Day #3: Copenhagen Delegation De-brief – Wednesday, December 9
▲ Bolivian delegation. Photo by Pat Watkins.
Lessons, Accomplishments, Highlights
Overall, the team felt that today for everyone was a day of the heart, where we experienced God being present in different ways in different settings. While we only partially planned it this way, the focus was on the Asia-Pacific region in many of our encounters – the Spirit at work! At times, several of us were close to or moved to tears, and otherwise felt deep emotions. Looking back, it was a day focused on networking and learning in a profound, soulful way. Yesterday had been more of a day of the mind – learning on a more intellectual level and strategizing about and engaging in policy advocacy.
Tupou & Esmeralda: Esmeralda and I attended a workshop hosted by the Kiribati delegation, “Kiribati: Our road to Copenhagen”. Kiribati is a long, narrow island in the Pacific which is on the front-lines in terms of facing irreversible effects as a result of climate change. I was struck by learning that the situation in Kiribati was more extreme than for my home land of Tonga. I was struck by a presentation where the impact of sea level rise was measured in terms of the amount of land that would be lost for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We were moved by the remarks of the Foreign Minister who talked of the dignity of the people in not wanting to become a statistic of climate refugees.
Pat: I attended part of the Plenary Session of the Conference of Parties. A Mobilization for Climate Justice (MCJ) representative was to make a brief speech to the delegates (a rare opportunity), technically called an intervention, and people from MCJ were encouraged to applaud and show solidarity/support for the speaker and the remarks. While I waited for the point in the agenda for the MCJ intervention, I listened to a powerful, passionate plea by a representative from Tuvalu, another Pacific island. The government representative was fairly angry, talking about how Tuvalu was the most immediately endangered country by sea level rise. He said he was tired of waiting for international action, tired of official procrastination. I felt that it was powerful because it was in plenary. It enabled me to hear directly from someone who was being affected, someone who lived there. It wasn’t just a scientific report. He was saying it loudly and clearly. His life was being threatened. It was a matter of life and death for his people, his culture.
Tupou, Esmeralda, Pat & Pam: Our work day ended with an evening briefing by the Bolivia delegation related to a declaration of rights for Mother Earth. All four of us were moved by the Bolivian ambassador to the UN’s comments and a speaker who was a scientist from South Africa. They talked about how scientific research is now corroborating much of what indigenous people know about living with and caring for the Earth. The Bolivian government is working to introduce a Declaration of rights for Mother Earth at the UN, similar to the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, where disputes could be resolved by some sort of international tribunal. This is part of their ongoing efforts to change the basic worldview of how we relate to our planet, which they believe is critical if we are going to adequately deal with climate change. There were many memorable quotes for us. One: “The earth doesn’t negotiate. The only thing we are negotiating (here) is how long we are deluding ourselves.” Indeed, the ambassador began his remarks by saying when they are successful, in changing hearts and minds, this kind of briefing would be the main event, not a “side event”. One of the members of the Bolivian delegation is a Methodist bishop. We met him and wanted to spend more time thinking how we might bring the powerful message and Bolivian approach to the Green Team effort, and indeed, to the work of United Methodist Women.
Pam, Pat, Tupou and Esmeralda: Sometimes Grace happens – in the most unexpected ways. The team took time out to pose with the new “Climate Justice” banner made by UMW staff member Carol Barton for this meeting to send some photos back to New York. We did not think much of this task and weren’t going to spend much time doing it. We were standing in a fairly busy hallway in the Bella Center (where the official meeting was taking place), at an intersection between two main sections of the building. As we were having our picture taken, several people spontaneously stopped and took photos of us. We thought some might have been professional photographers, given the quality of their camera. And, the longer we stood, the more things happened. One young man from Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. of China, (an NGO observer) came up and video taped us, asking why we were there and what the impact of climate change was on women and girls. Three different times, people from the global South (Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. of China, Nigeria and Burkina Faso) stepped up and asked if they could pose behind the banner so they could have their photos taken with us with their cameras. Pat was struck by the fact that for him, it turned out to be a powerful way for us to connect with people from other parts of the world we might not have otherwise met or connected with. It was obvious to us that the simple and powerful message of calling for climate justice spoke to many people, and they appreciated we were standing in solidarity with them. In fact, Pam reflected that it was rather ironic that what was an evocative and perhaps the most powerful form of public witness we made to date was one involving us not saying a word! It involved simply standing. She recalled the Donny McClurkin gospel song “Stand” which has a line that says something like “when you’ve given all you can, then all you do is stand.” We resolved to do more of this in strategic locations and times.
Tupou, Pat & Pam: We spent over an hour talking with two facilitators at an interactive display in the KlimaForum. This exhibit space was designed to promote a process whereby people developed a common vision of a more sustainable future, shared wisdom and strategies which could be transformative. People involved in this effort also had the option of continuing it when they went home through a sophisticated computer social networking site set up for this purpose. As we explored with the two facilitators how this might be used at Assembly or National Seminar, or in other projects we were involved with, we felt very tender moments of deep connection in terms of shared values, visions, and hopes for our world. You could see emotions welling up in us – totally unexpected – in both the women and men in the conversation. What a special moment. We exchanged business cards and promised to continue the conversation.