Hello from Paris! I was up early to do it all over again today, but I did take it a bit slower today since yesterday tired me out. I can’t imagine doing this for 12 days straight – it’s outright exhausting. Saving the planet is tough work, people.
I started my day off with a beautiful walk by the Louvre, along the river Seine, past Notre Dame, and to the Pantheon, where I watched 12 chunks of ice actively melting. The ice was brought from Greenland and is exhibited here in Paris to represent the melting of the polar ice caps, and they are arranged in the shape of a clock.
I then hopped on the Metro and made my way over to Le Bourget for the afternoon. I focused my efforts today on learning more about the U.S.’s role in the COP negotiations, since we are the second biggest carbon emitter in the world behind China. You’ll be able to read more about this on my next blog post for Conergy, which will be coming out soon!
Today I also experienced something that deeply disturbed me and made me realize how easy it is to feel alienated within the environmental movement. I attended a panel discussion about the role of states and provinces in reducing emissions in North America, featuring some pretty big names like Matt Rodriguez, director of California’s Environmental Protection Agency. The panel had the potential to be great, since the panelists took the time to come out into the “Green Zone” to speak with the general public on these issues, but the panel was completely hijacked by a group of protesters.
Now I don’t mean to bad-mouth all protesters. I have been part of direct action events before, and protests that are targeted, respectful, tactful, and productive can really contribute positively to the conversation and accomplish something. But the protesters I saw today interrupted the speakers again and again, making comments that were often not relevant to the discussion or not under the jurisdiction of the person to whom the comment was directed. The protesters barely allowed the speakers to answer their questions, and were very accusatory and just plain rude.
Isn’t this whole movement about working together? It is totally fine if one group of people disagrees with the actions of another group, but those are the things we need to sit down and have civilized, thoughtful, productive discussions about. This panel was an opportunity to do just that – for the general public to have access to people that they don’t normally have access to – or at least, it was until the protesters made it impossible for anyone to interact in a positive way.
I felt extremely uncomfortable during this whole thing, and it made me feel so strongly that this is NOT the time to be alienating each other and making enemies. Yes, often governments and organizations don’t do everything right and make compromises that many environmentalists don’t agree with. But ultimately, the people on this panel are on our side. We’re all on the same side. And this fight will be impossible to win if we start fighting amongst ourselves.
On a more positive note, I took some time this evening to do a bit of Parisian sightseeing, since it’s so easy to forget that I’m in one of the most beautiful cities in the world when there’s all this COP 21 stuff going on. First I stopped by the Pyramid of the Louvre, which was so beautiful, and then I headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was absolutely breathtaking, especially because there was a thick low fog layer that hid the very top of the tower, so it seemed to melt into the heavens.