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COP 23: Reflections

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Blogs, COP No Comment yet

2050 Climate Group team member,  Siri Pantzar, offers some reflections on time spent at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany this November. 

 

It is such a precious thing, this conference. People who are all passionate about climate change, discussing solutions, research, projects, and policies. Everyone is keen. Everyone is interested. Everyone is buzzing.

It’s a shame that that’s all pretty much restricted to this event though.

When we go home, we go back to the silence on climate change. Most people don’t talk about climate change in their everyday lives. People around us are concerned, but don’t voice it, don’t engage with it, and more often than not don’t see it as an immediate issue that they have to do something about in their own lives, or one that impacts them. It’s in the future, it’s those poor polar bears, it’s in the small island states and in Africa. While this motivates some people to buy clean energy, turn down the heating or vote for greener candidates, most people are more concerned about immediate issues (or ones they perceive as such): getting a job, paying their bills, getting food for your children, getting a mortgage. Climate change is indeed big and bad, but essentially something somewhere else, for somebody else with more time on their hands to do.

One of the things I’ve constantly been impressed with about 2050 Climate Group is how it really addresses this issue, through making climate change relevant for young professionals by bringing it to the sphere where we have to operate in. We might want to do something about climate change, but often focus instead on things that will pay our bills, add experience to our CVs, or build us networks. 2050 fits into that framework. It makes being a part of the global action against climate change useful and fun to us, in our own specific terms, together with other people like us.

Yesterday I attended a talk by George Marshall, and I realised how special and crucial that is. George Marshall is a climate change communicator and the founder of Climate Outreach, a non-profit research organisation supporting those that want to work on climate communications. He stresses that tailoring the message is crucial; too often we use the same polar bear and disaster images, too often the messages are tailored to us who are already keen and identify with the issue, not to those that are not. Especially as we see the global politics reaching points where major countries can elect leaders that don’t believe in climate change, we, as people who know that this should not be a partisan issue, should acknowledge that we have allowed it to become one. There are values that we all hold dear involved in promoting climate change action, but they are not the same values for those on the left, as for those on the centre right, or those in faith communities, or environmental activists, or coal worker communities, or British people or Finnish people or Chinese people. For some it’s a question of justice and planetary environment, and those messages get aired often; for others it’s about fairness, or working together, or bringing the world to balance, preserving our heritage, protecting the world that is a gift from God, or keeping champagne production possible in Champagne. Authenticity is key; we want to see people who are like us, and care about the same things as we do, tell us that we can work together to protect those things. That’s why we can’t leave talking about climate change to environmental activists; their messages are relevant for people like them, but then again, people like them are in most cases already engaged.

Most importantly, these conversations need to happen and continue to happen, outside this bubble. Often they aren’t easy; at least I often inherently assume that no-one else is interested and that I come across as nagging, which is unlikely to be true. We need to create space, and have conversations, and make spaces for conversations that are appealing and create communities. The 2050 Climate Group has provided that for many of us; now we need to continue to spread it out to everyone else.

Plastic Free July – is it possible to avoid single-use plastic for one week?

July 22nd, 2017 Posted by Blogs, Newsletter No Comment yet

As part of Plastic Free July, Kate Chambers tried to avoid single-use plastics for one week. Here’s how she got on…

 

PREPPING

Avoiding single-use plastics for one week was going to take planning. I knew that a last minute dash to the supermarket was out of the question, as everything is wrapped in plastic film. My veggies were taken care of – each week, I order an organic vegetable box from East Coast Organics. This gets delivered to my office, and every Thursday I look forward to seeing what locally-grown goodies I’m going to eat.

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Last week’s veg box, all free of single-use plastic (East Coast Organics take back the plastic container for reuse!)

But one box of veggies wasn’t going to cut it. I headed off to the supermarket in search of plastic-free produce. All the most delicious things (chocolate, sweets, butter, CHEESE!) were off limits but I was pleasantly surprised to find some glass jars and cardboard packaging hidden amongst the plastic. On the walk home, I popped into the Indian supermarket just along from my flat, and found loads of great herbs and vegetables – all packaging free!

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Plastic-free haul

I had lots of lovely beetroot (see my veg box above!), so decided to rustle up some beetroot hummus…

…which turned out much tastier than expected, and was a favourite throughout the office on Monday. I’d been given a bunch of homegrown rhubarb from my boyfriend’s mum, and I decided to make this into a (very basic) rhubarb and ginger jam. Again, I was shocked by how good it was – no modesty here! I ate this all week, on homemade bread and with my morning porridge.

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EATING

No amount of plastic was going to stop me enjoying my food. I was determined not to give up good grub along with the single-use plastic. And I quickly realised I didn’t really have to. My office have two large fruit baskets delivered each week, so there was plenty of natural sugar to keep me going…

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There were also lots of apples and pears left over from the previous delivery so the whole lot went straight home with me, and I made poached pears and apple compote…

I realised that I was much less wasteful. I made far more of an effort to use every ingredient, when I would usually be snacking on convenience food like crisps and sweets.

Each night, I was looking forward to making my dinner, always excited to see what I could rustle up from limited ingredients.

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The beginning of beetroot risotto

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Zero-waste lunch in the sunshine – hummus, bread & kedgeree

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Tasty! & NO PLASTIC!

 

LIVING

Things were going well, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much. I realised that there are plenty of nice chocolates that are wrapped in foil and cardboard, so this satisfied my very sweet tooth. I really missed tea! But I decided to go cold turkey, since teabags are made with plastic. However, it wasn’t until halfway through the week that I discovered some more expensive tea brands, such as Pukka are in fact plastic-free, so I could have the odd cuppa again! Good times. It wasn’t until Friday morning that my regular shampoo (packaged in a plastic bottle!) ran out… until now I had only focused on food and drink, but I had to think more carefully about my cosmetics. I decided to buy a shampoo bar, which I am loving so far!

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WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Making stuff is fun. Once I realised that I had to make all my meals from scratch, I got really into it. I would spend any free minute looking up recipes, and thinking about how I could use up all my plastic-free ingredients. I was a lot more creative in the kitchen, and the quality of my cooking improved.
  • My diet improved. I have never eaten so much fruit and veg in my life! Almost all sweet treats were off limits, since most chocolate and biscuits are packaged in plastic. Suddenly, I was snacking on fruit and high quality chocolate (which tends to be packaged in card/foil)
  • Local is best. I was encouraged to use all the small businesses near my flat. The Indian supermarket next to my flat sells high quality veg and herbs, all loose. The fishmonger was happy to put everything into my reusable glass container, rather than using plastic wrap/bags.
  • Plastic is everywhere! And it’s difficult to avoid. Even my glass jars of peanut butter was sealed with non-recyclable plastic. This is frustrating when you have gone to the effort of seeking plastic alternatives.

 

Kate Chambers

2050’s Communications Chair 

@rarerthanbooks

Reporting from ECCA 2017, Closing Plenary

June 14th, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

To close out an excellent conference, we were asked to participate in the closing plenary of ECCA. Having had 10 2050 Climate Group members participating in the conference, I was asked to close out the conference with some reflections from young people.

Throughout the conference, 2050 Climate Group attendees reported back on the outcomes and learnings from each of the sessions they attended. Some of this can be found in the form of blogs published on our website.

When it came time to participate in the plenary, it was clear that the topic of young people, their voice, participation and value had been a key topic discussed throughout sessions. This is largely due to the foresight of the local steering group in inviting the 2050 Climate Group to participate, and the excellent work of Sam Curran and Shona Rawlings, who represented the organisation in this forum. Through this partnership, a programme emerged which highlighted young people in each plenary session, and also featured a range of young researchers and school children. This is the first conference that I have attended where I felt that young people sufficiently input into the design and development, as well as attendance and sessions as they ran through. To include young people in each plenary, was a significant decision of the Glasgow ECCA organising committee, one which we think shows a positive step towards further inclusion and value of the perspectives of young people in an integrated and inclusive way.

In the plenary, I was asked to participate in a discussion which focussed around the following three questions.

Question 1. Where are we in Europe with Climate Change Adaptation?

In response to this question, I highlighted the way that we can see a change in how we look at the change in language that we use….

“We are and we continue to be quite detached… both in time and space from the reality of the largest biggest impacts and from the scale of the task at hand. I think this detachment makes us less urgent – this is true for both for mitigation and adaptation. This can be seen in the way we use language now. For example take the word capacity. The way we use this has changed and it seems to have lost all meaning… When we talk about capacity, as almost every presentation did, we refer to building capacity or our adaptive capacity. Somehow this is different from what capacity should be, which is human resources, brain space and funding and financial resources.

Another key word is vulnerability. We have really changed the meaning of this when we talk about adaptation. We have started to use the word vulnerability to be almost synonymous with risk, but this is not the case. Vulnerability is inherently human, it is emotive, and psychological, and we’ve lost touch with what it actually means to be vulnerable to climate change because it is a different thing than measuring risk.”

Question 2. What are new insights from ECCA for science, policy, business and practice?

I started this discussion by agreeing with the points that the other two before me had made, which is that the greater inclusion of stakeholders in this conference is significant. Noting that there was the feeling at this conference that a diversity of stakeholders actually mattered, and this was a significant change from previous conferences.

Elizabeth Dirth at the Closing Plenary. Seated with our panelists.

Following this, I also reflected on a new trend that I noticed that could be capitalised on, and this is the narrative. It is apparent, especially in Scotland, that the narrative around climate change adaptation is changing. A focus on co-benefits, a focus on inclusivity of stakeholders and participation, and a focus on innovation and excitement about the future. The future is sexy … everybody loves to talk about it: future tech, future visions, future generations, futuristic media & culture. Adaptation is pretty fundamentally about the future. There’s more work to do on narratives that hook people, but we’ve come a long way in a short time on this… and I’m quite proud of the work that’s been done in Scotland on this.

Question 3. New challenges, new questions, new directions emerging from ECCA 2017

For me, the next challenge is how do we deal with the inherent injustice in climate change adaptation…

I don’t like to admit this in private, let alone to a large audience, but by the time I’m in my mid 40’s, according to current projections, we’ll be living in a 2 degree warmer world. That means, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, I’ll spend half my life in a world with the consequences of 2 degrees of temperature rise.

Let that sink in… I find this utterly terrifying. And I don’t even live in a small island state, or rely on agriculture for my well-being. I’m not particularly vulnerable like so many of those around the globe, I just happened to be alive at a certain time.

Personally, I believe that as long as we continue to talk about climate change in terms of ppm, degrees of temperature, CO2, cm of sea level rise… using our current models and metrics … instead of talking about it in terms of human lives lost or ruined, we will not progress with the scale and urgency we need to. We also need to learn to value this measurement, the measurement of the human life… and by this I mean the human life everywhere. Climate change is global. The value of my life does not matter any more than that of someone in a Pacific Island state, or South Sudan.

Many of us working in this field are scientists… we’re trained to deal with this a certain way… but at the end of the day, the front line of climate change adaptation is someone terrified about what their future holds. We need to look that person in the face…

I think we all have a responsibility to make that future positive, both by injecting ourselves, our institutions, etc. with a bit more urgency, and also by painting positive pictures of what the future can be. Everybody these days says love trumps fear… will I think hope trumps fear…. Hope of a better future rather than a catastrophic one, and everyone in this room has a responsibility for developing that positive vision and for collective action.


Written by: Elizabeth Dirth, Trustee & former Chair

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