Wow wow wow! What a block it has been! I can’t believe it is over, and I know it will take a lot more than the flight home to process everything that has happened. I am writing from the comfort of my hostel bed, which I will say goodbye to in the morning, as one of the last of our cohort to depart. I will take this opportunity to begin the process of reflection.
I’m not entirely sure how to structure this post, and I would like to keep it relatively concise, so I will use a skill that my 2.5 years at CC have engrained in me: reflection via rose, bud and thorn.
Rose: This one is easy: everything. If you just rolled your eyes, that’s fine, but I mean it. The opportunity that we had to be here, as a bunch of under-grad American students from a small liberal arts college, has no comparison. We had the opportunity to meet Jeff Seabright, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever, Katherine Neebe (’97), Chief Sustainability officer at Walmart, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the President of COP-20, among others. We had coffee and conversation with change makers, movers and shakers from all corners of the world. That is pretty neat, if you ask me. To be in the presence of these incredible people, in the place where the magic happens, so to speak, has been an unparalleled opportunity. Just the chance to attend COP-23 is a major rose all by itself.
Bud: As my classmate Kelly said in her most recent post: once you know and understand the causes and impacts of climate change, you can never un-know them. While I feel that I have always been well informed about environmental issues and I was raised in a household adamant about turning off the lights upon leaving rooms, composting and recycling (thanks, family!) this block and the COP has opened my eyes to a world of complexities and nuance that I didn’t know existed in the realm of climate change. I have heard personal narratives from corporate executives, indigenous leaders, mothers, fathers, students and countless others from all over the world. Returning to Colorado and to CC, I am excited to bring with me the passion, the energy, the dedication that formed the foundation for this conference. My bud is fairly simple: the opportunity to take everything we have experienced here back home as a souvenir and to build on this incredible experience as a foundation of knowledge and action.
Thorn: This one is a little bit harder. Clearing my rose-colored (pun kind-of intended), post-COP glasses, the thorn that stands out is the thick bureaucracy and politically-driven cloud that surrounded the conference. Like Katherine said in her most recent post, the negotiations frequently get hung up on single clauses and even individual words. The dissonance between debating relatively inconsequential verb tenses and the very real effects of climate change that are affecting very real human lives is hard to ignore. As students attending an American college, we know that politics is in everything these days. No issue seems to be above partisanship, and this was ever present at COP-23. I found it frustrating to sit in meetings and hear a story about a mom who lost her home to freak flooding in one minute, and the next minute hear that an organization dedicated to helping this mom couldn’t get funding because some political body couldn’t get a bill passed. The thorn on my rose of the COP is the frustratingly slow-moving, albeit potentially inextricable, bureaucratic process of change.
I have many more roses, buds and thorns, but this is a blog and not my memoir, so I will end there. This has been a truly once in a lifetime experience and something I will carry with me forever. Thank you to Mark Smith, Colorado College, our individual sponsors who got us badges, all the people who took time out of their schedules to meet with us, and to everyone who made COP-23 and this block possible.
Signing off, with endless amounts of gratitude,
Anna Brent (’19)
Here are some of my favorite pictures from the last two weeks as a P.S.:
Here is our very own Emily Abbott (’19) meeting Frank Bainimarama, COP-23 President!
Another MAJOR rose: all the free food!!!!
Al Gore Speaking! Woohoo!
Katherine Kerr (’18), Jack Mosley (’18) and I, with the actual globe in our hands (well, in the air, but it was previously in our hands).