Better late than never… I still have yet to reflect on my experiences at COP20. Almost three months ago the mosaic team embarked on their journey to Lima, Peru. Looking back on the opportunity as a whole, including the leisure parts of the trip to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Ollantaytambo, and my personal travels to Arequipa and Puno, I can say that I genuinely enjoyed the academic portion of the trip better.
Being at an international conference was inspiring and one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Even the bus rides to and from the COP every day was unique and I still remember many of my conversations. If you managed to sit next to someone interesting on the bus then you had the entire hour long ride to talk with them and ask anything about where they are from, what they do, or what are some important concerns of their nation from climate change. On the bus I met people from Benin, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Brazil, Peru, and Ethiopia among plenty of other fascinating people. Furthermore, being present at the actual COP was, sorry for the lack of vocabulary, so cool. Everywhere you walked and everywhere you looked, there was hundreds of people from different nations and I think that’s what was the neatest part for me. When I got home and everyone would ask me what my favorite part was, my first response would always be just simply talking to people from everywhere… I mean, I met and spoke to someone who’s been to space before, I met Picchauri, I met heads of delegations, and the president of the COP.
The entire opportunity of the Climate Change Mosaic is something I am so grateful for and would do it over again in a heart beat. The thought of our final papers being done in a week from tomorrow makes me want to vomit.
The post Lima preparation for Paris is already underway. While each country and their delegations have their own expectations and responsibilities, it is imperative that the entire global community prepares as well. What better way to spread global awareness and participation than with live music!? Al Gore and pop icon Pharrell Williams have teamed up to announce a global Live Earth concert in June. This concert, with its purpose to demand climate action, will be staged in six cities on all seven continents. Yes, Antarctica will also be participating in this global event. On this day, the entire globe will stand up together for a cause that is affecting all aspects of our shared planet. The ultimate goal of this music festival is to collect 1 billion signatures to encourage world leaders to adopt a new climate agreement in Paris at COP21. There is a lot of pressure for the outcomes in Paris, especially after 2014 was recorded as the Earth’s warmest year on record. A global event like this could be groundbreaking for increasing public action and awareness.
I was a member of the second group (lead by the fearless Jeff Niemitz) that attended Voces por el clima the first week and the real-deal COP20 the second week. I like to think as Voces as an excellent learning experience, and a great trial run before we got to the UNFCCC conference. The event was almost entirely dedicated to teaching climate change, because we spent the entire semester learning about climate change, personally, the biggest learning aspect of Voces came from learning to approach people, and improving my Spanish ability. That being said, Voces was filled with knowledgeable people and amazing art expressing the issue of climate change from a personal, abstract and human perspective. There were excellent photographs capturing sea level rise across the globe (they seemed to me to parallel James Balog’s work with glaciers), sculptures made from recycled material, and art lining the road to the main area.
Liz Plascencia and I teamed up, at first going around to the different booths (skipping the shameless Coca-Cola booth dedicated to green-washing and advertising) interviewing people from organizations that were relevant to our topics. However, once that tactic was exhausted we had to figure out a new method to find people that would be relevant to interview out of a seemingly random crowd. In the end we developed a scorched earth like tactic at Voces, we honed in on anyone we thought was a delegate and asked for an interview. The key was in the badges they wore: if it was pink (signifying delegate) we attacked. Initially we attempted small talk, trying to figure out what they did and specialized in specifically, before we asked for an interview. This proved less effective than just going straight for the gold and we transitioned to a more direct approach. In the end this method acquired us some lucrative interviews, with minimal complete busts. When we eventually arrived at COP, I felt very confident and comfortable talking to delegates.
Voces was certainly an informational place to be… especially if you spoke Spanish. Due to the fact Voces was largely centered on what Peru, and other Latin American countries are doing to combat climate change the majority of people there were exclusively Spanish speakers. While I have taken Spanish for many years and am proficient in the language, it certainly helped to team up with Liz (a native Spanish speaker) for interviews. After Voces por el clima my Spanish has never been better.
My week at the COP20 in Lima was a completely different experience than I had ever imagined. I am normally a relatively shy person when it comes to approaching strangers, but in order to succeed in getting interviews, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone. So the first question I faced was how on earth do I get these intelligent, busy and experienced people to talk to me? From my time at the COP, I found several successful ways to score an interview. The first approach was stopping at any information booth that had to do with our topics. We began asking the booth operators what their organization was and from there we evaluated whether interviewing them could help us further our research. Most of our potential interviewees informed us that they “weren’t the person to interview” and handed us a business card of “someone that could help us with our research”. However later we learned the chances of the mysterious business card person e-mailing us back was a fifty, fifty chance. We were lucky with some of our booth-approach interviews for we were able to talk with the Head of Climate Alliance, a Peruvian indigenous chief, a scientist who worked on the REDD+ monitoring technology and other NGOS.
Another interview approach is something I call the after-side-event-creep. The technique consists of attending specific side events and waiting until the speakers have finished talking. Then you approach them (often more awkwardly than I participated) and then say “Hi I really loved your talk! Is there anyway I could ask you a few questions for my undergraduate research”. This mechanism I found to be more successful, but it does allow for the occasional embarrassing interview strike out. With this approach, I learned several lessons to be a successful climate change groupie- One: you must be fast. The speaker often has a line of fellow climate change groupies that that tend to shoot you death glares if you take too much time in your interview. Also there is a press for time because the room is often booked for another event directly afterwards, so the speakers leave the room quickly before you have time to chat with them. Two: you must pick your interviewee wisely. Often you want to chat with all the panelists, but usually there is only time to interview one person. So it’s important to evaluate which panelist could provide you with the most vital information and which panelist most likely to agree to an interview. Three: have your equipment ready. For the first couple interviews, our equipment was all over the place, creating obstacles for everyone around us. We learned to have tripod ready with the camera attached, so again the interview did not take too much time. This approach was the most groupie-like, but by the end of the week I felt like we had almost perfected the process.
Lastly is the luck-of-the-draw approach. A great deal of the strongest connections I made occurred randomly without the help of my detailed schedule. Due to circumstance and timing, I was able to chat with people who provided me with valuable input on my research. The first day at the COP sat next to a man on the bus who worked on REDD+ projects in Indonesia, which provided me with information on how Indonesia differs from the Amazon. Another interview only occurred because I dropped a pamphlet and the man sitting next to me picked it up and then began discussing the event. He use was a key member of Leave It In the Group and I had a 30 minute long interview with him. My classmate and I also met an undergraduate from Northeastern who we later met up with an discussed our concerns about REDD+ and Indigenous communities.
From taking undercover selfies with Christiana Figures to following a man who resembled the past President of Peru to memorizing the faces of delegates from photos on the Internet to trying to strike up conversations at the printer, the Week 1 team were successful climate change groupies.
Just down the road from the COP 20 venue is the Jockey Club del Peru, the home of Voces por el Clima. Voces is an exhibition that showcases the different aspects of climate change, especially in Peru. The venue includes booths from a wide variety of organizations, as well as side events on topics from sustainable cities to indigenous peoples.
We usually arrive at Voces shortly after it opens at 10 am. We start our day in the food court, sending emails to contacts, planning out of day, and watching the COP which is being broadcasted live on the big screen. Around lunch time, the exhibitions begin to get more crowded, with lots of delegates coming over from the COP to enjoy the exhibitions. We have had great success conducting interviews both with delegates, and with representatives at the booths. Most people here are happy and excited to talk with us, whether it be in English or in Spanish. We have even had the opportunity to have dinner with Gabriel Blanco, delegate of Argentina, to talk about the COP and our research.
When not conducting interviews and exploring the many facets of Voces por el Clima, we had been soaking in the culture, food and sites of Lima. We are staying in a part of Lima called Miraflores, which is a more modern section of the city. However, we had the opportunity to explore the historic section of the city, even watching the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace. We’ve eaten ceviche, sipped on chicha morado, and enjoyed the many free pisco sours. We are excited to get inside the COP next week, and to continue take in everything Peru has to offer.
Ok, no I didn’t have the interview, but Peru’s Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, was recently interviewed by Charlotta Lomas. He discusses his hopes for COP20 and how the Peruvian government is prepared to help make the event successful.
This is going to be the biggest conference in Peru’s history, but they are ready for the challenge!
The Pacific coast of Peru: one of the world’s richest fisheries. Because the southeast trade winds blow parallel to the coastline in this area, the Coriolis effect and the Ekman transport system deflect surface water to the left of the wind direction and out to sea. In its place, upwelling brings cold water to the surface. This cold water is rich in nutrients, which attract plankton, and in turn fish, to the area just off the shore of Peru.
This upwelling system results in one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world. Half of the world’s commercial fish come from the coast of Peru, which makes up only .1% of the ocean’s surface area. Since 1960, the weightof the Peruvian anchovy catch has exceeded that of any other fish species in the world. But this productivity is vulnerable to extreme variability and fluctuation due to El Niño, a prolonged warming of Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures that wreaks havoc on fish populations in the area.
During El Niño, weakening trade winds allow warmer water from the Peru countercurrent to flow east toward Peru. Sometimes the trade winds even reverse direction. The warm water brought in by these trade winds overrides the cold water present off the coast because it is less dense. It is also not as nutrient-rich, resulting in a large percentage of fish either dying off or dispersing further offshore toward deeper water that is more nutrient-rich, putting a huge dent in the Peruvian fishing industry. An El Niño event typically last nine months to two years, happening at irregular intervals of two to seven years.
This reduction of the production and exportation of fish from one of the most productive fisheries in the world has injurious effects around the globe. Both poultry and livestock prices spike worldwide, because the fishmeal that is used to feed poultry and livestock is now more expensive. More locally, in Peru, the catch is reduced and people are put out of work, while fishmeal plants and fishing boats remain idle. Workers need to find a way to support their families during these El Niño episodes, and payments must still be made on loans taken out to buy fishing boats and build fishmeal plants. El Niño has a damaging effect on not just the local economy, but on economies worldwide. It is just another way that climate changes in one area of the world can have very damaging effects worldwide.