The following reflection was written by Tabitha Redepenning, who is spending a year with the Pax Christi International secretariat in Brussels as a volunteer through the German program Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste e.V. (ASF).
As a Pax Christi International volunteer, I was delighted to accept Pax Christi Jeunes’ invitation to come to Paris on 5/6 December, while the COP21 negotiation were going on. With a group of 11 people from France, Italy and Germany, our climate change weekend started on Saturday morning with a warm welcome by the president of Pax Christi France, Bishop Marc Stenger, in the Pax Christi office. He reminded us of our responsibility to take action to fight against climate change – especially because of the obvious fact that people who are poor will be the first and most negatively affected by the consequences if we don’t stop global warming. He also spoke about the recent terror attacks in Paris, and said that we have to ask ourselves why young people, living in this country, want to destroy it. How can it be that we have such different views on the European lifestyle?
Encouraged and excited we visited the global village of alternatives – a colourful market of NGOs and local organisations designed to inform about alternative energies, personal approaches to save the climate, and widespread actions to influence the COP21 negotiations. Personally I greatly appreciated the vegan and vegetarian food for sale. When I think about, what I can do to stop climate change, food is one thing I am willing to change. Butter and beef are the most climate-damaging products, due to the generated emission through the digestive process of the animals. For me it is obvious and more logical that, more than other climate change issues, the huge amount of crop products necessary to feed animals meant for human consumption could feed many more people directly. Moreover, the times of “bad” vegetarian food are long ago. I would guess, becoming aware of what you eat makes you more creative in (veggie) cooking – at least it works for me. Buying regionally produced food is important, too, but less consumption of animal products would have a greater impact on protecting the planet.
The second part of the day was devoted to the many lectures on various issues organised in a high school nearby. Every subject related to the climate change was represented, so I found myself in an interesting discussion on the role of development funds from industrialised nations to Latin America. The Grupo de Financiamiento Climático para América Latina y el Caribe (GFLAC) is doing good work by monitoring the stream of supportive cash to actual projects designed to respond to or mitigate climate change. Sadly, a lot of basic work needs to be done, for example an agreed-upon definition of what can be counted as “climate protective”. Moreover every country should be able to develop its own strategy to face climate change and receive support for that plan, rather than have outside financing sources controlling tactics for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
On Saturday evening we joined a wonderful Taizé service, where we commemorated the victims of the attacks in Paris and where we had time to reflect the day. After that we stayed at the Centre Sèvres – Facultés jésuites de Paris to have dinner and talk about our experiences.
On Sunday we left early for the exhibition entitled “Solutions COP21” at the Grand Palais. As expected there were strong security rules and we were checked at least three times. What we didn’t expect was security’s concern about our two peace flags, which we carried in a bag. Our group leaders were immediately surrounded by several policemen. It seems strange to me that we were considered suspicious due to our obvious peace messages. We had to leave the flags in a police car in order to get into the exhibition – they told us it was because no political statements were allowed inside. Now I wonder, how we can talk about the climate change without getting political?
But the answer was simple and shown inside the exhibition. International corporations like L’Oréal, Coca Cola and Evian presented their climate protecting projects. We were welcomed with fair-trade sandwiches and coffee so that we would be pleased and relaxed when we enter the advertising temple. Of course is it important that especially big companies are engaged in climate saving measures, but for me the whole event was too superficial. It gave the impression that everything is already on the right track and we can just lean back and watch. But this is not the real situation: Even if we don’t want to hear it, we must make profound changes in our daily life. The event was maybe good for children to get an impression of what climate change is in general. But for every other person the information should be clear and not covered by pink fluffy clouds of an idyllic world, to increase the awareness and the willingness to take action.
In the end I learned a lot about the climate protective actions and their challenges, but also about the abuse of the climate change movement in advertising. Nevertheless I spend a wonderful time with interested and engaged people in a vibrant city. That gives me hope for the future, even if the COP21 negotiations will not turn out as a solution for climate change.