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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » Monday, November 28th in Durban, South Africa

Monday, November 28th in Durban, South Africa

It’s 1:30 and I’ve grabbed a few minutes this afternoon to post on my initial reactions to the conference. For one: I am very overwhelmed. We arrived at the center this morning around 9:30 after a stressful check-in/security. We then entered the ICC building and received incredibly long addendum and programs for the days events. Immediately, I wanted to attend every event—my focus however is on energy and emissions of urban areas and sustainable development, so I knew that in general I should attend events in that vein. I went with a small group of Dickinson students to just such event presented by the organization Helio International, a group “focusing on methodology and a series of indicators that can be used to check how well national energy policies are contributing to ecodevelopment under fluctuating climatic conditions.” Despite the intimidating explanation of their work, I managed to get quite a lot out of the lecture and discussion.

The aspect of this organization’s work which impressed me the most was their creation of a formula that analyzed the sustainable and unsustainable practices of a country, taking into account 24 “indicators,” including the most simple and concrete of data (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions) to complex data (i.e. investment assets) of a given country. With my research I found the complexity of looking at various “indicators” almost impossible for a variety of reasons, and therefore found Helio’s work incredibly fascinating in it’s depth and clarity.

Secondly, Laura Williamson, the main speaker for Helio International, made the important point that finding data for these sources is exceedingly difficult as data is typically not 1) easily assesible, 2) credible, or 3) too complex to have been recorded accurately for usage. This was reassuring for me, in that some of the sources mentioned by Helio were sources I looked at for my research and I too had incredible difficulties in justifying my usage of them. This presentation reassured me that my continued usage of some of these credible sources was exceptable, as organizations such as Helio relied on them heavily for credible data.

 Lastly, the CONTEXT for data analysis was heavily emphasized by Williamson during the presentation. This really put in perspective the idea that people put much faith in the precision of numbers as a tangible indicator of “how things look,” that we more often than not forget the “back story” behind those numbers or explanation for why data is exceptionally low or high. In regards to the theme of a “back story,” however, this CONTEXT for data analysis, negotiations, and climate change in general needs to be kept in mind as one looks at the COP! For me, I find the CONTEXT of urban sustainable development in the face of global climate change important because of the number of people that live and continue to move towards urban areas.

The real reason why we are here needs to be emphasized above all to keep the data, and negotiations, and side-events from becoming overwhelming. Despite the urge to want to soak up every lecture, chase down every delegate, and analyze every data point, it is the activities that most resonate with personal interest that will stick with you and assure your niche in the global issue of climate change. Everyone is gathered in Durban for a unique reason, and personal interest will drive the individual changes that will occur when participants return to their country. I am not discouraging the exploration of a variety of topics at the COP, but merely reflecting upon finding my personal niche, and the focus and balance it gives me. As the conference progresses, I hope to find more events like this that reflect my personal interest in climate change as the rest of the participates follow those and the delegates forge forward with discussions.

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