I'm back in my country...it says so on my passport...this is where I belong.
The Amtrak train from Miami has been rolling for 8 hours and we're just leaving Florida. I'm re-reading EAARTH by my friend Bill McKibben, putting together my slide show and reflecting on my next steps.
Although I was only at COP 16 and in Mexico for 3 weeks it feels a little like when I returned from the Peace Corps after 5 years in Asia back in 1975 as a young man. Part of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is to 'bring it back home"...says so right in the third goal statement in the brochure. What am I bringing home this time? Who's going to listen and what's the plan?
I sure am glad I've got Minnesota to return to...oh wait...what about Miami where seven of us met last night with long time Sierra Club activists and brand new activists awakened by their daughter Natalie who back in October met us in Minneapolis at the beginning of this voyage. Or Richmond, Virginia tomorrow evening, with a group of new Americans looking for the answer to their questions about our collective future... Then where?
Poolesville, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milan, Perrysburg, Detroit, Ann Arbor, South Bend, Chicago, Racine, Milwaukee, Madison, Winona, Red Wing, my goodness I'll never get home. My boundaries have grown as well as my appreciation for how deeply we need each other. I physically could not have managed this trip without all the help and support given to me from the wonderful people on the road to help me with carrying things, getting me places and having great places to rest every night. And my Cool Planet board members Joe and Mindy and the amazing Kate Faye whose sister and husband lodged me in Fairfax VA and whose Mom is meeting me at Union Station tomorrow morning, and who coordinated much of the trip from home. To all of you and to the wonderful folks and friends at the Will Steger Foundation, thank you. Without you I could not have gotten inside the door of COP 16 and made the kind of difference that I was drawn here to make.
The way I see it is we do our best to plant some seeds and now it's up to all of us to find new pathways into new communities. Being at the 350 booth everyday for 2 weeks at COP 16 let me know that the work of Bill McKibben and his former students (what a privilege to watch Kelly, May, Jeremy and Jamie work together) has absolutely altered the way people see the 350.org movement towards a sustainable climate. Being on the inside of this awesome team gave me the experience of being able to contribute by just being me and connecting with as many people from as many places as possible..."wear this button (350 ppm and 1.5 C = Survival), put this sticker (350) on your laptop, get on our mailing list, and by the way, how are the farmers in your country doing with the new weather patterns? And do your children have enough to eat?"
Most people that I have read or spoken to feel that COP 16 was a positive movement in the right direction.
"The Cancun Agreements" call for:
- An agreement by the international community to be committed to the process created by the UNFCCC (sounds obvious but is actually a huge step)
- A $30 billion package for 2012 to aid nations taking immediate action to adapt to global warming.
- The creation of a "Global Climate Fund" that will provide financing of $100 billion annually for longer-term adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries. (How much did we spend to bail out the big banks???)
- The creation of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) to facilitate the flow of resources to communities dedicated to forest conservation...this measure was very controversial among the youth and the indigenous communities because they felt that the measure was too much about making money and that native groups would be forced off their land if they didn't agree with the measures. (sounds like the World Bank and the IMF to me, we need those groups on board)
China and the U.S. worked together much better than in Copenhagen. China agreed to specific language on emission reporting and monitoring and the U.S. committed to funding adaptation and mitigation projects in developing countries. Chinese and U.S youth also had substantial negotiations and agreements and had an impact on their adult counterparts.
President Obama missed a huge opportunity to show global leadership by showing up and taking a stand for driving climate legislation at all costs (that's OUR job now). Instead he sent Steven Chu, Tom Vilasack and Nancy Sutley from his cabinet and White House staff. They breezed in and out without much notice. Chu didn't allow questions at his two talks and was very "business is good" in the world of 'green energy' efficiency. Not a word about small island nations, disappearing water sources or the growing separation between rich and poor in our country.
Our work in this country is clear. We must create a pathway that is palatable for our politicians so that they see they won't lose their jobs (and create a few million more doing the right thing) by moving in the right (correct) direction. I believe this can only happen out of relationships where the conversations revolve around what is truly important ...our food, water, energy and collaborative efforts so we can answer the question "how are the kids doing?" with an authentic...."just fine, we are moving in the right direction."
Coming Home, watching the sunset from the train, the folks are lined up at the door for a 20 minute stretch break...by far the biggest action of the day.
Care to join our Cool Planet Climate Conversation Action Team? We're looking for a few million good folks.
No time like the present! Happy Holidays and thanks for following our journey
Bring on the snow...I'm a Minnesotan!!
P.S. Durban, South Africa is next for COP 17. The train is leaving in 48 weeks!
Paul Thompson is the Founder of Cool Planet and Volunteer Educator for Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota, a joint program of the Will Steger Foundation and the Alliance for Sustainability. Paul is participating in COP16 as a member of the 350 Solutions Revolution Team with accreditation sponsored by the Will Steger Foundation.