Who Is At COP21?

2015-12-10-17-08-40-IMG_1387For today’s blog, I wanted to go around the Green Zone at Le Bourget and talk to people about COP21, and why being there was important to them. Initially, I thought that I might focus on speaking with young people, but changed gears when other opportunities presented themselves. For some, including myself, striking up random conversations with strangers does not come naturally. However, my “wingman,” Kathy, has no hesitation when it comes to talking to people. Fortunately, attending an event like COP21, where all of the attendees are there for a common purpose, makes it easier to overcome my natural inclinations to not talk to strangers. As I entered the Green Zone the past two days, I found plenty of people to talk to about their presence in Paris for COP21.

I started the day by meeting with a group called Pole to Paris. The three presenters had made their way to Paris from opposite directions in rather unconventional but climate-friendly ways. One part of the team made their way from Norway by running to Paris, while the other team used a bicycle to make their way across the land (via Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc.). Along the way, they had the opportunity to meet a wide array of people who were learning about climate change or who were already feeling the impacts of climate change. They feel strongly that traveling this way allowed them to have different, human-to-human interactions that would not have been possible any other way. In fact, one member of the team indicated that he has had second thoughts about using airplanes for travel in the future, as he prefers the intimacy allowed by bike travel.

My second talk was with Jessica, who works with a group called ACTED, an NGO that works all over the world. She brought up the southern Sudan, where floods caused by climate change are affecting residents’ livestock. Because the Sudanese livelihood is tied to their livestock, they are being forced to move. This chain of events, brought on by our changing climate, requires human adaptation – a common theme emerging at COP21.

Later, I spoke with a mom who had brought her two boys, ages 9 and 6, to the Green Zone. When asked why she had brought her kids to Le Bourget, she stated that, “I want my kids to understand that nature is precious and that they must participate in its conservation.” Lena went on to say that her family is careful to avoid wasting resources, to buy local foods, and to avoid eating lots of meat, which produces greenhouse gases. When asked if the local French schools teach climate change, she responded with a frustrated face, “No!”
At the end of the day, the people at COP21 are certainly a diverse set of people, yet they share a commonality: the desire to not sit on their hands coupled with the energy to work towards solutions, whether it is working in the environmental movement, riding/biking halfway around the globe, or taking your children out of school for a day to experience the largest and greatest environmental conference on the planet. Human power is awesome!

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