Imagine a tantalizing spiral of some of the driest talk you have ever heard — a combination of watching CSPAN mixed with paint drying, all the while the world is hoping for a serious climate plan to unfold…
I think thats a fairly accurate description of how this year’s Paris Climate talks felt to me over the 2 weeks I was personally in Paris.
Truthfully, the amount of lawyers, red tape, cautious commitments, and spinning in circles was enough to make me sick, but I guess this is to be expected when 195 countries have to find some kind of common ground.
Unfortunately there was also a strong resemblance between the COP21 talks and a dog and pony show.
Generally pompous people parading around the ‘amazing’ things their countries have done that vaguely resemble green initiatives, all the while smiling graciously for the cameras and offering up headline worthy soundbites for their local news stations to broadcast back at home, mixed with some of the most mundane commentary and judges watching over the process — this is what this ‘historic’ event really looked like.
At every opportunity, each country’s bureaucrats and politicians spent their time discussing the importance of this deal — assuring us of their country’s willingness to act — and the respect they have for other countries’ efforts and thoughts on the matter. This played on for days like a broken record playing in an empty house.
Although the headlines might have alluded to a much more “historic moment” — the only real action steps that were agreed upon were some of the investments countries would make towards this change (although where the money goes is beyond me), and the only thing binding about it all is that countries need to track and monitor their emissions.
The deal itself does NOT mention fossil fuels or gas, but just says Net Zero, which means that although they might be looking to reduce carbon emissions, this deal does not help reduce pollution. If the oil and gas companies were to promise to offset their pollution by planting trees, this would of course be a step up from where we are today, but it doesn’t mean they will stop pillaging and polluting our planet.
If you ask me, it was a historic failure, and to think that all the real talks happen behind closed doors made it much scarier…
Lobbying Is A Serious Problem
“COP21 brought to you by giant corporations protecting their interests” should have been the slogan for the official ‘solutions; events happening at the talks. I kid you not, on day one of arriving at breakfast I was handed an information book on “Why Environmentalist Are Wrong About Nuclear” and my heart sank.
The number of false and dirty solutions being pushed by lobbyist both to the public and behind close doors is terrifying.
We’ve all seen the scary documentaries that outline how companies use their dollars and cents to corrupt small town politicians or whole states, but to see them operate on a world level is concerning at best. Worse yet, the Paris attacks provided a rather convenient excuse to remove protesters from pointing out the corporate sponsored false solutions. I’m not calling conspiracy here folks, so calm down — but what I am saying is they took advantage of that tragedy as a means of muzzling any dissent the activists and even journalists were trying to uncover.
Dr. Vandana Shiva describes it best in an interview she did with the Valhalla Movement:
People Are Clear What They Stand Against But Not Always What They Stand For
We all have a pretty good idea of what we should stop doing to our planet, but I do not believe the solutions, or what we should be doing instead, are as clear.
Having spoken to many insightful activists and responsible citizens from around the world who put on some pretty remarkable demonstrations, tribunals, and events, I discovered there was a lot of anger and disgust with corporations but much less display of how we can further support the growth of solutions. Awareness is clearly a battle that has been hard fought by these groups but I feel like now the tides need to shift into the implementation of tangible alternatives surrounding people’s everyday lifestyle.
Protest without clear demands and alternative and definitive action plans push change but they don’t create change.
Many many topics were overlooked by most, including the topic of industrial agriculture (watch Cowspiracy if you haven’t on Netflix already!), and the talks spent a lot of time discussing the reduction of carbon emissions but very little time discussing the sequestration and storing of carbon that is possible with restoring proper soil biology.
The Grassroots Are Truly Rising…
Despite what the media will cover as the main focus of the talks — I think the real important talks happened in the bars and restaurants and less known events happening around the city via the convergence of many movements and organizations coming together and finding more ways to collaborate.
Although it was a little scary to see how much focus was placed on just telling the story and how overly flooded the space was with media and journalists, it was nice to see that a lot of activists had mobilized, and we began to see a lot more communities finding ways of being sustainable as well.
I know us at the Valhalla Movement, alongside WISDOM, are looking to build a school in 2016 as an example, but there were many seeds being planted in people’s minds as well. The many discussions surrounding the ideas of collaboration versus competition which arose give me hope for the world we know is possible in our hearts…
I can say with certainty, however, that the Grassroots still need a LOT of help!
We need people to start spending their time and resources supporting the solutions they do feel are worthy of their attention on a daily basis. In a follow up article I will outline a few steps you can take to make a deep impact for the good of us all.
There Is Hope But Not In This ‘Historic’ Deal
In my mind this deal will go down in history as similarly underwhelming as the Kyoto Protocol. It’s a start, sure, but it won’t stop the status quo until everyday people demand change and consumers start voting with their dollars.
The agreement states that the parties will hold temperatures to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” however the target date for such is by 2100, with emissions set to officially peak “as soon as possible.”
Could this be more vague?
In fact, based on expert projections, many still believe we are headed towards 3+ degrees of warming…
Thus I leave you with a fairly grim but very real outlook on why we need to act WELL before 2100 and we cannot wait for governments, corporations, or talks to take the actions necessary to mitigate some serious suffering on our planet.
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