Thursday, December 4, 2014

First COP, Favorite Quotes, and Floating Thoughts

Deanna Metivier here, blogging for the first time! I met Diane Husic over the summer at a 10 day program called the Rocky Mountain Sustainability and Science Network Summer Academy (RMSSN). We had a lot in common given our shared interests in science and climate change. After the program I emailed her and she told me about the possibility of going to the Conference of the parties, more commonly referred to as COP, later this year. Lucky for me it all worked out, and here I am at my first COP and my first time in South America!

This experience has been incredible to say the least. I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed the first few days by all of the jargon, acronyms, and intensity that is COP. I wandered my way around the venue and attended some very interesting events. One thing I thought to do while taking notes in sessions is to write down some of the quotes that I heard throughout COP. I'd like to take this opportunity to share them and reflect on my experience with COP thus far.

On the first day of COP I was lucky enough to land a ticket to attend the opening session . The president of COP19 spoke and welcomed the president of COP20, as well as other distinguished delegates. Here, I wrote down my first quote of the week from Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the president of COP20, "Science is at your doorstep. The world expects us not to fail. The time is now." I walked away feeling very motivated and excited for the week to come, although I still didn't exactly know what to expect!
Opening ceremonies!

Another one of my favorite quotes (I have a few I'd like to share) was a gentleman asking a question at an event that had to do with an update on climate science. The man said, "Climate change isn't the problem. Climate change is the symptom of a monumental problem. The problem is how we interact with Mother Nature. The question is can we live in a sustainable world with the present political system?" This quote really made me think about our society and how we interact with nature. We exploit it, we don't respect it. We exhaust it without thinking twice. We go for the easy fix instead of thinking about the future. Is the problem attaining the 2° world or something much bigger (if that's possible)?

Next up, a quote I heard while talking to Diane and Sarabeth, "No one here cares about the environment." After hearing a scientist present his research, I began to realize what exactly they meant. The scientists want to present their data in a straightforward manner and simply communicate the facts. The economists care about the economy. The politicians care about politics. Every country cares about themselves first. At the end of the day, who cares about the environment? People are here each with their own agenda and priorities, but are we losing sight of the bigger picture here, which is the environment and nature?
This next quote goes along with the previous thoughts. A woman spoke and asked a question and said, "Water is an endangered species." I thought this was an excellent way to articulate this issue. I've found myself often thinking about entitlement during this trip. What exactly each country and individual feels like they are entitled to, rather than something that is a privilege. Water is something we need to conserve and respect and never take for granted. Yet don't most of us every day, myself included?

Often times when I tell people I'm interested in climate change particularly in science, they say something along the lines of, "Oh so you can tell people how bad it's going to be and watch them do nothing about it?" I try to remain optimistic about climate change, but I have never been a very patient individual. On a panel with Climate Action Network (CAN) a man said, "Never get frustrated with the slowness. We are regenerating the human economy." I found this man's words to be particularly motivational because sometimes I find myself pessimistic about the future. But he is right, nothing about this entire issue will happen over night. We will not reach 0 carbon dioxide emissions overnight. We will not be 100% renewable over night. The issue of climate change encompasses every aspect of our lifestyle, economy, international policy, domestic policy, transportation, urban development, education-everything. We are regenerating the human way of life in every aspect.

Continuing with the the same theme, another one of my favorite quotes, again in a CAN presentation, "The people have spoken. The scientists have done their work. Now world leaders have a choice to make. Climate action or climate chaos?" Over 400,000 people marched in New York City in September demanding action regarding climate change. The IPCC fifth assessment confirms that climate change is real and is due to human causes. The science is there. The people are demanding action. If the scientists choose the latter option, we will continue to see widespread flooding, typhoons, sea level rise, increase in global temperatures, everything. So what'll it be leaders, climate action or climate chaos?

My final quote that I would like to end with particularly resonates with me. Being a young college student at this conference has been an experience beyond words. I've had the opportunity to travel to a new part of the world, meet wonderful people, learn about something I am incredibly passionate about, and see history being made. At the end of a session a woman stood up and asked for advice on how to make the most of her first COP. The panelist replied, "Don't forget to carpe diem." Climate change is real. It is up to all of us to do something about it. It is not an issue to think about in 2020, 2050, or the end of the century. We all need to remember to carpe diem and take action regarding climate change.

That's all I have for now! Unfortunately tomorrow is my last day at COP and I will return to Raleigh, North Carolina to take my final exams for the semester. Below are a few more pictures from this week at COP20!

The entrance for this year's venue for COP20 in Lima, Peru

The streets of Lima, down the street from the venue.
Me (Deanna) at COP20!

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