I pointed out shortly before the conference began that the Chinese had clearly determined beforehand to reject the proposals of the United States and its allies (“a major offensive on rich nations at the Copenhagen conference on climate change,” to quote the exact words used by The Times of India ) and that the Chinese had put together an international coalition able and willing to advance their goals.
The course of the Conference was indeed controlled by the Chinese: the UK Prime Minister whined that the Western powers were “held to ransom by only a handful of countries” led by China.
And, the President of the United States was treated with contempt.
In a report by NBC News environmental correspondent Anne Thomspon on the final day of the Conference, December 18, 2009, President Obama referred to the Chinese proposal by saying, “That doesn’t make sense. It would be a hollow victory.”
Changhua Wu, China Director for the Climate Group, brusquely dismissed Obama’s statement by sharply declaring, “It’s not only an attack; it’s humiliating to a certain level.”
The full extent of the humiliation suffered by the American President was described by Ms. Thompson:
For thirteen hours, the President went from room to room, meeting with various world leaders, trying to figure out what they could agree on. Frustrations reached a crescendo when, waiting to meet with the Chinese Premier and Brazil’s leader, Obama found out they were already meeting and walked in uninvited.The President of the United States was left waiting by the Chinese because they were meeting with the leadership of Brazil. And he managed to get in to the meeting only by barging in “uninvited.”
Thompson summed up the President’s experience by declaring:
The final agreement, which even the most optimistic environmental groups called insufficient, left the President clearly exhausted and dejected.Exhausted and dejected indeed.
What does this have to do with homeschooling?
As I pointed out recently, we Westerners view and teach history as if the ascendancy of the West during the last several centuries was natural and inevitable.
The perspective from much of Asia is rather different: the period of Western ascendancy seems a peculiar but brief historical anomaly that is ending now that Asia is reasserting its natural supremacy.
The real issue here is not partisan politics, Barack Obama’s personal political skills, or even global climate. What we observed in Copenhagen is a reassertion of Asia’s sense of its natural superiority over the West, and the collapse of the United States’ position as the natural, and generally acknowledged, leader of the world.
Twenty years from now, the whole Copenhagen fiasco, possibly the whole issue of “global warming,” will be a distant memory, rather like earlier environmentalist frauds such as the supposedly disastrous “population explosion”: try reading the 1968 best-seller The Population Bomb by Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich and his wife, and have a laugh over how ludicrously wrong their prophecies turned out to be (I myself actually read Ehrlich’s book a year after it was published at the urge of my high-school history teacher, so I can remember how serious people once took Ehrlich seriously).
However, while the Copenhagen conference may strike our grandchildren as ancient history, the collapse of American preeminence and the rise of Asia will strike our grandchildren as very real. At some level, this is no doubt inevitable: the physical size of Asia and the fact that the majority of the human race lives in Asia means that Asia was always destined to be of key historical importance.
Of course, the foolishly irresponsible financial, educational, political, and environmental decisions pursued by the American political and cultural elite make the American decline even more certain and, potentially, catastrophic.
But, however one views the decline of the United States of America and of the West in general, it is of historic importance, and it is clearly illuminated by the collapse of US influence at Copenhagen.
The news of the last few days makes a very good history lesson for us homeschoolers to discuss with our kids.