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.
Thus far our time in Lima has been spent sightseeing, for both people and places. We have been spending our days at Voces por el Clima interviewing delegates and representatives from various countries, Peru, Bolivia, Netherlands, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to name a few. While also exploring Lima outside of COP venues, we continue to run into party members and representatives. We were fortunate enough to have dinner with Gabriel Blanco a delegate from Argentina who has attended 9 previous COPs. Through a more relaxed interview involving cebiche and cerveza, Señor Blanco held nothing back about Argentina’s insufficient climate action. While it was surprising to hear about Argentina’s climate denial, it was even more surprising to me that Argentinas government continued to send delegates to a convention in which the argentine people had very little commitment towards. Leaving that dinner was a bit frustrating to hear that despite this being the twentieth conference of the parties, some governments are still in disagreement about the changing climate which is greatly impacting the lack of education for its citizens. Therefore a cycle of negligence occurs. However, Gabriel Blanco seemed somewhat optimistic for the outcomes in Lima, and we told him we will come to Argentina to help change the minds of the many Argentines who remain apathetic towards climate change.
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.