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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Key COP17 Issues, Mosaic Action, Summer Reading Responses » Cramped and Crowded

Cramped and Crowded

My favorite yoga teacher always jokes that the only way to get world leaders to agree on anything is to force them into doing hot yoga together. With yoga mats arranged only inches apart in a small studio heated to 98 degrees Fahrenheit, each state head would have to peacefully “negotiate” their space, attempting to stay fully conscious of their breathing and the future of the world as each sweats on the other.

I could not help by remember this joke during our class simulation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change last week. Each group comprised of ten or so countries divided into negotiating blocs denoted by their economic status: “developed,” “developing,” and “other developing” (i.e. “least developed”). We represented a specific state, simultaneously functioning under a negotiating bloc, debating for three hours in an attempt to agree to various sectors of climate change mitigation. Which countries would financially support the less-developed countries in their sustainable growth? What percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could all of the blocs sign on to, that would not give way to financial ruin and allow safe levels of GHG in the atmosphere? Frustrated at the fact that only some spokespeople from each group could really negotiate, I actively listened from my seat. I was embarrassed to find myself thinking, “Well, if we can’t agree today, maybe in a few years we’ll be so scared due to the climatic changes we have already seen, that we will agree without debate.” How is it, that as states, we are so self-interested that it seems nearly impossible to cooperate? Our future is non-negotiable!

It was difficult not to get lost in all of the information provided the night of the simulation. There were so many areas to negotiate, was it realistic to expect that we somehow come to an agreement on them all? At this point, I had only been extensively studying climate change for about three weeks. There was no way that I had an expert opinion on how to make cooperation happen, particularly when all of the blocs had their own agendas that seemed hardly compatible. I could only imagine what it might be like to truly be a representative from the Maldives, maybe jet-lagged and probably overwhelmed, fearful of the fate that more developed nations might not yet understand.

Let’s just hope the negotiating room in Durban, South Africa at COP17 is small, hot, and crowded. Maybe then the states will be forced to cooperate.

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3 Responses to "Cramped and Crowded"

  1. Christine Burns says:

    I was extremely amused by the thought of all the delegates doing yoga together, and although you were joking, your teacher has a point. I think that giving the delegates some sort of common ground (it does not have to be yoga) could be a way to help initiate cooperation. I agree with your point about everyone is blinded by their own agenda, and having something in common with other delegates could help smooth over differences. I realize that it is not that simple, but during the simulation I could not help but focus totally on what was best for my bloc without regard for what could be best overall.

    1. capaldie says:

      I also LOVE this analogy. You’re totally right (in a strange way) that staying calm under pressure (and training for that through yoga) would help to better facilitate productive negotiations.

  2. Claire says:

    It’s scary to think that the delegates and states become so engrossed in arguing about numbers, that they are blinded to the…impending doom. When will we acknowledge that any negotiation we come to is still not enough? And that we need to prepare for a scary future on what Bill McKibben would call,”Eaarth”?

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