Wow. I’m nourished, energized, hopeful, inspired and looking forward to continuing the journey of working toward restoring a more just and sustainable world.
After these past two weeks in Paris—working alongside brilliant, activated and passionate people—I know that a seed has been planted. From Paris, future collaborations and an even larger movement will sprout from the energies everyone has funneled into these past two weeks.
My epicenter was Place to B Cop 21, which was an incredible convening of thousands of artists, activists, advocates, community organizers, climate experts, social entrepreneurs, policymakers and storytellers. I am grateful for OpenIDEO‘s support for allowing me to enter this space in Paris. It is truly a place I call family and home, where I am thriving and feel alignment between my values and the work I do day-to-day alongside an inspiring team. I feel blessed to have had the time to share our work and co-create a collective vision here in Paris.
At Place to B, there was a collision of extremely talented and wise people. We shared beautiful conversations and started exploring new partnerships. We were thrusted into immersive workshops on changing the narrative, co-creating a more inclusive movement, bringing art into the conversation and changing an outdated and ineffective paradigm.
The Creative Factory, housed within Place to B, was blooming with 2-day intensives with creative outputs on how to drive change using the power of art, experiences, play and technology. One of the ideas I worked on from conception to prototype was a card game called WILD: Connecting Play and Nature, which leverages the power of storytelling to connect people and nature. You’re free to download and play it, and I’m so happy to have co-created that with William Sumana Tan, Eve Demange, Carolyn Monastra. During the two weeks of the Factory, we covered a range of topics from global south and north collaboration, the need for empathy, youth mobilization, the role of faith and transitioning from consumerism into a new culture. Lovely work by David Holyoake, Ophelia Noor, Tiphaine Bonnier, Chris Aldhous, Paul Beer and countless others on their outstanding experience design, co-facilitation and coordination!
Each night we had inspiring speakers join us at an intimate and conversational space called “The Place to Brief.” There were French rock stars, Naomi Klein, Dr. James Hansen, Barbara Hendricks, Amy Goodman, David Bornstein, Tony Meloto, Dr. Vandana Shiva and countless others who moved us to tears, joy and, most importantly, hope. This idea that there is something we can all do together in our lifetime. Incredible gratitude to Anne-Sophie Novel and the Place to B team for convening these people and setting this entire experience up—months of hard work truly paying off. A woman in today’s debrief, on the verge of tears, summed it up nicely: “This experience changed my life.”
So what’s next? How do we capitalize on the momentum we’ve created here together? What does this mean for the larger environmental movement? A few things to me are clear after these two weeks:
- We need to change the narrative from doom and gloom to more solutions-focused. We need to present alternatives to the general public through media. This narrative needs to come from a diversity of voices, including those that are most affected and vulnerable. These groups of people also have incredible solutions to offer, and we need to open our eyes, minds and hearts to what they have to say. Finally, this narrative needs to exist in the mainstream media—not just on the non-traditional portals that so many journalists and media producers have already created.
- The arts has a significant place in this conversation. We respond to beauty. We have seen the arts raise awareness and build community during these two weeks alone. From creating a human chain that spells 100% Renewable in front of the Eiffel Tower (which landed on the home page of the New York Times) to the theatrical action in the Louvre for cultural fossil fuel divestment that was published in news outlets around the world. We need to bring artists to the frontline of this movement and ask them: “Why is this important?” and “How might we use art to create the change we aim to see?” I had breakfast with a woman from NRDC who is using watercolors and illustrations to simplify the negotiations and present the positives of these past two weeks as their “in-house storyteller.” Spot on—we need more of this. People like Wendy Levy come to mind as the leaders who will move this forward.
- Gatherings like Place to B need to continue and spread. They require the financial and human support to make this a possibility, and we need to come together to make it happen. It needs to be scaled to new countries, cities and villages across the world—so that these types of powerful orchestrations can be more accessible to those who can’t afford or choose not to partake in resource-heavy travel. We need to foster a long-term conversation around how we might bring diverse groups of people together to drive this movement—as this is where innovation and collective action exists. How might we support and continue these efforts leading up to the next COP in Morocco?
- This isn’t an isolated “environmental” movement. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the homes and communities we live in (or don’t)—it affects us all and permeates into other movements: social equity, peace, poverty, the refugee crisis and indigenous rights. This affects everyone. This is about universal equity. One inspiring moment was listening to leaders from the Marshall Islands, who are seeing their communities deeply affected by rising sea levels right now. They are at the brink of losing their culture, history and people. If their islands go underwater, where will they move to? Who will support—financially or otherwise—this kind of mass migration? They’re not alone, there are millions of people that will be affected in just the next half century alone. This is affecting real people all over the globe in this very moment. All people must act because this affects all of us.
- We must integrate community-driven approaches to implement solutions. The first step to doing this is by leading with empathy, and an alternative path forward is embracing problem-solving approaches like human-centered design. Take the renewable energy industry for instance: some corporations are funding wind farm projects in areas populated by indigenous peoples like Oaxaca, Mexico. These corporations are doing illegal land grabs and devastating local peoples and culture. In Kenya, there’s wind farming projects that are financing violence that are killing children, fueling corruption and disrupting democratic governance. Though the intention of creating renewable energy is positive, the way in which it is executed can be devastating to land, people and culture. Solutions need to be implemented in partnership with the community and in a way that is effective.
There are already great strides that we all must take together to move forward, and I am leaving Paris with hope, truly. There are too many of us who are working diligently, passionately and strategically to develop and implement solutions around the world.
What’s my intention for 2016 as I exit Paris and move into the new year? To borrow from Cosmo Fujiyama’s intention of “Go Big,” my intention is “Support Others on the Path of Going Big.” Next year is about giving extra space, love, time and effort to the kinds of people, organizations and communities who are living and making the change that many of us would like to see in this world.
Bon voyage, Paris.