Monday, November 14, 2016

First Impressions of COP 22

The first day of the COP 22 conference in Marrakesh, Morocco has been an overwhelming rollercoaster of emotions. I started the day with a mix of pure excitement, as well as a feeling of hopelessness due to the election results that had come out the previous day. These two feelings battled inside me the entire bus ride to the conference, it was not until I stepped out of the bus and saw where I would be spending the majority of my next two weeks that pure excitement took over. After I made it through security and getting my prized blue zone badge I was immediately blown away by the utter chaos that soon engulfed me. It was as if I were a small stone in a raging river. People rushed passed me all on their way to conference sessions or to different engagements all geared toward addressing climate change, our generation’s most daunting problem. It was beautiful. The first feeling I had after getting over the original shock of it all was a sense of togetherness. Not in the way that everyone there was open and ready to talk to me. But in the way of people from virtually every country in the world coming together to work toward the same goal – mitigating climate change. That feeling was eye opening. I think there are so many times that people who are fighting climate change feel utterly alone, surrounded by discouraging news increasing greenhouse gases and the negative impacts of climate change. What we forget is that there are masses of people fighting along side us ready to help when we fall.

Even with that great feeling of being a part of a unified force fresh in my mind, I was soon brought back down to earth when talking to people about the multi-faceted dimensions of the climate change issue, and what impact the election of the new United States President will have. I had known going into the conference that the election would be a highly talked about subject. But I was not prepared for the extent it would be discussed. The election news dominated conversations I was having with people from around the world - from India to California and everywhere in-between.  No matter where they were from the feeling of raw disappointment was universal. Not only was talk of the election heard in the exhibit areas, it spread into the conferences sessions being held. One example of this is from a session I attended on fossil fuels. The man introducing the slides started by apologizing to the audience because, due to the election, the goals on his slides were now unreachable for the moment. It was there that my emotional roller coaster had left me extremely frustrated. I know the election results reflect valid concerns, but I just could not understand how the United States could elect a president that not only does not believe in climate change. His proposed policies are a significant threat to the Paris Agreement as well as to the hard work of many combating climate change. 

Throughout the day the rollercoaster of emotions took me many different places. Where it dropped me off at the end of day one was at a place filled with hope. Finally I could put a face on all the people fighting for the health of the world. Finally I could see for myself what new mechanisms and inventions are being created for the fight against climate change. Finally I could see what the world is trying to do to combat climate change, regardless of the current realities of American politics. These feelings of “finally” are not only providing hope, they provide motivation for me moving forward.

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