Wandering Around the COP
I’ve noticed that I have a few cool photos of activism from around the COP that I haven’t shown yet. So this is a bit of a fusion of those random photos and some of the cool COP-related activities that happened yesterday, my first day of accreditation. I was finally allowed inside!!
But first, a couple of randoms:
Yesterday, I went inside the ICC (International Convention Centre) for the first time. It was pretty awesome to experience it. But it also made me realize, once I got in, how exclusionary the process truly is. You need to be a delegate to get inside, and that can be a difficult process. Plus, not all the delegates have access to all the parts of the ICC process; as one of the KAIROS partners said on Monday, you really notice what colour your badge is (hers and mine are yellow, for NGOs). Today and tomorrow, you may even need a special ticket to get in to the plenary. It really makes me wonder how much say “the people” have in any of this.
At the youth (Youngo) meeting that morning, I heard about, for the first time, a community about 20 minutes north of Durban that really felt the rains we all experienced on the eve of the COP. This community is called Kwa Mashu, and on that Sunday night, around midnight, there was huge flooding of the river. Homes were destroyed, and 10 people were killed. The community was frustrated with the media because the media would come in, do a story, and then just leave without having done anything for the community.
People died the day before the opening of the plenary, from extreme weather. In their opening statement on the first day of COP, this group of young people who went to the community and made a short video of the aftermath were told (I’m not sure by who) not to mention that people had died in the floods before. How does that make any sense?!?!
Here’s the short video we saw yesterday morning:
Then, I was able to get into the plenary, which was really cool. This is where all the representatives (heads of state, ministers, and I think a couple of princes thrown in) talk in front of all the other representatives, and the observers. I heard from the representatives of Singapore, Belize, Morocco, the Marshall Islands, Liberia, Tuvalu, Qatar, Sweden, Malta, the Maldives, Nigeria, and finally, Canada. All of the countries before Canada expressed how important the issue of climate change is for their countries. Many declared the importance of the Kyoto Protocol. Canada, obviously, did not.
Several of the representatives had inspiring, and devastating, things to say:
“We must not miss this opportunity to curb climate change for the sake of our children.” (Singapore)
“My country’s future is now in jeopardy.” (Marshall Islands)
“We need to collectively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.” (Liberia)
“We have a concern for the vulnerabilities of other island nations.” (Malta)
“We are currently on a path of a rise of 4 degrees Celsius, which will certainly wipe out my country.” (Maldives)
“Durban is a beautiful city and we should not [contaminate/ruin] it by killing the Protocol.” (Nigeria)
“We want to say to our children, ‘It was Durban that saved Tuvalu.'” (Tuvalu)
“Kyoto, for Canada, is in the past.” Peter Kent
After this pretty intense plenary, we had some levity in the afternoon in the form of a mock soccer game between the 1% bankers/clowns and the 99% Robin Hoods. The prize? Control of the Green Climate Fund.
After the soccer match, I went back into the ICC and attended a panel discussion called “Climate Justice and Food Security: Moral, Ethical and Spiritual Imperatives.” Moderator Mardi Tindal was speaking on the panel, along with Rabbi Hillel Avidan (rabbi at the Temple David of Durban), Sister Jayanti Kirpalani (Regional Director, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University – Europe), Rev. Nicta Lubaale (General Secretary, Organization of African Instituted Churches), Bedria Mohammed Ahmed (Co-chair, Women of Faith Network, Ethiopian Interfaith Development Dialogue and Action), Presb. Patricio E. Sarlat Flores (Executive Secretary, Episcopal Commission of Caritas Mexico), and Dr. Ela Gandhi (Honorary President, Religions for Peace). The panel was moderated by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (Chair, KwaZulu-Natal Inter-religious Council).
The Moderator said that Canadians expect more, and we are letting our politicians know that; she also spoke about the Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Justice. Rabbi Hillel Avidan spoke of how, as time goes by, faith communities find that they have a lot in common, while Sister Jayanti Kirpalani spoke about respect, saying that we need to learn to respect ourselves before we can respect animal and plant life, and that respect is what’s missing from today’s world.
Bedria Mohammed Ahmed told us that there are over 750 verses in the Qur’an that deal with the environment and maintaining the balance of creation; Dr. Ela Ghandi explained that even though all our scriptures talk about the climate, humankind has failed in maintaining this balance. Rev. Nicta Lubaale told a story about traveling through Maasai territory in Eastern Africa. He had gotten out of his car, and his eyes were all red due to allergies. A Maasai woman came up to him, trying to sell him some goods she’d made. I experienced similar scenes when I was traveling through Kenya and Tanzania. But the woman noticed his red eyes, and she put the goods away, saying in Swahili “You’re sick, you’re sick.” Rev. Lubaale explained: “Her spirituality stops her from doing business when she realizes someone is weak, even if that person is richer than her.” I think that’s something we all need to learn.
And here’s something I didn’t get to see yesterday, but it was pretty spectacular: