“It’s the place that creates relationships”. And what if during COP21, it was a place dedicated to change that produced these connections? This is the ambition of Place To B, which inaugurated its headquarters on saturday at The Belushi’s, on the eve of the opening conference in Paris. Ségolène Royal, French Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Ecology, and Axelle Lemaire, Minister of Digital Affairs, clearly understood this ambition when they visited the site. For them, it was obvious that, “this is where it was all going to happen”.
This famous “place TO BE” embodies individual and collect change. At 5 Rue Dunkerque, in the heart of a cosmopolitan and eclectic area of Paris just opposite Gare du Nord, St Christopher’s Inn has been transformed into a symbolic site for civil society, a point of reference for telling new stories and narratives about the climate.
The hostel has been re-decorated with large wooden panels designed by Avryl Colleu, a planted vegetal world map by ateliers du Graff and a fresco around the glass roof by our graphic designer Natacha Bigan. Last night, Place to B made the transition between two worlds, between being a cool place to “party” and a place where climate change activists gather around Anne-Sophie Novel and Nicolas Bienvenu.
In her opening speech, Anne-Sophie spoke from the heart emphasising the message that “we are not against, we are with and for”.
Creating connections between different groups and individuals who are reflecting on new solutions and trying to decipher our complex world. Artists, bloggers, journalists and social entrepreneurs were all there for the big evening with a mojito in the hand, as they put the world to rights under the pathway of tightrope-walking Maud. She was a beautiful image of our current reality. Perched on a hoop hanging by a wire, she danced around in an allusion to the way the world moves, staying in the present moment, whilst BALANCING so as not to fall.
Also creating connections with people who are less aware of these issues and want to BE more know more. And, of course, the other youth hostel guests who were excited and curious about what was going on.
Creating connections with and between politicians. The French ministers for Sustainable Development and Digital Technology were there yesterday, as was Corinne Rufet (Vice-President of Ile-de-France), Emmanuelle Cosse (National Secretary for Europe Ecologie-Les Verts) and Julien Bayou (Regional Councillor for Ile de France).
The most memorable term in Ségolène Royal’s speech was “energy citizenship”. Because change won’t happen without us, there will be no energy transition without democracy, access to knowledge and the empowerment of citizens. For the two ministers, the paradigm has changed to bring digital technology and the environment together. Axelle Lemaire believes that digital technology has a central role to play in multiplying solutions for the climate. This kind of “digital ecology” invites civil society to take destiny back into its own hands.
If we continue dreaming after last night’s opening (and why not?), we could imagine Place To B as “the place that creates connections”. It would become a place of collective intelligence carrying a universal message that crystallises new dreams and new approaches and draws out a new post-fossil fuel society. A place that that acts as a counterweight for citizens and a place of empowerment that reminds us that the climate is above all a question of living together.
Flora Clodic & Valérie Zoydo
Translation Victoria Wall