Place to B founder and host, Anne-Sophie and activist Julien Bayou started off with a break down of what happened on the first official day of the COP21 at the conference centre Le Bourget. The day was dominated by the arrival and speeches of 150 heads of state that left many stranded outside the centre due to increased security measures. Starting the COP with speeches from heads of state is quite a departure from what we saw in Copenhagen where we were left speculating not when, but if, world leaders would even attend the talks.
Despite the chaos that defined the end of the COP15 there is a feeling of more willingness to do what it takes to reach an agreement here in Paris. That being said, the real work begins after the bigwigs have left and their negotiators start hammering out the issues in the 50+ page draft agreement. As Julien pointed out, this is a moment to be cautiously optimistic.
To take the long view on the events of the day the Place to Breath segment of the evening looked back on our collective past, the history of civilization, the meaning of progress and the way we understand the notion of ‘transition’ and ‘transformation’ to a sustainable future.
Barbara Glowczewski of the National Scientific Research Centre, Rob Hopkins, founder of Transition Network and John D. Liu who is the founder and director of the Environmental Education Media Project brought their diverse expertise and experience to Place to B to bring this theme to life. The conversation centred on the need to reconnect with the earth and nature and the importance of history and stories in helping us ‘find our way back’ to that lost relationship.
Barbara spoke to the oral history and knowledge passed down within indigenous communities in Australia that anchors their language and culture to the land which they care for. It’s the loss of this regard for the earth and its ecological systems that John D. Luis said epitomises the problem of climate change. “We have created a system that is inherently corrupt…we have devalued the source of life. We have to move to a recognition that this is really happening,” he said, “[we] need to base the human economy on the ecological function of the planet.”
John spoke of a need to reach a new level of human consciousness, one to re-focus our value systems away from the need to have more ‘stuff’ at the expense of the earth’s ecosystems. Rob Hopkins, in his work with the Transition Network, emphasises the need to pair the physical transition with an equally important ‘inner transition.’ “To tell people how terrible climate change is is really irresponsible on its own.” He said we need to create stepping-stones, different levels of entry into the conversation that are driven by what people are already passionate about.
The talks wrapped up with our surprise artist for the night, British musician Charlie Winston who screened his video about the experience of refugees in Europe, #SAYSOMETHING, and talked about his work on connecting artists to NGOs. We also hosted the screening of the film Les Saisons by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud. The film tapped into the theme of the evening perfectly, taking us on a journey from the end of the Ice Age to rediscover the history of Europe, the land and the animals we share it with.
In this Place to Brief event the importance of finding new narratives or reframing old ones remains central to the discussions. Either through acknowledging the wisdom passed down in oral traditions, revisiting our recent and distant pasts, or creating our own collective narrative to turn to when the established institutions and political processes fall short.