Reflecting as a rookie at the Conference of Parties (COP), the end of the first week has evoked many conflicting feelings. There is an overwhelming sense of excitement, motivation and inspiration that has been perverted many times along the way with strong feelings of intimidation, confusion, frustration, and exclusion.
At first I felt very removed from this process of the negotiations; as though I were here doing what we were meant to do, being ‘observers’. I wasn’t necessarily sure what this meant or how I should interact but I was very aware that the role of an observer implies someone who is watching, rather than necessarily participating. With this in mind, I kept reflecting on how Initiatives of Change (IofC) wants to be represented at these meetings, what their ‘agenda’ was – because at the end of the day, everyone here has as agenda. In a very informal chat around the communal table at our flat, John Lui offered us reflective words on how he saw IofC’s unique positioning at these negotiations an ‘honest mediator’. At our best, we would be present at these negotiations in a ‘deep meditation’ reflecting on the process, on how decisions are being made, on how the structures/processes present here are building or reinforcing (dis)trust and more importantly, what we could do to bridge these disconnects.
I’d encourage you all to check one of John’s websites if you are in need of inspirational and real world examples of what happens when ‘we’ change.
I took this reflection a step further and began to explore this at a more personal level. Born on the island of Trinidad & Tobago and raised as a ‘Trini Canadian’ in Calgary, Alberta, they are several complex layers of identity I cannot address here. But with my Canadian roots being such a contentious discussion at these negotiations, I wanted to reflect on what it means to, literally, be an observer of my country’s actions. The general sentiment seems to remain that Canada is in Durban negotiating in bad faith. With the arrival of many party delegates this week, including Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent, activists rallied with posters, fact sheets, ‘bags of bitumen’ and not-so-warm welcomes exposing how Canada is pushing its own minority agenda on economy, politics and tarsands and blocking progress on the negotiation process. From whispers turned reports on the government’s plan to legally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, but to keep their intentions secret while attending the COP17 negotiations, to Minister Kent’s quote that “Kyoto is the past”, I can understand the sentiment of the public perception of Canada in the international arena- I’ll admit, rightly so. But I do have a choice in how I respond, how I engage and how I take action.
It’s been challenging trying to negotiate my position here so I’ve chosen to tackle this by asking myself what I think IofC pushes for each of us to ask ourselves: what would I do? What would an individual do, who felt disheartened, discouraged and misrepresented? An individual, who is one of many, trying to get the message of urgency out to Canada and out to the world; for them to see this is not a COP17 problem, this is our problem and we all have a moral and ethical responsibility to act on this. As one Canadian Youth blogged, “I admit it. I am a Canadian. I am related to the ultimate climate bully….but we have a secret weapon of our own: the hope and dreams of Canadian youth, the next generation”.
Today I was lucky to have an informal interview with the Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Ms. Elizabeth May (http://greenparty.ca) discussing the various levels of distrust that have been created between states, between civil society and politicians, between Canada and the international community. Though the reality of distrust is alarming and disheartening, the same call for hope was echoed by Ms. May but with a strong sense of urgency. May tweeted earlier from her negotiations, “time is not on our side.” Ban Ki-moon calls for COP17 to be a “profile in courage.” And so I continue through this week, with great aspirations of courage and determination for a better a future, understanding that this is no easy task. It requires each of us to not only do our part but to push our leaders to do their part in preserving a nation that represents the truest values for the good of our humanity.