Climate March

On Wednesday December 10, 2014, I attended and marched in the Marcha Mundial en Defensa de la Madre Tierra in Lima, Peru, put on by the Cumbre de los Pueblos. I got a taxi from my hostel with two other members of the mosaic crew, and we took it to the Campo de Marte at the intersection of the Avenue de la Peruanidad and the Avenue Salaverry. The march seemed to have a good amount of people at this point, but it didn’t seem as big as we had expected. But the marching didn’t actually start until 11 AM, we were just gathering in the park at this point. We left to get some bananas for breakfast, and when we got back, it seemed a bit larger of a crowd had gathered.

 

My other two companions had to leave at this point to go to the COP, so I was left alone. I walked around for a bit and got handed a bunch of pamphlets and stickers and pins and was asked to sign a few petitions. I was also handed a sign that consisted of a big green heart with “100% energia limpia” written on it (it wasn’t until a few hours after the march that I found out what this meant—100% clean energy). I would carry this sign for the whole march.

 

At one point the energy seemed to really start to come to a head and there was a bunch of performance art and drumming and traditional music and chanting being done, although at this point I couldn’t tell if the march had begun yet or not. But the energy was absolutely intoxicating. We had by this point blocked off all the traffic in the Campo de Marte traffic circle, and police had to direct traffic. I walked around in the middle of the street for a while checking out all of the different groups of protesters. It seemed that the march was split up into blocks of different groups, separated by large signs telling what their purpose for marching was (I think, it was all in Spanish, which I don’t speak). There was no block for people with big green heart signs so I walked around and checked out a bunch of different groups, one of which was a bunch of women banging on cans and chanting something. I tried to chant with them, but the language barrier made this impossible. I kept walking through the crowd until I realized that I was now standing in a line with a bunch of people with bandanas tied around their mouths and heads. This was the  “Bloque Hip Hop.” I stood in their lines for a while, but I felt very out of place there as they seemed a little too militant with their bandanas and their anti-capitalism signs for my green heart. Also, based on the amount of daps that were given, it seemed that they all knew each other pretty well. So I left their crowd.

 

The slogan of the march was “Change the system, not the climate,” meaning that this protest was meant to challenge the current manner of dealing with climate change, and try to change that. In fact, this I believe was the whole purpose of the People’s Summit—to offer alternatives to current negotiating systems. There were definitely enough people there to help out challenging the current system. By the time the marching began, I couldn’t see where the end of the crowd was.

 

As we began marching, I again joined in with the women banging on cans, mostly because they seemed nice and there were others with big green hearts in their crowd. The march was a lot of fun. We marched for about 2 hours (?) through the neighborhood of La Victoria (?) taking over highways and other streets. It was a lot of fun seeing how we were blocking off traffic, although the cars weren’t having that much fun. I almost got run over a few times by angry drivers.

 

I attempted to chant along with people, but it was all in vain—I couldn’t understand the Spanish. Occasionally I would yell the Spanish words I could make out, like “porque” or “clima,” but overall it was hard for me to chant in Spanish.

 

Every so often people would start yelling and running forwards which was fun. I also tried to check out a bunch of different groups in the march and not hang around the same people the whole time. There was a group with orange flags that said “PCP” on them. I have no idea what this meant. There was another group with green flags that said “CCP, ” The FENAOMP group, the CGTP group, and at the very front of the march were a bunch of people holding a huge green tarp with something I couldn’t make out written on it. And of course there were the women dressed in purple and the Bloque de Hip Hop, among other groups that I can’t remember.

 

As I said, we marched about 2 hours through the streets of Lima, sometimes on larger two lanes roads and sometimes on smaller city streets where we walked alongside residents of Lima not participating in the march. The march ended in a big circle I don’t know where. The whole circle seemed to be a big party. There was one person making a speech on a truck in Spanish to a substantial crowd, a few different bands playing, people burning coca leaves and making speeches, and people hanging around the park making demonstrations or just hanging out on the grass. The whole scene was pretty fun, although I decided to leave as I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t understand anything as it was all in Spanish. Getting out was hell, because the march had screwed up all of the traffic patterns and the roads were blocked up for as far as I could see. I had five taxis reject me until I finally found one that would take me back to Miraflores. All in all though, a really great experience, and I got a big heart sign from it, which, sadly, had to be cut up so that it could fit in my suitcase to go back home.

 

¡Cambiemos el Sistema No el Clima!

 

 

REDD+ and Indigenous Peoples

Many of my peers here at COP20 have probably heard the various rantings of me and Heather Morrison about REDD+, and why we believe it is wrong and should be taken out of a future Paris agreement. Because the COP is this year located in Peru, it seems that discussions surrounding REDD+ have taken a much larger public presence, because Peru is a country with mining and other extractive industries, and also Peru has in its country and in neighboring countries populations of indigenous peoples that are highly affected by REDD+. In this post, I will discuss REDD+, and the problems surrounding it.

 

REDD+ is a climate change mitigation solution that mainly focuses on offsetting carbon emissions by sequestering it in trees in reforested areas. It is a way to combat both deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The idea is that, because climate change has no boundaries, the location where greenhouse gasses are emitted does not really matter, so if you can take up the same amount of carbon in one location that is emitted in another, you can achieve net zero emissions. At the same time, you would be combatting deforestation, because transnational corporations or governments would finance reforestation projects in other parts of the world with deforestation problems.

 

REDD+ combats two very important problems: climate change and deforestation, and this seems like a great idea at first. But there are problems with how REDD+ is implemented, and many of those problems start with those people living in the areas that are home to REDD+ projects. Indigenous peoples and local communities are very adversely affected by REDD+. First of all, REDD+ has tried to build various safeguards into it, mainly dealing with getting allowing for indigenous participation in REDD+ governance and respecting indigenous peoples’ rights. But these safeguards are generally not well enforced at all, leading to the eviction of many indigenous and local communities off of their traditional lands, and lands that they rely on for agriculture and livelihoods. Most of the time this eviction is quite violent, with houses being burned down and people being murdered or thrown in jail, all in the name of conservation.

 

But even if it was possible to strictly enforce the REDD+ safeguards, there would still be the problem that these indigenous traditional lands, lands that should be under the ownership of those that live on them and monitor them, are being privatized, and the peoples living on these lands are being told that they can no longer practice their traditional livelihoods, because the land is now being used as a tree plantation for a specific type of tree which maximizes the sequestration of carbon. Biodiversity is reduced in favor of a monoculture of trees, and traditional agricultural practices, or land clearing for local communities is outlawed, as this would reduce the space available for tree space. The framework of REDD+ naturally causes the privatization of traditional lands and the marginalization of those that live on them.

 

And REDD+ really just allows transnational corporations and national governments to continue polluting. Financing a REDD+ project in a country means that these organizations don’t have to reduce their own emissions, because they are supposedly offsetting the emissions. And even though the idea that emissions are global and not regional is true, those communities living adjacent to huge power plants or extractive industries don’t really care if a company is offsetting their global emissions or not, because regionally the environment is being negatively affected, causing a degradation in the health of populations and their water quality. Just look at the chemical valley in Canada, or Cerro de Pasco, Peru. Even if governments or corporations are offsetting global emissions, they are still having just as much of a negative impact regionally.

 

REDD+ should be stopped and indigenous peoples given ownership over their traditional lands, and corporations and governments need to be made to reduce emissions and not just try to offset them in another part of the world. REDD+ has good intentions, but it won’t help to allow for the systemic change really needed to combat climate change. Stop REDD+, and change the system, not the climate.

Pacha Mama

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It only made sense that we end our semester long climate change adventure visiting some of the most incredible sites provided by Mother Earth, or “Pacha Mama” known as by the Quechua indigenous people of the Andes. After our experiences at COP20 chasing down delegates, collecting and trading business cards, shuffling from meeting to meeting, and escaping the heat (from both inside and outside the plenary) with some gelato, it was exciting to visit ancient sites that climate change could prohibit future generations from enjoying. I considered myself lucky to be able to visit Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, where within the next year the Ministry of Culture in Cusco has decided tourism will be restricted to a certain number of visitors who must be accompanied by an official guide. The ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu is a gold mine for Peru’s tourism industry. Our guide, Hamilton, informed us just the 1Sol fee to use the bathroom generates 6,000 Soles per day.

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This tourist attraction is huge part of Peru’s economy and they would never close it, but it is sad to see that years of previous human degradation will restrict future generations to enjoy one of Mother Earth’s marvelous sites. This same concept applies to the Earth’s changing climate, years of environmental degradation caused by previous generations of humans is changing how future generations will be able to live on our shared planet. My experience at COP20 was both optimistic and skeptic. While it is optimistic to see progress in negotiations and progress in the use of sustainable technology, there is still a long way to go until we reach a global participation and agreement. Every year there is this extravagant event where representatives from each party meet to discuss what needs to be done to save the planet. However, much of this event is excessive and wasteful, which makes it seem counterproductive. But I am certainly invested in following the road to Paris and beyond.

WAGGGS at the COP

Do you ever have one of those moments when you’re just beaming with pride to the point of tears? My life’s leadership training (up to this point) culminated in my interview with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) Gina Belle from Barbados. All of the Wednesday night Girl Scout meetings from kindergarten to senior year of high school had a purpose. Looking back, holding an art show to raise money for tsunami relief to Haiti in elementary school, taking part in troop mates’ Bronze Award project painting fish on drains in Lambertville, and trying to bridge the gap between the English and Spanish-speaking communities through The Amistad Project have all played a huge part in making me the person I am today. The Girl Scout Laws’ lessons such as “make the world a better place”, “be a sister to every Girl Scout, and “use resources wisely” have become ingrained in how I go about my day-to-day life.

As a member of the Girl Scouts of the USA I am also a member of WAGGGS which really connects girls around the world. World thinking day activities such as WAGGGS chat rooms and international fairs were always reminding me of the bigger world in which I live. For me, the point of Girl Scouts is crystal clear and it is not the common camping idea everyone imagines. Girl Scouts teaches girls and young women to be leaders of today and tomorrow, giving them invaluable life lessons. The most basic example of this is the power structure of a troop in the U.S., where in kindergarten, leaders do almost all of the planning but by 6th grade, girls do more of the planning and leading than the “leaders” and continue on that trajectory up through senior year, at which leaders are really just there to sign papers.

How does this relate to the COP? December 4th was the Young and Future Generations Day here and there was a press conference with some WAGGGS representatives in the Exhibition Hall. This is where I got to interview Gina. Her interview included so much of what I have been taught since kindergarten, relating it to what I have dedicated a whole semester to this fall. She talked of the leadership work and education WAGGGS is working on in terms of badges on different climate change topics and having their own delegates to the COP. Also, she talked of what WAGGGS is hoping for from the COP, recognizing the threats girls and young women face with regards to a changing climate, disadvantaging them to succeed like their male peers.  WAGGGS and national Girl Scout/Guide organizations are making leaders for today and tomorrow both in the climate negotiations and the broader range of global issues. DSCN1425

The Life of a Climate Change Groupie

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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.

Life Outside the COP: Voces Por el Clima

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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.

Brady Hummel in the middle of interview Rene Van Berkel, head of UN Industrial Development Program.
Brady Hummel in the middle of interview Rene Van Berkel, head of UN Industrial Development Program.
Sending emails and making contacts in the Voces por el Clima food court.
Sending emails and making contacts in the Voces por el Clima food court.

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.

Historical Center of LIma
Historical Center of LIma

 

Cheviche
Cheviche

Paradigm Shift

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In my Religion and Modern Culture class, we have talked about paradigm shifts this semester which is directly related to the climate change conversation. The movie, “An Inconvenient Truth” is a, excellent example of a paradigm shift emerging. The movie, and the work of Al Gore, is an attempt at shifting the worldview of the climate change problem. The movie acts to summarize a brief synopsis of the problem and it does so in a way that can be easily understood to the general public and is easily relatable. Towards the end of the movie, Gore brings up the topic of the Kyoto Protocol. The United States originally signed the Kyoto Protocol but never ratified it; this caused a huge global controversy that continued along with the US not ratifying the second commitment period to Kyoto. Where the visible shift can be seen is through initiatives in the United States being taken in California and the nine north eastern states banding together to take action. In Gore’s presentation, he shows a list of a multitude of major cities that are in support of the Kyoto. This is where the paradigm shift is starting to be seen, at the bottom-up level.

He also mentions, towards the end of the movie that he is doing his part by doing what he can. This entails giving presentations in major cities all around the world, addressing people at a more local level. His approach of conveying the message and the approach of the movie is extremely similar to that of James Balog and the film Chasing Ice. Sitting and chatting with Balog on a more personal basis and seeing his presentation while he visited Dickinson really put a lot of things into perspective. Balog, in the same way that Gore does, conveys his message in the best way he possibly can, through his photography. Both men express a sense of urgency and the need for further communication. Gore mentions that the issue of the ozone hole has been depleted; the climate change problem is not completely out of our grasp. What is needed, is a complete shift in cooperation globally, a paradigm shift. Not everyone is currently sitting at the table, but everyone is invited.

Eight years has passed since this movie came out and the shift is still continuing; there is power growing. I think the Peoples Climate March, the largest climate march in history, that took place recently is an extremely powerful example of the movement. Well over 400,000 people took the streets of Manhattan to express their voices and to take a stand. However, the shift needs to continue. Even here at Dickinson College, ranked in the nation among the most environmentally friendly schools, still needs change. There are people that don’t think anything of their actions throughout their day, perhaps they should. Everything we do in our everyday lives, literally everything, has an impact. The amount of times I hear students and friends say that their minute actions make no difference, that one or two things makes no difference, is literally sickening. The fact that people can leave their phone charger plugged into a wall while it is not in use and it is still emitting .5 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere per hour is again, a sickening thought. People NEED to be more conscious. The shift must continue.

The title of the movie is what it is; the issue of climate change that needs to be addressed is inconvenient in many ways. It has been ignored for so many for way too long because people would rather pretend the problem is not there than actually address it head on. The novel, Merchants of Doubt, by Naomi Oreskes is a perfect example of doubt being used in many controversies over time. It is inconvenient both in that we have to deal with it and it’s impacts on today’s world, with some nations being more vulnerable than others. The definition of sustainability, to uphold the needs of today’s people without compromising the needs of future generations, relates to this inconvenience in that the paradigm shift must occur in order to comply with the needs of future generations.

The Inequality of the Get Richer Quick Schemes of the 1%



trickle-downTaking Professor Barnum’s class American Inequalities while in the mosaic has enabled me to really trace the pattern of poverty in those affected most by policy backfires. The housing crisis of 2008 leading to the Great Recession hit those who lost their mortgages and went through foreclosures the most even though the housing bubble burst because of irresponsible lending by large banks. As Joseph Stiglitz, the economist who coined the term the “1% and 99%” writes “the irony is that in the crises that finance brings about, workers and small businesses bear the brunt of the costs” (Stiglitz 66). The 1% can play around with the system in order to eke out as much profit as possible despite the harm its actions might cause the rest of society.  The sad part is, the trickle-down effect is bogus. Increased profits for the 1% does not fuel the overall American economy because the richer one is, the smaller portion of their income they actually spend. Thus, those most defenseless against economic hardships are the ones most vulnerable to exploitation by the 1%.

From http://judithcurry.com/2014/07/24/towards-a-pragmatic-ethics-of-climate-change/
From http://judithcurry.com/2014/07/24/towards-a-pragmatic-ethics-of-climate-change/

This reminds me of my research on LDCs and their vulnerability to climate change despite the fact that they did little to cause the problem. LDCs have contributed next to nothing in GHG emissions causing global climate change. Still, they will be the ones worst hit. Developed countries have been emitting GHGs for over a century, causing global climate change and as a result, have become rich and powerful in the global governance arena. Meanwhile, LDCs have stayed behind and will also be the first, and worst, hit by droughts, sea level rise, and temperature changes due to climate change. The fact that LDCs often still rely on subsistence agrarian societies- a sector way too reliant on climate considering the upcoming roller coaster. While developed countries have been able to develop away from agrarian societies and on the way caused climate change, LDCs have been left behind with agrarian societies put at great risks in the face of climate change.

LDCs, like the most impoverished in the US, are the ones hit hardest by the development schemes of the rich, yet they feel none of the benefits. This reflects a greater trend in all of society, where those who are poor are the most disadvantaged. There is no way for the poor to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” while the rich are constantly tying them down through their own schemes of exploitation. Only when this trend is changed will policies have a possibility of creating more equal successes for all.

Brazil: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Brazil Protest

In today’s class lecture we discussed Brazil’s progress towards mitigating climate change. Brazil has made an enormous effort in reducing tropical deforestation, Brazil has kept 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere since 2004″ (Atkin, 2014). Brazil once had the highest deforestation rate in the world mainly due to livestock and logging. Rainforests are an important carbon sink, however deforestation emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus changing the climate. Although Brazil’s 70 percent decline in deforestation has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, other parts of Brazil are still feeling the effects of climate change. Sao Paulo is suffering from one of the worst droughts to have hit Southern Brazil in several decades. The water scarcity is causing violent conflicts between residents. As the climate continues to change, and droughts become more prevalent we can expect to see more violent conflicts and citizens protesting for access to resources like water, which are necessary for survival. Rainy seasons in Brazil have shown a pattern of less rainfall each year, “The Sao Paulo metropolitan area ended its last rainy season in February with just a third of the usual rain total only 9 inches” (Gomez-Licon, 2014). The government is being blamed for the issues of water scarcity, which shows that as the climate keeps changing and water becomes more limited there must be systems implemented for distributing water equally. Otherwise the world’s poor will be exposed to more vulnerabilities, and violent conflicts will increase. 

 

Atkin, Emily. “Brazil Has Done More To Stop Climate Change Than Any Other Country, Study Finds.” ThinkProgress. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/06/06/3446097/brazil-cuts-carbon/>.

Gomez Licon, Adriana. “Sao Paulo Drought Leaves Brazil’s Biggest City Desperate For Water.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/sao-paulo-drought_n_6118888.html?utm_hp_ref=green>.

 

Harry Potter, Not Knowledge and Colbert

“You don’t have to worry about global warming anymore, because the Senate sure won’t” – Stephen Colbert

Colbert Climate Change

Regardless of your personal views, and political officiation, the outcome of the recent republican domination of this election will undoubtably have an some meaningful consequences on the America’s action on climate change.  Especially considering that a man who wrote a book entitled “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” James Inhofe  is about to replace Barbara Boxer as the chair of the senate’s Environmental Committee. The absurdity of this is downright comical.. and also terrifying.

Stephen Colbert, a master of political humor and sarcasm, had a clip in response to this entitled “The Repulicans’ Inspiring Message on Climate Change” that called out and summed up the ridiculousness of this as well as other climate change deniers; otherwise known as “not knowledge” by “not scientists.” In talking about Inhofe’s book he said, “its like harry potter for people who thought harry potter as too much science in it.”

In one of the most accurate and amusing metaphors on the way many in the republican party view climate change, Colbert pours water into a container with a topographic model of the United States. As he is pouring in the water he says,”now what apears to be happening is that the water is rising. Why? One theory is: I don’t know I’m not a scientist…Oh look there goes florida! And there’s no way of knowing why.”

Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.