Late last week our delegation was joined by President Tiefenthaler, Provost Townsend, and one of the Colorado College Trustees, Marc St. John. Their presence at the COP underscores the importance of climate change for CC. We had a wonderful time leading them around to events and chatting with them about our research projects. A hearty thank you to them for taking time out of their busy schedules to come to coal-y Katowice and attend this important conference.
You may be wondering what we do from day to day so I’ll give you a quick rundown. We wake up, hop on a free(!) tram to the venue, which is quite like a giant temporary airport, breeze through security, and start attending events. Events range from attending the technical negotiations of the Katowice rulebook (called Plenaries) to going to a wine tasting centered around the effects of climate change on the wine industry. In addition, there is an entire building filled with country and business pavilions, think Epcot for climate change professionals. Each country has a small area decked out with their flag where they hold events, providing seating for conference goers, and share their perspectives on climate change. (I am sitting in the Austria Pavilion right now where they have outlets (a rarity inside the venue) and free hazelnut wafers). We attend events for 6-10 hours each day.
The COP is an emotional rollercoaster, something I neither anticipated nor understood before coming. As all the countries argue about the technicalities of the Rulebook (which really feels like the last hope for combatting climate change on an international level), there are hiccups. On Saturday, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Russia stalled the discussions when they said they would not support a clause “welcoming” the UNFCCC-requested Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the effects of 1.5 degrees celsius of warming. This refusal stopped an entire meeting and radically changed the broader mood around the conference from one of tentative hope to one of hostility and despair.
There is some hope yet, as the conference does not end until Friday so there will still be progress.
As I walk throughout the conference venue, I am identifiably from the United States, probably for a couple of reasons. First, I smile at everyone I see, second my water bottle. 5 days into the COP and six people have commented on my beloved teal nalgene coated in climate-related stickers. It’s a great conversation starter and has earned me a few business cards.
Water bottles, at least at CC, are a way to make a quick non-verbal statement regarding your passions. It’s a powerful visual to represent your ‘isms’: environmentalism, anti-racism, veganism, High Mountain Institute-ism, and the list goes on. What the water bottle fails to do is bely any action behind its claims. Mine reads: “keep it in the ground,” regarding coal. But what am I doing to help keep it in the ground? I don’t know.
Being at the COP requires me, as an individual, and especially as an American, to reckon with how my actions contribute or detract from climate change. My wish for you, reader of this blog deep within the CC website, is ask yourself these same questions. How are you taking the messages on your water bottle and enacting them?
“If we see climate change destroying entire countries, and we know we have the technology to stop this, what is stopping us from taking the necessary action?” – UN General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés”
This question, from the opening session of the COP weighs heavy on my mind, and the mind of every attendee, as we move into the two-week Paris Agreement Rulebook negotiation period. The principal task of COP24 is finalizing and creating the aforementioned rulebook. Since COP22, negotiators have been working on creating the rules, guidelines, procedures, and institutional mechanisms through which the Paris Agreement contributions will be implemented. Without these rules, the commitments made under the Paris Agreement will be practically meaningless. The tenor of this COP is underscored by the recent IPCC report showing what would happen if the world only warmed 1.5 degrees Celsius (the Paris Agreement ceiling is 2 degrees). Many, including myself, feel that the Paris Agreement is our last chance to make a meaningful dent in climate mitigation, which makes this COP and the ensuing rulebook of utmost importance.
Attending a COP is a hopeful experience, it is the largest international initiative for climate mitigation and adaptation- a refreshing change from the flat out climate denial in Colorado Springs. Seeing people from all over the world come together to solve humanity’s greatest issue is reassuring and satisfying. That being said, within this venue is both incredible selection bias and incredible privilege. People are here precisely because they understand the dire nature of climate change and to some extent it is a giant (UFO-shaped) echo chamber. Unfortunately, those who will be most adversely affected by climate change are not here.
While the COP feels hopeful, it is tinged with a sort of horror. This is the 24th COP and even throughout all the partnerships and agreements achieved over the past two decades, we are still on track to overshoot even the 2 degree goal set by the Paris Agreement. This anecdotal quote from an ex-greenpeace employee who has been to every COP sums it up:
“I’ve been here long enough to be complicit”
After a class-combined 3 days of travelling, we all arrived safely in Katowice (pronounced cat-oh-vee-cha) and have spent the past 24 hours exploring and getting oriented to our home for the next two weeks.
Last night, we all went to explore the downtown area, ate perogies, and bought towels. While Katowice is a small city, the town center is lively and bustling with buskers singing, men selling fruit, and Christmas carols blaring out of speakers. It is very evident in the city that the COP is coming. Banners are hung on buildings, new bus routes have been created, and every single hotel room in the city is filled.
This morning, we headed to the COP venue to get our badges and it was a surprisingly seamless process. Getting badges (the only means to get into the conference) for this class has been difficult. In years past, the host cities of the COP have been far larger than Katowice, and therefore able to accommodate more conference goers. This year, the number of available badges was significantly smaller than it has been. Through a lot of tenacity on the part of our professor, we were all able to be badged for at least some portion of the conference.
While getting our badges this morning, we met up with CC’s Watson Fellow, Theo Hooker. It was nice to catch up with him and hear about the incredible things he has experienced so far in his travels. Some of us headed to the Christmas market where we went ice skating and then explored some polish cuisine. Tonight, a number of people will go to a string quartet concert at the Katowice National Symphony.
COP events start tomorrow and we have our first full-delegation dinner. I will keep you all updated!
Hello, and welcome to the block blog for EC 385 “International Economics: the Economics of International Climate Policy,” my name is Lily Weissgold, I am a junior double major in Economics and Environmental Policy and I will be blogging for our class while we are abroad. Our class will be traveling to Katowice, Poland this Thursday to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP).
This is an incredible opportunity for learning, networking, and critically engaging with the strongest existing international effort to mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change. One that would not be possible without the flexibility of the block plan. Throughout the semester, including this week, our class has met 11 times to discuss readings, learn UN terms, and even learn how to cook pierogi!
I will be updating this blog regularly, so check back to hear about what we are up to on the ground of the COP. Until then, pozegnanie! (farewell in Polish)
October 25, 2018
Our class met with artist Rayna Hernandez (Yankton Sioux/Lakota) who graduated in 2016 with art and creative writing degrees at the University of South Dakota and is a former student of Professor Natanya Pulley. Her visit to the Colorado College was sponsored by the Fine Arts Center Mellon Faculty Fellowship and by the Provost’s Faculty Visiting Speaker Grant. Rayna had some of her artwork showcased in the Coburn Gallery in the Worner Campus Center. She did a presentation that explained her inspiration for her artwork and also talked about how one of her idols, Oscar Howe (http://aktalakota.stjo.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8858), influences her art.
“Who ever said that my paintings are not in the traditional Indian style has poor knowledge of Indian art indeed. There is much more to Indian Art than pretty, stylized pictures. There was also power and strength and individualism (emotional and intellectual insight) in the old Indian paintings. Every bit in my paintings is a true and studied fact of Indian paintings. Are we to be held back forever with one phase of Indian painting, with no right for individualism, dictated to as the Indian always has been, put on reservations and treated like a child, and only the White Man knows what is best for him? Now even in art, “You little child do what we think is best for you, nothing different.” Well I am not going to stand for it. Indian Art can compete with any art in the world, but not as a suppressed Art. I see so much of the mismanagement and treatment of my people. It makes me cry inside to look at these poor people. My father died there about three years ago in a little shack, my two brothers still living there in shacks, never enough to eat, never enough clothing, treated as second class citizens. This is one of the reasons I have tried to keep the fine ways and culture of my forefathers alive. But one could easily turn to become a social protest painter. I only hope the Art World will not be one more contributor to holding us in chains.” ~Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota; 1915-1983)
One of the main topics we have discussed in our class is how there are certain expectations that most people have for what they think Native/Indian art is and what it should be. We learned how many Native artists are not making their art to meet these expectations and how they are changing the idea of what Native art is and what Native art can be. Rayna shares her life experiences and identity in her artwork. She incorporates written work, beads, and other materials into her paintings.
“Hernandez writes her ideas and experiences on anything she can find–napkins, receipts, scratch paper. Then she makes collages from those notes onto a canvas and paints over the top, creating and uneven and rugged background. “So my writing is incorporated in my paintings at least for my ideas and it’s also literally incorporated in the paintings.”…She paints abstract shapes over the written background of her work, leaving only a few words visible. She often adds a female form as the centerpiece–modeling many images after her own body.” (http://listen.sdpb.org/post/vermillion-artist-shares-life-experiences-and-identity-through-paintings)
Rayna and Professor Pulley have done a collaboration together which has been featured in the book “#NotYourPrincess Voices of Native American Women.” Professor Pulley had written “Falling” and had asked Rayna to do an art piece, “Morning Star,” to accompany it. It was a pleasure to meet Rayna and to have been inspired by her artwork.
October 25, 2018
Our class had a trip to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center (FAC) and we went on a tour with Polly Nordstrand (Hopi) who is the Curator of the Southwest Art Collection at the FAC. We learned about the hierarchy of cultures, how the art world perpetuates elitism, how painting is considered the highest art form, how Native art was not considered “proper art” until the 1920s, and how there are imbalances in art history. When we viewed the Southwest Art Collection, we learned that before 1492/pre-contact, the Indigenous Peoples of what is now called the “Americas” already had trading systems in place. With the colonization of the “Americas” came the destruction of these trading systems and the enslavement/genocide of the Indigenous Peoples who were already there as well as the enslavement of the Indigenous Peoples from Africa. Colonization/westward expansion affected Indigenous Peoples, including their art, because it brought about political/economical transformation, the idea of “owning the land,” the commodification of food sources, new materials, cultural entrepreneurs who made culture part of the economy, and more. The white art market, especially in the Southwest, forced Native artists to make Native art how “Western eyes” saw and valued their artwork. For example, we learned that Native pottery was originally made for utilitarian purposes. Now, Native pottery in general is made to be aesthetically pleasing so it can be sold to art collectors/dealers/galleries and to be used for decorative purposes.
We also got to see and learn about two exhibits that were curated by Joy Armstrong (Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the FAC). We saw Virgil Ortiz’s (Cochiti Pueblo) “ReVOlution – Rise Against the Invasion” exhibit (October 6, 2018-January 6, 2019) and learned about the upcoming “In the Footsteps of My Ancestors” exhibit (October 27, 2018-February 10, 2019) by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish).
Virgil (https://virgilortiz.com) is the 2018 fall Andrew W. Mellon Artist-in-Residence for the FAC at the Colorado College. He has used different art mediums, including the traditional Cochiti Pueblo method of pottery making, to tell the widely unknown and untaught story of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. He tells the story of this historic event while using science fiction, fantasy, contemporary art, modern technology, and Indigenous futurism components to engage larger audiences. The storyline dates from the time of the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 in New Mexico to 500 years into the future in 2180. Some of the characters in the story include the Aeronauts, Po’Pay, Translator and the Spirit World Army, Tahu and her army of Blind Archers, Runners, and Gliders.
“Set in the future of 2180, the pueblos are in chaos, the invasion of Native land continues, the scourge of war rages everywhere. The Aeronauts summon their fleet and prepare for extreme warfare against the invading Castilian forces. Desperately, the Aeronauts search for any remaining clay artifacts from the battlefields. They know that challenges and persecution will continue, so it is imperative to preserve and protect their clay, culture, language, and traditions from extinction.” (https://www.csfineartscenter.org/exhibits/virgil-ortiz/)
“Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (jaunequick-to-seesmith.com) is one of the U.S.’s finest indigenous talents and a late-career artist with extraordinary aesthetic, intellectual and curatorial achievements to her credit. Coming of age when Abstract Expressionism with its white male tenor dominated, Smith pushed back and developed a strong personal vision forged from belonging to two marginalized groups by birth (female and Native American) and one by choice (non-urban), aligning them more closely with the mainstream art world. This exhibition mines Smith’s cross-cultural experience and Salish-Kootenai identity and demonstrates the evolution of her lifelong aesthetic investigations in which she simultaneously questions and creates American history. In the Footsteps of My Ancestors examines themes that perennially recur in Smith’s work, including conflict, compassion, peace, the cycle of life, irony, and identity. The artist has always operated on a cusp – culturally, temporally, aesthetically, and from a gender perspective – which gives her work an attention-getting vitality, originality, and relevance. Her role in the shift toward deepening respect for Native American contemporary art cannot be understated, and her work is at once earthy, vibrant, sophisticated, and compassionate. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: In the Footsteps of My Ancestors is organized by the Yellowstone Art Museum.” (https://www.csfineartscenter.org/exhibits/jaune-quick-to-see-smith/)
Today we had the opportunity to talk to sociology professor Gail Murphy-Giess’s daughter, Patty. After spending two years in Togo with the Peace Corp, Patty returned to the United States in August and came to our class to discuss her experience.
Togo is a small country in the north west of Africa, wedged between Ghana and Benin. With only 8 million people, Togo has over 40 ethnic groups, with two making up the majority. The main conflict going on in Togo currently regards the political sphere. Midterms did not take place as planned, and though elections are supposed to occur in 2020, it is likely that they will not take place due to the intention of the current president to extend his terms. So, in the face of these conflicts, what is the role of the Peace Corp Volunteers?
Patty told us that volunteers are supposed to stay neutral, but that this is impossible. Patty was living in a small village with only a few thousand people. The official projects in the village included health and malaria prevention, english education and gender equity, and agriculture and food security, the latter on which Patty focused. In working on these projects, Patty formed close relationships with the villagers and found that they wanted to know her and, by proxy, the United States opinion on the happenings in Togo. When friends and villagers asked her opinion, she was inclined to engage, rather than stay neutral as the Peace Corp suggests. Patty also found that people had a great interest in the US in general. People felt positively towards the US, but were often misinformed on US intentions and policies. That said, the US was widely perceived as the land of opportunity, and everyone wanted to go there. This was especially true in the villages, where people were less inclined to protest, as they would in the big cities, and more apt to accept society as it is and hope for a better future in the US.
Patty also spent some time expressing concerns about NGOs. Though Patty, as a recent Peace Corp volunteer, comes from a very different background than the other speakers that we have had in this class so far, we found that her concerns lined up with the others that we have heard. First she talked about the concept “biopolitics,” which refers to how people view resources, who has power, and how agency is practiced. Because of NGOs, Patty said, biopolitics have shifted. NGOs often take the role of the state by providing, for example, teachers and health care. This creates a cycle of dependency, and takes the pressure off the state to provide for its people. Furthermore, NGOs often do not listen to what people actually need, but instead are motivated by outside interest. In other words, their work is funder-based. In contrast, the Peace Corp focuses on community based development and, because it is funded by tax-payers, does not have to succumb to external pressures for project.
So was her experience with the Peace Corp in Togo a success ? In many ways and in many places it can be seen as a success, and in others, a potential detriment. A crucial element in this discussion is impact evaluation. This is a fairly new idea. The Peace Corp, Patty explains is working on evaluating their human impact by standardizing methods of collecting data and using a needs assessment in every location. Patty admits that the process of impact evaluation is new and flawed, but essential to understanding how the Peace Corp can make the most change.
It took a second for the Brendan O’Donghue’s face to appear on the monitor, and when it did, we couldn’t hear him for a minute. The whole class was sitting in the Economics Collaboration room, eating Jimmy John’s and eagerly awaiting our conversation with O’Donghue, who was skyping with us from Nigeria. In a few minutes, the internet connection became stronger and O’Donghue’s face and voice game through.
A friend of Neal’s from Afghanistan, O’Donghue was online today to talk to us about development work through the private sector. O’Donghue works for a company called Zipline, which is based in Silicon Valley. Zipline has technology to operate drones that deliver life-saving medication in hard to reach places. The algorithm, which takes into account speed and ease of delivery, operates with incredible speed and accuracy. The drones get life saving medication to the person in need within 15 minutes of being requested, and drops the medication via parachute within two parking spot spaces of the exact GPS location. Right now, Zipline has operations all over Africa and Southeast Asia. It contracts directly with the government, under the assumption that the partnership will save the government money by decreasing health care costs. Right now, it takes the company about three months to set up an operation, but O’Donghue spoke of the companies goal to set up in a day or two. At that rate, Zipline’s technology could be crucial in combatting the effects of natural disasters.
O’Donghue’s professional background is interesting. After graduating from Hamilton College, O’Donghue had experience working on Wall Street, for government, and in the non-profit world before transitioning to the private sector. This diversity of experience gave him the ability to discuss the pros and cons of each sector. While Wall Street provided financial stability, O’Donghue felt like he wasn’t making a difference. He transitioned to the non-profit sector and government, but found both to be corrupt. Governments were especially frustrating, as the high-stakes of governmental decisions make them very risk-averse, which make it hard to get anything done. O’Donghue has had a positive experience in the private sector so far, especially in a Silicon Valley company. The company is risk-loving, which means he can work with speed and flexibility, make mistakes, and still be a success. Zipline is also a socially conscious for-profit company that hires almost entirely local staff in order to be sustainable. For a class of people who are interested in rebuilding economies after conflict, hearing his lived experience in each sector was really helpful.
Zipline has come out with really exciting technology. While they are currently limited to emergency medical supplies, they hope to expand that. Who knows? Maybe one day a Zipline drone will drop your to-go food order on your doorstep.
Major General William Hix walked into our classroom last week wearing a brightly colored, button-down shirt and a dark green suit jacket. He is older, soft-spoken, and upon first glance, you would not assume his extensive experience with the US army. Upon speaking with him however, MG Hix’s humble expertise became evident.
Having graduated from the US Military Academy in 1981, MG Hix has a Masters Degree of Military Art and Science. He currently serves as the Director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy, Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7, Headquarters for the Department of the Army. He is responsible for developing strategies, plans, and concepts that shape the geo-strategic security environment, inform army decision making, and for anticipating and providing forces for national security. Previously, he spent time in other strategy and planning assignments, as well as on operational assignments with both command and staff positions.
Though MG Hix is quite busy, he is a good friend of Neal’s, and graciously took the time the speak with us. One of the most interesting parts of our conversation with MG Hix was his perspective on the global economy. MG Hix referred to the economy as a geopolitical force. He went on to explain how the economy plays a crucial role in shaping the geopolitical climate because it can give people the resources that they need to fulfill greater objectives. He described the world economy as a pie: you can either split it up, and while you might hope that everyone gets an equal sized peace, this will not happen. Or, you can make a bigger pie. The goal, Hix explained, should always be to make a bigger pie.
One part of the growing world economy that Hix explained was China. When asked how China’s growth would affect the world economy, Hix said that he expected the focus to shift East. He chalked this shift up to two main concepts: complacency of Atlantic nations and growth in technology. The former is related to aging. Hix talked about how, in Europe especially, Western nations are failing to see how their aging populations will negatively affect economic growth and present unforeseen challenges. In terms of technology, Hix expressed concern that Europe was not using automation to grow like China is. Rather, in Europe, which has some of the some of the most revolutionary robotics companies in the world, China has a large percentage of the shares.
The opportunity to discuss something so crucial and complicated with MG Hix was wonderful. He gave us plenty to think about, as well as a whole list of books to check out, and, with a nod to Neal, one final piece of advice: always find people smarter than you, and get them on your team.