Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A little less dramatic than flipping a coin...

Thumbs up to all of Brittan's free back massage services at the house gathering on Sunday night.
Thumbs down to the US stance on climate change.

I don't know whether it's the jet-lag or the excitement of it all, but I've been wandering around listening to world leaders, chatting with ambitious youth, and sifting through piles of literature in an overwhelming haze all morning. Before the trip, I said I was too busy to get excited about coming to Poznan. During the flight, I said I was too tired to get excited about arriving. Now that I'm here, I'm too excited about checking everything out to be concerned with homework and fatigue. After a roughly 9 hour flight with no sleep (I found the on-flight British movie terribly entertaining) followed by an hour drive-by of Warsaw with another "3 hour" bus ride to Poland which was actually closer to six, we arrived for a simple meat or meat-less dinner at a hotel restaurant that struggled to accomodate our disgruntled 20+ person group. After dinner, when all I wanted to do was sleep, I was dragged by peer pressure into the "old town" bars highlighted by a cover band of nineties American alt-rock and an underground lounge and techno club. Asleep at 4am--up at 10, to obtain ID badges for the conference and check out the Conference of the Youth (COY) that was organizing their plan of attack at COP 14.

After all this, I think it is safe to say that group travel is extremely difficult. I like to explore new cities impulsively and decisions are not easily made when a consensus of 20 is needed. I estimate that we will spend roughly 10 hours standing at the exits of buildings debating our next move this week.

Notes on Poznan:
Very authentic Polish city--assuming I know what "authentic Polish" means. To be honest, I wasn't electrified about attending a conference in Poland when last year's COP was held in Bali and next year's COP is in Copenhagen. For the most part, my generalizations about Poland were correct--cold, dreary, lots of dark clothes and fur hoods, sausages upon sausages upon sausages, few domestic smiles. To my surprise though, the Polish constituent of the fairer sex has been rather visually appealing, American culture has been embraced (probably too much on the television and radio), and I've only had a handful of run-ins with communist paraphrenalia so far. The language barrier is extreme--Taxi driver, tear down this wall! I will try to embrace the cultural differences. I hate being a tourist. I cannot pronunciate words with no vowels.

I've spent the first two days of the conference avoiding the "boring stuff," eating only bread, cheese and water and sitting through two-hour side events that help to sharpen my ability to decipher foreign accents. Up to now, I've attended the events: Gender Justice and Climate Change, Innovative Financing for Forest-based Climate Mitigation, Global GHGs and Air Pollutants: Country Trends 1970-2005, How REDD Policy Options Interact with Forest Measuring and Monitoring and Biodiversity and Climate Change. Most of these presentations have been of an uber-technical note that leave me slipping into a jet-lag induced midday nap, although I've picked up a lot of insight as to how environmental policy takes shape. The researchers and all of the -ists here seem to specialize on a very narrow topic concerning impacts of and possible action to combat climate change and beat the hell out of it until it comes out in fifteen powerpoint slides.

I think it's important to acknowledge a concern I (and others) have on the wastefulness of this conference, though. While intended to provide beneficial policy to reduce human impact on the environment, the sheer size of this conference leads to some contradictory issues. First off, after circling the numerous informative kiosks staffed by many different organizations, I obtained a significant amount of paper-based information. At the end of the day I had at least ten pounds of pamphlets and such. I know Lindsey's bag was even heavier than mine (though, please do not use this as a proxy for her dedication to the environment, or mine!). Also, the first day of the conference closed with a significant reception with an extravagant buffet. There were potatoes and meat-cabbage medley and soup and booze and desserts galore which were either consumed or assumedly thrown away. I just feel that this inefficiency on a considerably large scale in the presence of the delegates who are supposed to be creating a more sustainable world is frustrating at the least. I don't even want to mention the quantity of bottled water here. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that while there is a lot of talk going on about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the risk of climate change here at THE international conference on climate change, there is also a lot of change that needs to happen on the micro-level. With that said (and I am giving credit to Patrick for this inspiration), my goals for this conference are to learn what the average guy and gal can do to help stablize the environmental welfare of this planet through the UN's political framework as well as the many NGO's dedicated to this cause and enlighten those back home about what they can do to help. It is much easier to change a habit than acquiring international political consensus.

Casey Wichman


medavidg said...

Great insight. An interesting and edgy approach!

IC Poznan Climate Conference said...

Aww, Casey! That's so nice!