Monday, the first full day of exploring the actual negotiations at COP21, started as most mornings do lately, with a quick breakfast and an exploration with the Ambassador group about what we expected, hoped for, wanted to see and wanted to do. My policy on conferences is to begin at the beginning and get the lay of the land, with unexpected side trips and distractions included. The downside of the morning was the early start – too early, with no sleep – but the upside of buying a latte ( tomorrow it is on to the patisserie ) was most comforting. I am, remember, the coffee queen.
We started out the adventure by taking the M2 to the Stalingrad station and then switching over to the M7 – the train to the final destination buses. I will tell you it was pretty exciting to see all the dignitaries en route to COP21, but even more exciting to see the ” everyman:” all the people that were there because they cared, because the planet and its health are important to them. As we rode the buses to Le Bourget, the crowds got bigger and bigger. No doubt about it, this is going to be a big conference. I am a people watcher, particularly of the “everyman,” who is the driving force behind the things that need to change.
As one of my cohorts and I were waiting for the rest of the group, I noticed two men coming through the columns of the country flags. They were so happy and smiling and laughing that I did truly feel compelled to go up to them and tell them how they had made me smile and in turn made my day a bit happier. We chatted for a few minutes and then introduced ourselves. It seems that my ” everyman” was actually the man, at least for the country of Mozambique. One of the men was the President, and the other was in the cabinet. We took pictures, swapped information and then parted ways knowing that each of our days had become a bit brighter.
My quest to find and connect with the regular people attending COP21 continued through the wonderful presentation by Laura Bishop (VP of Public Affairs and Sustainability at Best Buy) on the great strides and contributions that Best Buy is making to tackle climate change. I also went to the presentation on the Indigenous Peoples grant for land, especially forests. The panel group was comprised of representatives from Peru, Indonesia, Brasil, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burkina Faso. I was again moved as they spoke passionately about their land, forests, waters and disappearing ways of life. The forests in Indonesia that were harvested for wood and forced many into farming without the joys of childhood in the forests; the trees and land that are disappearing in Peru and Brasil; and the loss of other areas that provided everything of need for the residents.
I am struggling with the idea that others cannot or will not see that these Indigenous People, these “everyman,” they are us as well. As we destroy their lifestyle, we ultimately destroy our own. We are all the ” everyman” and as such we all need to be a part of the solution to climate change, each in our own way and with our own strength and passion behind it. As a closing, I want to share two interviews that I conducted today with people much younger than I. They are passionate, they are driven and the are the ” everyman” that I hope will inspire the rest of us to take action.