Joining Anne-Sophie Novel, Founder of Place to B, and Joe Ross on stage, were a multitude of different actors who shared their insights and perspectives on our global discussion of climate change. First to join the stage was Didier Pouquery, News Editor of THE CONVERSATION FRANCE, a new independent online media that gives voice to scientists. Its mission is to analyse the scientific findings and contents provided by researchers and academics around the world. A page on the Web site is dedicated to COP21 and fed with contents provided by an international team that is staying at P2B.
Causing quite some media buzz in the packed room, Naomi Klein and Nicolas Hulot, were welcomed to the stage. Starting off with Naomi Klein, she shared with us part of her perspective on the climate change discourse. Today, there is a large understanding that it’s necessary to go to climate scientists to understand and uncover the scientific evidence of climate change.
According to Naomi Klein, we have now reached a point when the scientists express the urgency by saying ‘we must’ do something, while engineers, confident of their knowledge and technological advancements are saying ‘we can’ do something. Which is still leaving us to figure out the ‘How’. While climate scientists might know best about the causes and the facts surrounding climate change that does not necessarily mean, in her opinion, that scientists have the best response when it comes to providing the answer to this question. We should seek out the expertise of other experts. Furthermore, the responsibility of acting on climate change does not just rest on scientists, but is shared by all of us. She strongly supports this through the citizen theleapmanifesto.org platform, that calls for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another.
Nicolas Hulot, French environmental activist, special correspondent for the protection of the planet and President of the Foundation Hulot summarized the issues of the Cop21, reminding us that they concern every citizen of the world, so every one of us. For him it is fundamental to shift our vision of the world, within this very short time frame that we have now, as the current approaches are clearly insufficient: we live in a system that only reacts to visible causes, rather than addressing the roots of the problem, which are more complex.
Nicolas added that the Cop21 began with positive visions for the future, hoping clearly that the presence of the Head of States is a sign of their serious commitment.
Nicolas Hulot highlighted two main priorities in the Climate Change issue: the first one is to help the South countries to adapt to their changing environments. The second one is to adopt a new model with a low carbon economy, using funds that are available (invested into fossil fuels). Furthermore, he explained that to accelerate the process it is more important to create the right conditions and the right instruments rather than taking engagements. In that respect, it is important to create long-term opportunities.
Shaka Ponk joined the stage, as “Surprise guests” and good friends of Nicolas Hulot. The french Electro Rock music band is supporting the my positive impact Campaign of the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and Osons (Let us dare), a manifest that Nicolas Hulot wrote to share his belief and his rallying call around the fight against climate change (with 12 concrete propositions to the Heads of State and an appeal to everybody to put pressure on them).
They are trying to gather a collective of artists that would commit to change their way of living by adopting specific rules of life (the Osons call describes simple actions that everyone can take on his own) and then sharing them with their audience.
For them, if 20 to 30% of the people in a society changed their way of living, this would motivate our political leaders to respond and enact reforms.
Hulot concluded that in France we are now living in a state of cultural crisis. In his opinion, there is a much greater need for intellectuals and artists to communicate and design a new world that can inspire people.
In a time where exploration and being an explorer seem so rare, it was refreshing to have Ghislain Bardout, a French explorer specialized in submarine polar diving, join the talk and share his experience in a short extract of his film ‘Under The Pole’.
Driven by passion and enthusiasm for communication, he is often engaged as a speaker to share behind the scenes details of his major exploration projects and documentaries. For him, these explorations combine pure geography and scientific analyses, but are also human adventures. He gets inspiration from the great scientists and people he gets to meet on his expeditions, and he tries to convey this inspiration to other people, to show them that they can push their own limits. Ghislain is dedicated to enrich scientific knowledge through stories. Each exploration is a way to understand and remember the value of simple things, such as water, a resource that became scarce when his team lived on a 20-meter-long boat in extreme conditions for 21 months. According to Ghislain, the world of excess does not make people happy and he can testify that we can forget our ‘extra’ needs very rapidly. In his personal way, he tries to get people to open their eyes to new opportunities of respecting the earth.
Coming to the second part of the evening, we were introduced to Barbara Hendricks, an artist and an ambassador for UNHCR. An often overlooked issue within the climate debate is that of Displacement. Often, people don’t make the connection between climate-related events and forced migration. Climate induced events can aggravate or even be at the root of conflicts, especially the conflicts related to the scarcity of resources. The increasing amounts of extreme weather conditions and other climate related issues are only going to drive up the numbers of displaced people. And if not before, ever since recent events it should have become clear by now that the growing number of displaced people is a global issue that has far-reaching impacts. So the question should not just be about how, as an artist, when you might have a greater platform and a wider audience to talk about such issues. Mrs. Hendricks formulates her motivation as follows: ‘The reason why I act is, because I’m a citizen’.
Rounding up the evening’s event, James Hansen, whom Naomi Klein calls ‘the godfather of global warming’, joined us. He identifies three injustices that will remain as long as fossil fuels are burnt.
If pushed too far, the younger generations will not be able to cope with the state of the earth that was left by the elder generations. Secondly, the North will have burnt most of the carbon budget, while the South has to live with the largest climate impacts. The third injustice is that one species – Humans – are causing all the harm to the other species.
For Hansen, the fundamental problem and cause of these injustices is that, as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest form of getting energy, the trend will remain. What is not considered in this calculation though are the horrendous costs that are connected with the irreversible damages caused by pollution. In this respect, Hansen believes that the only viable solution is to introduce a carbon fee that allows for a global solution and that has a global enforcement mechanism, rather than a mechanism that should be voted by every country.
Being a scientist, and therefore skeptical, James Hansen questioned the ability of our leaders to reach such an agreement, because what he sees is another Kyoto-like protocol. The problem being that ‘if they talk about the same old stuff, they will get the same answer”.
By Charlotte Portelli and Serene Liu