The other type of loss and damage at the UN climate talks

I wrote this a few weeks ago before COP19, this year’s round of UN climate negotiations; for whatever reason I felt compelled to try my hand at poetry as a different format for expressing my feelings on this subject.

I stayed home from the climate talks this year because, as one can gather from my words below, my previous experiences weren’t so great. In a place where I expected to see true diplomacy I instead found corruption; where I expected strength I found cowardice.

This poem is unfinished – I have my own reasons for attending the negotiations, but they don’t fit into whatever format I had going for this whole thing (which may serve as a good analogy for youth operating within the UN space).

And in truth, I’m not sure I really believe going to COP is the best way to go about “solving the climate crisis,” but more on that in another post…

Don’t go to COP because it’s never as glamorous as it seems,
Christiana Figueres is much shorter in real life
and you’ll spend more time looking for a power outlet
or wondering what’s happening back home
than you will talking to any sort of decisionmaker

Don’t go to COP because you’ll feel like a bum next to all the men in power suits,
pink badges the ultimate status symbol –
as if just being there wasn’t enough of a feat

Don’t go because the food inside the venue is always overpriced
and half as good as at the mom-and-pop place down the street
and you’ll be like, “why did I fly halfway around the world to eat overpriced food that tastes like shit?”

Don’t go to COP because we’ll spend way too much time on bureacratic formalities
when instead we could be discussing solutions to today’s crises
drafting proposals for the
technology, infrastructure, future
that we already know exists

Don’t go because the Global North delegations always come in, guns blazing –
in theory it’s admirable but in reality it’s just alienating and why
are we perpetuating the same systems of oppression that they do?

Don’t go because once you really understand what’s happening –
how a bureaucratic loophole and a slight change in wording
become a PR shield
for a multilateral fail on climate –
you may (temporarily) lose that voice in your head
that tells you to keep going,
to never give up hope

because why should we put
all of our time, effort and hopes
into trying to influence the people in power
when our world leaders
(who are supposed to be doing the same)
are not?

Don’t go to COP unless you believe
in your heart of hearts
that a FAB deal by 2015 really could save the world
and unless you recognize how much political pressure
we must build –
how many communities to engage and organize,
multinational networks of stakeholders to coordinate –
in order to do that

Don’t go to COP unless you recognize
the weight of the world is on your shoulders
to use this privilege to amplify
voices of those who are not represented –
who aren’t even born yet

Don’t go until you’re ready to
speak, shout and stand
in solidarity with those who cannot
be at COP, especially those who
are systematically silenced or ignored


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