An Ode to Ice

Tomorrow marks a week here in Paris, and the emotional impact of being witness, investing, and immersing ourselves in this conference as well as its outcome is starting to surface. Janet and I spent the day away from the conference zone today, visiting two sites that had been on our list. The first stop was to an artwork installation in the Place du Pantheon by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing.  

These twelve immense blocks of ice are free-floating icebergs that have melted off from the Greenland ice sheet. Relocated here to the Place du Pantheon and arranged in a clock formation, they present a tangible and immediate testimony of the dramatic effects of climate change.
These twelve immense blocks of ice are free-floating icebergs that have melted off from the Greenland ice sheet. Relocated here to the Place du Pantheon and arranged in a clock formation, they present a tangible and immediate testimony of the dramatic effects of climate change.

Seeing these now-diminished ice blocks melting and dripping down onto the streets of Paris was sobering. There was an air of reverence as people walked around, feeling the smooth surface of the ice. Many were taking photos. Few were smiling in their photos.

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As we left the plaza, we felt the weight of the week and the seriousness of why we were here in Paris. We headed to the Climate Action Zone next, a smaller conference set up by the people for the people. A variety of exhibits and lectures were occurring there, but we were reminded once again of the impact that climate change is having on the world’s ice sheets as an Andean funeral procession walked by, carrying a melting fragment of ice from the Peruvian Andes. The procession was subdued, and people with white flowers followed them.

Honestly, I returned to the hostel feeling a bit hopeless, but as I sat down to check my email, an article came into my inbox about how a stronger 1.5 degree target – as opposed to a 2 degrees Celsius target – had a real possibility of entering into the text of the COP21 agreement. Soon thereafter we held our first two webcasts connecting the teachers here with their classrooms back home. Watching the students’ rapt attention to their teachers as they talked to them about their experience, at their students’ level, and then listening to the students’ inquisitive and informed questions, hope re-blossomed. This is why we are here. For these teachers and for their students, and they are a pretty impressive bunch. They inspire me to hope for a better future for all of us.

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