Our Paris Roving Reporter Henry Owen reports: So I’m in Paris for COP21 – but of course, not actually for COP21, but for all of the amazing and energetic events and actions that are planned to coincide with it. I arrived Wednesday with some friends by car (driving in Paris is, it turns out, a terrible thing to do). The wonderful people at L’annex put me up on Wednesday night – the welcome we received and amount of creative projects going on was a great start to the trip. A vast amount has happened since then, and it’s hard to believe it’s Sunday evening already – so I’ll do a quick re-cap on the past 4 days below…
On Thursday and Friday I was at the Conference of Youth (COY11) – a gathering of young climate activists and campaigners from around the world. The event was vast, and quite chaotic – with around 30 different workshops and talks running concurrently, a difficult to understand timetable, a mixture of languages spoken, and around 3,000 people registered to attend. Through all of that it was quite hard to get a sense of a shared purpose or a theme for the event, but I had some great conversations and enjoyed a mix of workshops (from telling your story as an activist, to planning creative direct action). I very much appreciate the hard work of the (overwhelming voluntary and unpaid) organising team for the event – especially as they made the event open to a huge range of young people by making tickets available at a range of different prices (starting at free!).
A particular highlight of the party was ‘issue wrestling’ – which as you can see in blurry action shots below, involved ‘the planet’ (someone with a big globe on their head), being viciously attacked by capitalism/coporations (in suit and top hat with lots of fake $ bills). Fortunately, nature (represented by a shark) intervened to save the planet at the last minute – Phew.
On Friday afternoon I also went on a bit of a rescue mission with some friends, where the car did come in handy! A group of over 150 Belgian cyclists (with Climate Express) had been forced to cycle 2 days of their 5 day trip in one epic day, as the French authorities had sufficiently intimidated the place the cyclists were planning to stay at for their final night by saying they would be facilitating an illegal mobilisation. This meant these cyclists had to do 130km in one day! We delivered a car full of bread, cheese, bananas, chocolate, boiled eggs, avocados, and satsumas to the hungry cyclists as they neared the outskirts of Paris at about 3pm, to give them a last boost to get them into the city. They were proceeding in small groups to draw less attention to themselves, and reduce the possibility of being labelled a ‘protest’ or ‘mobilisation’ by the authorities.
Today (Sunday) was the day of the cancelled Climate March in Paris. Lots has been written about the leaving of shoes in the Place de la République (and the handful of protesters who apparently became a problem to the police their later in the day), and about the brilliant human chain along the march route (I held hands with some Transitioners in the the solutions section). It felt good to defy the protest ban in such a positive way, with around 10,000 people showing up and refusing to be silenced at this important time. I won’t write too much here, and I’m still digesting a lot, but here are some of my photos:
It’s been a busy and emotional few days in Paris with big highs and some really difficult moments. Already I’ve met, and reconnected with, some amazing people. Here’s hoping for some more inspiring days to come.
In conclusion… If I have one message I’d like to be heard during COP21, it’s (still) this:
The changes we need are already happening – if you know where to look. Whilst the politicians have been talking (and talking), people have been getting on with it – and now the politicians need to listen up and learn. All around the world people are coming together and doing amazing things to build stronger, more vibrant communities and reduce their resource dependency. And this is only the beginning of what the Transition movement, and others like it, have to offer.
As a sneaky final note – I found this notepad lying on the bar at Place to B this afternoon – an alternative media hub for COP21. Speaks for itself…