Creativity is not unique to protesters. Tired of the same old banners, flyers, pamphlets, stickers and branded post-its, organizations have picked up on the essential accessories in a tropical country for their advertisements. No, it is not flip-flops or sun hats. It is not even free T-shirts.
Instead, they have opted for hand fans and umbrellas, and they couldn’t have picked better. Responding to the biggest complaint, the oppressive heat in Bali, organizations are distributing hand fans and umbrellas with messages on them.
Activists dressed as penguins sport hand fans distributed by organizations advertising climate change messages
It has worked like a charm. Almost every Western delegate, no matter which side of the debate he or she is on, can be spotted with a hand fan saying, “Hotter than I should be”.
Kurt W. Oddekalu is confidently strutting down the main street in a suede cowboy hat and leather pants, with nothing less than a true-blue lasso in his hand. Oddekalu could be a cowboy in a Western. With a casual wave to the semi-automatic toting security guard, he turns around and winks at this reporter.
Oddekalu is a veteran environmental protester. “My first environmental protest was in 1992 in Rio De Janeiro, during the Convention on Biological Diversity. I was a cowboy then too but the time was different. It was George Bush the senior and now it is the junior. But I do have to say junior is worse than the senior.”
At Bali, Oddekalu stood in the scorching heat for three hours, protesting the US’ rejection of any commitment to climate change.
He says proudly: “Back in 1992, Sky news, CNN, CBS all covered my demonstration. Maybe not so much (many people are covering the demonstration) here but you are talking to me.”
Oddekalu, however, insists that he not a fake cowboy. “I worked as a cowboy in 1980 for a bit. It really isn’t that hard. You wear a hat, throw a lasso, say ‘YooHOO’. That is good enough,” he laughs.
Since 1992, Oddekalu has been a regular at environmental conferences. He has been to biodiversity conventions, endangered species conferences and anti-whaling talks.
He is bitter about political action being too slow in environmental negotiations but he is not without hope. “They keep moving the commas and the full stops around in the legal text and never reach a resolution. But we also have a war strategy now. We need to understand their moves and act on them.”
It is illegal to protest publicly in Indonesia. Oddekalu had to smooth-talk the security staff and the chief of police to give him a spot. They did but they gave him a blind spot in the conference.
More polite conversations later, however, they gave him a better spot. “I thought they would throw me out of the country,” he says.
Oddekalu’s biggest disappointment in his environmental protest history has been the disappearance of good women activists. “Women protesters don’t stick around for long. They have families and this really doesn’t pay you. We have lost a lot of good activists.”
Then he gives this reporter a schedule of his protests for the next day, swings his lasso, winks and leaves.