Final Reflection on COP 17: “A People United, Will Never Be Defeated”

Final Reflection 1
Final Reflection 2
Final Reflection 3

“A People United, Will Never Be Defeated”

One week ago in the big march and rally through the streets of Durban those words were echoed over and over along with many other chants as 7,000 activists from all over the world made their statement.

Were the delegates and ministers from the 191 countries represented at COP 17 listening? I’m thinking not. Now that the COP has finally been gaveled until COP 18 in Qatar next year what are we left with?

Although the Durban Agreements, or whatever they are calling the bland document this year is called, was signed by the countries, it doesn’t give the climate movement what is needed and many analysts say it is “hurtling the planet towards a 3.5- 4 C temperature rise. The expression on South African’s COP17 president says it all.

Something is better than nothing? I’m not that sure. After experiencing three of these COPs, I’m thinking total failure and acknowledgement of the broken process is perhaps what is needed to wake up the world that the UN is not in a position to solve this problem, and that the science is screaming for the kind of movement and interest that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt generated on their current trip to South Africa.

Watching young John Howard throw himself into the COP process and trying to figure out his role in the big picture has been one of the highlights for me these past two weeks. I’m quite certain that his experience in Durban will help to fuel his run for Congress when he returns and inspire many Republicans that this climate movement that we are sheparding is for them as well as liberals.

Being an active part of the 350 international team has truly been a great joy for me. Meeting Rully from Indonesia and speaking my old Peace Corps language; watching Jamie Henn, one of the original 350 founders from Middlebury work his communication magic with his Avaaz, Greenpeace and TCK, TCK, TCK buddies and take apart the policy messages with Juan from Peru; Diana (Yana) from Germany and Ewan from the Small island nations alliance. These brave activists are on the front lines of this movement and they need our support to bring it to the next level.

Seeing the tremendous turnout of host continent African nationals was heartening. The 350 team included Landry from Burundi, Sarah from Egypt, Mbemba from Senegal, Ephrem from the DRC, Winnie from Kenya, and the amazing Samantha Bailey, the organizational wizard from Cape Town along with her partner Andrea who pulled us all together at the Gibela Backpackers Lodge. These 350 staffers know what will happen to their people if something urgent isn’t accomplished in the next two years.

I had to keep reminding myself that these 20 somethings are fighting for a future and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Aaron Packard from New Zealand and the Pacific island coordinator works with the people who will be climate displaced the next two decades. He could hardly speak at our final reflection.

I want to thank all of them for including John and me as part of the team these past two weeks. Such an honor to be a part of the 350 ppm People Powered Movement. Our final day of action involved hundreds of people expressing their deepest passions in the halls where the COP delegates were entering. Did it make a difference? It sure got a lot of coverage and the “mic check’” process clearly allows people to be heard and amplified.

So now on we go, reaffirmed once again that the only thing (for me) that really matters is building the movement with strong partnerships and deep relationships that we can count on and that are invitational, inspirational and welcoming. Thank you to our wonderful MN350, Cool Planet, Will Steger Foundation and Citizens Climate Lobby networks at home for your incredible, unstoppable work.

One last story. Flora Delaney’s 350 hand and foot print banner was used everywhere and I am very lucky to still be in possession of it. It symbolized the people’s movement, it symbolized the joy of making our world listen to our voices and it made me so proud to be a Minnesotan in South Africa.

We have a long way to go, the cost is high but nothing like the cost of inaction. It’s just what we need to do together.

Special thanks to the Will Steger Foundation for letting us represent them and all of you in Durban. Time to go see this amazingly beautiful country, the train leaves in three hours.


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