“This is a movement of the people; we should…” As the words left my mouth and observers took out their phones to film the young man speaking out against the corporate dominance of the environmental movement, two French military men had appeared by my side. Within moments, I felt my arms grabbed by the gendarmes as they hurriedly whisked me away from the cameras and toward a hidden room full of other protestors, pushed me against a concrete wall, and searched my body as men held their rifles feet away, watching me with deep suspicion.
Something really exciting happened at COP21, and it wasn’t the actual climate deal. Don’t get me wrong, the Paris Agreement is historic and a good first step in the right direction, but something happened in Paris that is much more significant and carries a lot more hope for the future of the planet.
In the wake of the COP21 climate talks in Paris that ended last week, the conversations I’m hearing about climate change on my campus and social media ring stoutly pessimistic.
But I’m not buying the doom and gloom.
When I walked into the Climate Generations Area at COP21, I was in awe. Water bottles refill stations were widely accessible, power outlets were charged by bicycles, and much of the building was constructed out of renewable materials. The building truly felt like I was peering into the future — one that I would be extremely proud to live in.
It is up to us to solve climate change.
For so long, the climate movement was simply about carbon, parts per million, and degrees of warming. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — those data are vitally important to understanding the climate crisis. But science alone is not enough to inspire people to action. How do you make people care about climate change through facts and statistics? Increasingly, climate activists are answering: You don’t. They’re popularizing an interesting alternative, by making people care about climate change through art.
Saturday marked the “last day” of the 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris, the UNFCCC climate change negotiations that have been hailed for years as the “last chance” for the global community to come together on an agreement to address the climate crisis. Tens of thousands of activists, delegates and observers had passed through the gates of Le Bourget, the compound housing the conference, during the previous two weeks.
50% renewable by 2030! What is it about California that they are able to set these targets and achieve them? Or is it simply because of the forward thinking people of Silicon Valley? They set a target for businesses to achieve 20% renewable by 2020 and they have already achieved 25%. It is at least partly due to Governor Jerry Brown, who has managed to mobilize the entire state into a frenzy about climate change and the need to start using renewable energy.
I’m a self-proclaimed optimist.
While I appreciate all the “realists” out there, I charge you to take a moment and consider how everything in life is just a matter of perspective, and in this case, framing the conversation.
In the weeks leading up to COP21, the UN Climate Negotiations, I had fantasized about walking the cobblestone streets of Paris, filling my nose with the smell of pastries, and feeling the romantic rhythm of Paris’s bustling energy. Then, the horrific terrorist attacks occurred just days before my flight was to arrive. As I boarded the shuttle to attend my first day at COP21, I pushed inside the tight confines of the shuttle’s interior with hundreds of other climate activists, I couldn’t help but feel a nagging sense of fear: What if somebody decided to attack the conference?