What happens when you place 3000 climate activists from all over the world in private Danish homes?
By Hanne Marie Molde, [email protected]
”Mom, at what time are we going to have dinner tonight?” Anton Nielsen Bjerg has just got up from his chair.
It is eight in the morning on the fourth day of United Nation’s climate conference Cop15 in Copenhagen, and family Nielsen Bjerg has as usual had breakfast together.
”At 6.45? Who is going to cook?” Ditte Bjerg asks and looks at Morten Nielsen.
”I can!” Anton says and walks towards the door.
”That is going to be very exciting. Will you make something typical Danish? Frikadeller?”
Her son shakes his head: ”Pasta and salad”.
”Will you be here for dinner this evening, Vipul?” Ditte looks at the dark skinned man sitting on the other side of her table. Only five days ago Vipul Bhatti from London was a complete stranger.
Good way to get a piece of Cop 15
Ditte likes to place foreigners in her house but she normally does not invite strangers. The two weeks of Cop15 is an exception. Some months ago she heard about New Life Copenhagen, an art project and social experiment which invites Danes to open up their homes for climate guests. As a stage director Ditte is used to meeting new people, and she thought the project was an interesting idea.
”I think it is a luxurious way of getting a very small piece of Cop15 when I am not directly involved myself. I also have the privilege to have space for an extra person, and I think it is very good for my son”, she says.
”I like to have Vipul here because he tells so many interesting stories. I also get to practise my English,” he says before he and his father run of to school and work.
Largest accommodation project
New Life Copenhagen is the largest accommodation project relating to this kind of conference in the world. The people behind it have worked for six months to find Danes that are willing to give away free accommodation to people whom they have never met before. The guests are all foreigners who would otherwise not be able to attend Cop15 because of lack of personal means or hotel overbooking. 3000 people from NGOs and delegations are now placed in Danish homes thanks to the project.
Founder of Wooloo.org, Sixten Kai-Nielsen, who has initiated New Life Copenhagen, is pleasantly surprised by the Danes.
“It was fantastic to challenge the Danish hospitality. The last 10 years Denmark has been very harsh against immigrants. This was an opportunity to challenge this convention and to figure out whether it was true or not. And it is not true. There is a lot of hospitality in Denmark”, he says and thinks that the project is something they should continue with in the future.
See what Sixten Kai-Nielsen in New Life Copenhagen would like to achieve through the project.
In another house in Copenhagen Rikke Gaard is waiting for her British climate guest Roz Savage to come home.
”She is very busy at the Cop15, so we have unfortunately not had much time to talk together”, Rikke says while she is boiling some water at the kitchen.
Her guest, the British ocean rower and environmental campaigner Roz Savage, walked from London to Brussels and came to Copenhagen by UN’s climate train express on December 7. For the last week she has been living in Rikke’s basement.
”I think it is very interesting to talk to people from different countries because it gives you another perspective on life. People who decide to come to Cop15 are also people with strong opinions about environment and the society,” she says at the same time as Roz enters the room.
“Oh, hi, I’m so sorry for being late. The days at the Bella Center are just crazy”, Roz says. After some minutes she sits down in the sofa together with Rikke.
“We have not had time to get to know each other yet but we have decided to go to some parties together this weekend.”
Roz says that she is grateful that Rikke, her husband and their two children have let her stay in their home during Cop15.
“When I one day get my own house, I would also like to return the hospitality by letting you stay at my place”, Roz says and smiles.
Hear about what climate guest Roz Savage thinks of living in a Danish house.
Much in common
”Have you seen the small book?”.
Ditte jumps up from the chair and finds a small, grey book with the shape of a passport. On one side it is written “Guest book”, on the other side “Host book”. The book is a part of the social project and contains a lot of everyday and existential questions.
”We were filling it out yesterday after an interesting dinner and a documentary about climate, so we were really into things,” Vipul explains.
”It was interesting because we had the same problems filling out the same questions: Which countries would you not go to, what is the worst crime you have committed and what do you want to do if you get 1 billion euros, Ditte says laughing.
“Yes, it is interesting to be taken out of your own natural environment, first being a stranger, and then see that you can be so similar and share so much,” Vipul says.
“And then it was the question: Has your host introduced you to Danish culture? Then I had to find some Danish music, because I had not shown him anything really,” Ditte says.
Healthy for the family
Tomorrow Vipul goes back home to London. However, the five days together have turned into a friendship.
”I am sure we will stay in contact – definitely. And when my son turns 17 and wants to travel to London, then I can contact you and ask for your help,” Ditte says.
“Sure you can. By the way, you know what? Yesterday Anton and I talked about reincarnation.”
“Exactly! This is why I believe that it is healthy to let strangers into your home. You behave better and you get new energy and new ideas. My son would never discuss something like that at the breakfast together with his two boring parents on a regular morning”, Ditte says.
FACTS: NEW LIFE COPENHAGEN
NEW LIFE COPENHAGEN is an art festival and social experiment organized by the artist-run community Wooloo.org.
The festival takes place in thousands of Danish homes during the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference from December 7th to 18th, 2009.
NEW LIFE COPENHAGEN is hosting more than 3.000 climate activists with private families in Copenhagen.
The art festival does not involve any actual exhibitions or physical works of art. They symply invite the participants to live together – and to live in new ways.