Daily Postings from the 2015 UN Climate Conference
Thursday, December 10, 2015
I’ve only been here for a few days, but I’m already feeling a certain fondness for the working class neighborhood on Av. Jean Jaurès, where my budget hotel is located. Parisians have something of a reputation for snobbery, but that hasn’t been my experience. In fact, they seem to be some of the most polite and friendliest people I’ve ever encountered. (Maybe I should stop listening to David Sadaris.)
Within one block of the hotel, I’ve have found an Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, along with Indian/Pakistani, and Japanese. Last night I ate at the tiny Indian place. The waiter asked me where I was from, and I told him. He knew about the conference, and asked, “Is it okay?” I said, “Yes, it’s fine.” He asked again, “Is it okay”? “Yes, excellent.” He seemed quite concerned. He made a point of shaking my hand as I walked out the door, which seemed to suggest nothing less than, “Welcome to Paris and thanks for coming. “
I haven’t seen much of Paris since I’ve been here, but I love the fact that, on the first leg of my subway ride to Le Bourget, one of the stops is called Stalingrad and another Raymond Queneau, whose novel, The Bark Tree, I read in college. Yesterday, as I was approaching my transfer at the Gare du Nord, I noticed the woman standing next to me reading Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day, in English, a book that I not only love, but used for a class that I taught on The Politics of The Wire.
I wanted to say something to her, but she was so absorbed in it that I didn’t want to disturb her. Finally, when the train stopped, I caught her eye and said, “Hey, that’s a great book.” She smiled and said that she was reading it to learn English, but was also learning a lot about America. “No kidding,” I responded. “You can’t do much better than that.”
As I have noted, Wyloah Garden, Education Director, of the Women’s Environment and Climate Network contacted me last June, and I offered her Ithaca College’s slot at COP21, with the request, that if an additional space opened, I could grab it.
On Wednesday, I attended the WECAN side event IC cosponsored entitled, “Global Women & Indigenous Peoples on the Frontline of Climate Solutions: Forests & Renewable Energy.” It was among the most globally diverse group of panelists of any event I’ve attended
Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN, moderated a panel that included Leila Salazar-López of Amazon Watch; Patricia Gualinga of the Kichwa people in Sarayaku, Ecuador; Angelina Galiteva from the Renewables 100 Policy Institute; Neema Namadamu, from the Democratic Republica of Congo; Casey Camp of the Ponca Nation, Oklahoma; and Isis Alvare from the Global Forest Coalition in Columbia.
Speakers discussed the importance of gendered perspectives on environmental protection, respecting rights of nature, the impacts of climate change on their local communities, and fights--sometimes successful, but seemingly never-ending-- against various extraction, mining, and agricultural interests. In Columbia, for example, the government is now preventing indigenous farmers from replanting their own seeds.
The last half hour of the event featured three Kichwa representatives. They screened a short film on the “Living Forest” and spoke about their love for, and defense of, their land.
The Kichwa are well-known, and widely admired, for their fight against Conoco-Phillips, who entered into their territory in the 1990s, without permission, but with permission of the Ecuadoran government. It initiated a highly intrusive process for oil exploration, which involved the intensive use of explosives and deprived them of access to, and freedom of movement within, their own territory.
The Kichwa fought a long-running and closely watched legal battled against Conoco. In 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which found Ecuador guilty of human rights violations and ordered that it provide compensation for losses and protection of historical land rights. The legal battle is the subject of a highly regarded documentary, Children of the Jaguar.
Someone in the audience asked if recent trade agreements were negatively affecting the Kichwa iin Sarayaku. Felix Santi responded that they were facing so many threats that it was difficult to tell where they were coming from. The Ecuadorian government has designated large tracts to their land for oil and mineral extraction, and it took tremendous energy, time, and resources to fend them off.
After the event, I went to introduce myself to Osprey. She thanked me for the support and gave me a hug. It occurred to me that she might not be here if I hadn’t offered her an Ithaca College Observer slot. On the other hand, if Wyolah hadn’t contacted me, I wouldn’t be here either, so sometimes things work out.
The event struck me as especially important, given the attention (or lack thereof) to the rights of indigenous people at COP21. I suggested to Osprey that we should collaborate again next year, whether I attend the conference or not. I don’t see any reason that Ithaca College shouldn’t establish a long-term partnership with WECAN at future COPs.