The momentum doesn’t stop at COP21.
Two days back in Minnesota and my mind is still swirling with the ideas and experiences from COP21. There was so much energy and focus on climate change for that week that I still have not processed its full impact – on the world, and on me personally.
Before leaving Paris, I took a walk in two of the most memorable neighborhoods, Montmartre and the Latin quarter. In the artistic Montmartre neighborhood, German university students asked me to photograph them sending their GPS coordinates to report their presence in Paris via social media, as they worked to draw attention to climate change. Later, as I walked along the Seine River near the Latin quarter, I encountered a small photographic exhibit of endangered animals. Upon returning to my hostel, cheers and whistles grew louder and louder as 125 bicyclists finally arrived from their ride to the climate conference. It seemed that everywhere I went in Paris, there were passionate expressions of, and conversations around, climate change.
On my last day at COP21, I found myself holding back tears throughout the day, due to the gravity of this conference and what it means for all of us. This work brings with it a deep, emotional toll. It is a strange dichotomy of emotional intensity and sadness, yet the power of the people bring so much hope. At every turn in Paris, I saw people showing how much they care. This energy must go on. The momentum of this COP must continue. It can’t end here. We need to accelerate our actions for solutions to climate change.
My next steps include analyzing my own actions and how I can help educate others. In my own life, a few questions I ask are:
- Do I recycle or reuse everything I can?
- Do I conserve water as much as possible?
- Do I use public transportation – or better yet walk or bike – to get around town?
- Do I offset my carbon footprint if I fly or drive long distances?
- Is my home energy efficient?
- Am I earth-friendly in my own backyard?
- Do I shop locally and from socially conscious producers/manufacturers?
- Can I divest from fossil fuels?
- Do I vote for climate conscious candidates?
- Can I encourage others to be more environmentally friendly?
- How can I help myself and other be more climate literate?
The list goes on, and I can definitely improve in many of these areas.
As an educator, my professional responsibility is now calling me to follow up on these ideas and concerns with the students I teach. My work isn’t finished, even though COP21 is finished.