betrayal to future generations - because it is clear that the people negotiating here are not going to bear the brunt of climate impacts. It's our children and grandchildren that are going to.
“This is not about giving up, but is about taking the struggle to a different level. If we are to get a solution out of this COP we need people around the world to start - in every country - putting pressure on their governments to actually come to these COPs with a very strong mandate which has serious levels of ambition with regards to cutting carbon.
“Serious ambition too with regard to ensuring that poor countries have the money to adapt to climate change and not follow the same dirty energy pathway that rich countries followed to build their economies.”
There’s nothing mainstream media loves more than the spectacle of environmentalists ripping one another limb from limb. Witness, for example, the CBC Vancouver Early Edition interview this morning (starting at 1:23:21) in which a little-known activist (Macdonald Stainsby) was invited to slag Tzeporah Berman, co-founder of Forest Ethics, founder of PowerUp Canada and, soon, the chief climate campaigner for Greenpeace International.
Stainsby was all fired up, questioning Berman’s environmental bona fides and calling her “a Trojan horse” whose true purpose was to “hand all power over to corporations.” As proof, Stainsby said that “Ms. Berman actually gave an award to (BC Premier) Gordon Campbell at the Copenhagen talks. While hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets being tear-gassed and arrested, she was on the other side of the picket line giving an award over on the basis of the carbon tax.”
How could you not be outraged? Well, easy enough if you look past Stainsby’s rhetoric.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.