There is Still Hope

The last couple of days have been very exciting and informative.  On Tuesday, we got into the Bella Center and I saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Al Gore speak.  On Wednesday, I went to a couple of side events in the Bella Center that talked about green jobs that will come from an agreement in Copenhagen.  I also saw a panel of mayors from around the world that talked about how they are reducing carbon emissions in their own cities.  Their overall message was that they will continue to work toward making their cities more sustainable even if the UN does not come up with an agreement—it was very reassuring.  Today, we went to some of the side events in the city such as the Klima Forum which is a side conference about climate change and we went into the center of Copenhagen to an event called Hopenhagen.  We explored a lot of the exhibits and I was very impressed.

I was extremely moved by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s panel discussion that was sponsored by Oxfam.  I did not know that countries are being so negatively affected by climate change already.  He brought four people who live in different parts of the world that are being affected by climate change and invited them to tell their stories.  Archbishop Tutu was very firm in his message that listening to one another is the key to ending climate change.  He wanted to convey that, “We are interconnected…we are bound together.”  He wanted to remind us that those that are being affected by climate change are not the ones that are causing it and he is calling for the largest polluters to do their part and help these countries. 

A man from Peru talked about the changing seasons in his country due to climate change, “Weather seasons have changed completely.”  He told us that there is rain followed by drought and cold fronts with hail.  Their water sources are depleting which causes less food to be available because there are fewer crops.  A woman from Papua New Guinea also believes that the world’s leaders need to start listening.  Her opinion on industrialized countries is that they need to, “Learn to care and love other people.”  A woman from Bangladesh had an extremely tragic story.  Their family owned a farm, but due to climate change and changing sea levels the soil has too high of a salinity to farm anymore.  Her husband started collecting honey in the jungle to feed their family and was eaten by a tiger.  Several months later, their village flooded and her home was washed away and their village is still under water.  She said that the climate has changed dramatically and describes it as, “Very unpredictable.”  They have long, hot summers and short winters with little rain.  She told us, “I want my life back.”  The final panel member was a woman from Uganda who has flooding in her village as well.  The flooding brought on drought and sickness—especially in infants.  She told us the homes and schools are still empty.  They once had two seasons a year and now they do not have any.  They are having a hard time growing crops because they have no signs telling them when they should plant and harvest. She told us, “We want our seasons back.”  Many of the panelists also called for developed countries to do their part and start helping the developing countries that are being affected by the pollution from the developed nations.

Designating funds for the countries that have been affected by climate change has been a big part of the negotiations in Copenhagen.  Many of these countries brought delegates so that their voices can be heard in the big debate.  With many of the world’s leaders arriving today and tomorrow, I am still hopefully that an agreement will be made.

-Samantha LaChance