What will the UN Climate Conference achieve?

COP25 (the 25th Conference of the Parties convened by the United Nations to addre for 10 days in Decemberss climate change) will bring together tens of thousands to Santiago, Chile, December 2 -13, with the intent of all nations being sufficiently committed and accountable about reducing their CO2 emissions to pull humanity back from the brink of climate catastrophe.

You would be justified in rolling your eyes at that sentence. Why all the carbon and financial expense of such a gathering if the meeting is doomed to fall short? A rough carbon calculation for that number of people flying from around the world adds 75,000 tons of CO2. To discuss reducing CO2.

Yet I intend to go.  I’m in South America anyway right before the conference and I calculated the influence footprint of going.

Would I influence others? About what? I have innovated in three areas relevant to our climate predicament: challenging consumerism with Your Money or Your Life, promoting regional food systems with Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, and encouraging community dialog with Conversation Cafes. Each offers specific, practical tools for personal change, undergirded by an analysis of the conditions that make integrity hard in all three domains of money, food and community conversations. 

Would I be influenced, as I have been by the few global sustainability conferences I’ve attended? What essays, articles or even books might come out of my fingers by inputting an overwhelming number of displays, talks, interviews, street buzz? What posts? Tweets? What community organizing?

Two considerations – besides proximity and a love of lurking on big conversations – got me to Yes.

  1. While nations meet in the Blue Zone to hammer out political agreements, in the Green Zone the NGOs (non governmental organizations) and IGO (intergovernmental organizations) will meet concurrently. There civil society and businesses will offer presentations,  debate the merits of a diverse approaches, work out collaborations, learn about new technologies, horse trade, network, teach, and learn. From this activity, governments will have a range of at least debated and vetted options for policies once they make a commitment to climate mitigation and adaptation – and put their money where their mouths are. The free market of ideas will bubble up actions that citizens and organizations can take and products and services around which businesses have and will form. Delegates will pollinate their home communities and organizations when they return home.  While massive movements are pressuring political leaders, massive research, innovations, pilot projects, demonstration projects, academic study, product development is also building the menu of approaches that can be taken to scale with proper leadership and financial backing. Quite simply, I want to be in that buzz, and report about it.
  2. While I won’t have an official accredited organization backing me (though I may have a credential with a network I adore), I am part of a growing network of people of all ages and most continents facing into the inevitable collapse of society as we know it. We depend on a depleting resource – fossil fuels – with substitutes on the horizon but not at the scale that will maintain our lifestyles. Even if we can puncture mother earth in tougher to access places to extract more fossil fuels, we burn it only at our and all life’s peril. I won’t do the whole litany here. Likely you know it. If not, look up Catherine Ingram or Dahr Jamail or David Wallace Wells, to name just a few. If I do more of the litany, your eyes will glaze over and your mind stop working. I know, I’ve been there. Bees. Birds. Bugs. The poor in flooding coastal areas or disappearing islands. These are collateral damage and it will be privileged you and me fairly soon. It’s coming apart. And really, no one knows what to do about it inside our current structures of governance and financial systems. 
    As the world we count on collapses in fits and starts over the next decade, humans are going to come apart psychologically. Grief, rage, denial, re-traumatization, powerlessness, hopelessness on an ever increasing scale. Refugees from war and loss of subsistence already stoically flow northward to safety. They know. 

    Groups like Positive Deep Adaptation (a Facebook group and Ning network inspired by a paper by Jem Bendell) and the Good Grief Network have supported my journey from climate change as something to be resisted or solved to a predicament we all share. 

    I am very interested in meeting with groups and individuals at COP25 that are incorporating this knowledge into their hearts, even if they aren’t wearing the pain of it on their sleeves. 

    I want to report on how climate change feels. How it uproots faith, brings out the best and worst in us, calls therapists and social workers to update what they treat and how they treat it.

    If climate change won’t be solved politically or technologically – and not because we won’t try our damndest – the it will be felt by everyone as fear, failure, grief and more. How do we bring this into the equation at COP25 and in our lives as we return.

    Here people in community can do something significant. We can circle up, use simply dialog agreements to listen, share air time, respect all points of view, suspend judgement, keep confidentiality. We can use simple technologies of a candle in the middle and a talking object so everyone has equal air time. We can tone down catastrophizing and pathologizing, and simply hear our fellow self-aware bipeds speak what’s on their hearts. 

These are probably enough reasons for me to attempt to get a pass and get into the Green Zone with civil society.

I carry so many questions:

  1. I’m an advocate for regenerative practices, from agriculture to water retention systems and more. Who is doing the best work in this field? What can I bring home to where I live and to the thousands who follow my blog and Facebook feed?
  2. I’m concerned about the psycho/social dimensions of the breakdowns ahead? Who understands and speaks about this and what tools do they advocate and teach?
  3. I’m concerned about local food systems and have worked on that through my book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us and the 10-day local food challenge. What is the state of rebuilding regional food systems?
  4. I’m participating in city and county government as a citizen. What can we do even if governments fail to do enough?
  5. Who and what organizations are planning for post collapse – not in a militaristic way but in a muddling through together way, and what do they see?
  6. I’m sure that, behind masks of professionalism, many leaders and scientists carry broken hearts in their chests. Yes? Would they be willing to speak with me about that? How are they coping? What do they need from us who aren’t as burdened by knowing the specific ways our walls of protection will be breached?
  7. Finally, I’m interested in following the money. Money – or the money system we’ve given our lives to – is the root of all climate change. Call it capitalism, call it private ownership of the commons, call it profit over people… how money is created, deployed, saved, spent, invested, with held, spread around is sucking the life out of our world. The system we have will not save us. Yet our imagination is weak about weaning ourselves – and what a just money system would be. I’m interested in whether, at this meeting that will likely cost millions of dollars (from where?), people are talking about the money behind the man behind the curtain.

    The above was written October 14. On October 21 there’s a new important question: Chile is in flames and martial law. How important is any of the above if I am stepping onto another people’s land and more likely being a problem, not a solution, for them. 

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