Waiting for Copenhagen with John Adams for Four Decades and Eight Hours

Maybe its geography's gift to Copenhagen, sitting astride two great seas -- the Baltic and the North -- but this is a great city for fresh air.

Believe me, I got plenty of it on Monday, as I stood outside for eight solid hours waiting to be admitted to the UN climate summit here. That's what happens when there are four registration desks for more than 20,000 NGO's and other outside observers registered for the summit.

Little matter. After three decades at the climate change ramparts, I figured, what was another eight hours at the Danish barricades?

At my side for the ordeal was my mentor and colleague, NRDC founder John Adams. Just being there with him was a reminder of how closely the road to Copenhagen has tracked with the NRDC journey.

The Natural Resources Defense Council was less than two years old in 1972, when John went to Stockholm for what was the first truly global environmental conference. He was accompanied by his wife, Patricia, their two young children, and a pair of law school students for support. They stayed in a borrowed apartment.

"I was happy just to be there," John recalled, remembering what marked, in essence, the birth of the global environmental movement.

The agenda was crowded back then -- climate change was little understood -- and the focus was on ways the Earth was being plundered, its resources exploited, its future undermined. It was the rough hewn beginnings of what would become thought of as "sustainability," or, as John so poetically put it, "It was when people first began to think about sharing."

A profound thought when standing alongside thousands of people, all sharing a goal, and waiting to get in on the talks. We've been waiting, all of us, for this moment since Stockholm, nearly 38 years ago.

The NRDC has been there every step of the way, and John Adams, our founder, is still standing strong, his bright eyes and ever optimistic smile conveying the spirit that has guided us lo these decades, his words a resonant reminder of what's at stake.

Stockholm, John recalls, drew about 400 participants from around the world. Here in Copenhagen, there are 40,000. 

We're all here because we know this is about the future of our planet. It's about the future of us all. On this cold long day in Copenhagen, I was proud to stand alongside a man who first understood that a long time ago and has never once wavered in his vision or voice.