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Meet the Merry Climate Pranksters Who Put Canada on the Spot

Jane Taber

(Photo: Joseph Huff-Hannon)

1. Hoax explained. The Yes Men called this morning from Denmark; they're the merry band of anti-globalization and environmental pranksters who wreaked havoc on the Copenhagen climate conference yesterday, badly embarrassing Canada.

Although they are American, they say about five or six Canadian activists were involved in their prank but The Yes Men are refusing to identify them. "They have chosen to remain a bit under the radar," said one of the group members.

Meanwhile, several of The Yes Men called to explain why they targeted
Canada yesterday: "We've always kind of grown up looking up to Canada,
literally on the map," says Andy Bichlbaum, one of the principals. He
is also known as Jacque Servin. (It seems that no one who is they say
they are when it comes to this group.)

"We've always thought that Canadians were such nice people and had much
better policies that we did - national health care and all that. And
this is just a real disappointment for us, energy policy and learning
that Canadians' carbon footprint per capita is higher than us." Their
prank was aimed at shaming Canaada into making changes - they got loads
of international attention but it is still not clear whether their
prank will result in long-term change.

The Yes Men, meanwhile, were working in concert with a group called the Climate Debt Agents, led by Ugandan student activist Margaret Matembe. Together they sent out fake press releases and videos
announcing that Canada had dramatically reduced its greenhouse gas
emission targets. The group created authentic-looking websites, placing
the Canadian news
on these sites. It forced world attention to the fact that the
Conservative government's plan is woefully lacking, according to

Environment Minister Jim Prentice and the Canadian delegation were not pleased.

Says Ms. Matembe: "I think Canada is
one of the countries that is really being bad at the climate
negotiations." It took the group about a week to plan their moves; they
say they have "really, really smart people" helping them.

The pranksters, who are staying in Copenhagen until the end of the
meetings, are hinting that there is more to come. Says Mr. Bichlbaum:
"Canada is one of the worst climate offenders and has a very nice image
and in Canada we were shocked to meet a lot of Canadians who were
shocked to know that there were tar sands in Alberta, informed,
intelligent educated Canadians didn't even know."

They say they have a lot of hope for Canada to, perhaps, lead the way
for the developed countries. The fight, of course, is between the rich
and poor nations about who should do the heavy lifting when it comes to
greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

As for Ms. Matembe, she is returning to Uganda after this conference,
hoping that measures taken in Copenhagen will lead to the "climate debt
to be paid." She says this about "people who are suffering."

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