Quantcast
Insights
UNFCCC

COP23: We Are All in the Same Canoe

The prime minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, is the official host of this year's UN Climate Summit, COP 23. But we're meeting in a cold, rainy small city in Germany, Bonn, not the sunny tropics of Fiji. Logistics dictates that. Fiji could not host, nor many countries afford, to fly there for the conference.

But it's also symbolic—small island nations like Fiji are at greatest risk for actual physical extinction from climate change and associated sea level rise, and Fiji has already had to move 40 communities away from the heat driven tides. Soon some of them will be forced to relocate—climate refugees may well be one of the most dramatic early warning signs if we fail to curb the rising thermometer—and the swollen oceans that thermometer inexorably entrains.


Bainimarama also sounds one of the key themes of this year's conference—at the host pavilion, Fiji displays an island outrigger and the president's theme is "We are all in the same canoe." An astonishing array of societies seem ready to embrace that reality—even the Saudi government pauses in the middle of its rather fraught current crisis to concur, affirming its support for the agreement. And the Syrians join Paris, clearly for the purpose of highlighting American isolation as now the only functioning society to reject the agreement. (Functioning of course is in the eyes of the beholder).

In withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, Trump famously announced that he, after all, represented Pittsburgh, not Paris. Pittsburgh, however, is in the canoe with Bainimarama, not sulking on the sands with Trump. Mayor Bill Peduto is here, following up on his sharp rebuke to Trump's claim to represent his city, which, after all, voted overwhelming for Hilary Clinton. Back in June Peduto's response to Trump denigration of Paris was to slam him for claiming to speak for Steel City, saying, "We will follow the Paris agreement."

Now Peduto is here with another pungent message for the President. "Time moves in one direction. If you wait for the mills to come back, or the mines to reopen, you are just going to wait. Pittsburgh is not waiting. In Alleghany County where the U.S. coal industry was born, near where the first oil well was drilled, and at the center of the natural gas fracking boom, we have more workers in the solar industry than coal, oil and natural gas combined."

Peduto isn't ceding anything to Trump—not even newly bulked up Twitter. Here's a sample of what he is sending home from Bonn:

I encounter Peduto at the U.S. Climate Action Center—the unofficially outsourced presence of America at this COP since the Trump administration refused to properly support the official federal government pavilion.

In response, the mobilization of cities, states, universities and businesses that flip back and forth between calling themselves "America's Pledge" and "We are still In" created a new thing—a space not for a country's government but for a society. It was so unusual that even the friendly UN had to make us locate ourselves outside of any official space—which simply meant anyone could come without a credential, and come they did. We had 45 minute waits to get into what turned out to be the largest single venue in Bonn, filled with hot and cold running U.S. Senators (all alas Democrats), coffee better than anywhere else, and a contrast that caused New York Times reporter Lisa Friedman to compare the physical scale of Donald Trump's "Great Again" (but not so big) America with the America's Pledge presence.

Here's Friedman's tweet of the official U.S. presence:

And here's, as she said, the entrance to the official U.S. Pavilion:


And just for contrast here is the alternate, Bloomberg-funded U.S. Pavilion. This is just the entrance.

The energy around this space prompted Friedman in a subsequent article to say:

"Informally led by Gov. Jerry Brown of California; Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington ... Perhaps no group has made a bigger splash on the world stage this year than the coalition of the United Sates governors, mayors and businesses who call themselves the We Are Still In coalition"

A lot of eloquence, and frustration, and caring has been expressed here. But maybe the sharp physical contrast between the Fijian canoe, the shuttered office that President Trump thinks expresses greatness, and the grit that has—and continues to—express Pittsburgh and the American people, says it best.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
"From 1992 to 2016, heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000, according to a new report on heat risks." InsideClimateNews / USDA

Protect Workers From Extreme Heat, Advocates Urge OSHA

A broad coalition of worker advocacy, public health and environmental groups on Tuesday called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a workplace standard for heat stress.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Tjeerd Wiersma from Amsterdam, The Netherlands / CC BY 2.0

How Coca-Cola and Climate Change Created a Public Health Crisis in a Mexican Town

A lack of drinking water and a surplus of Coca-Cola are causing a public health crisis in the Mexican town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Plastic trash isn't safe for kids, whether human or bear. Kevin Morgans Wildlife Photography

Even Polar Bear Cubs Can’t Escape Plastic Pollution

By Allison Guy

Plastic bags are often stamped with an all-caps warning: This bag is not a toy. Unfortunately, polar bear moms don't have much control over their kids' playthings.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

Over the past few months, heat records have broken worldwide.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3°C (124.34°F), the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6°C (97.88°F), the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Stacey_newman / Getty Images

More Than a Third of Schools Tested Have ‘Elevated Levels’ of Lead in Drinking Water

A troubling new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than a third of the nation's schools that tested their water for lead found "elevated levels" of the neurotoxin. But despite heightened concern in recent years about lead in drinking water, more than 40 percent of schools surveyed conducted no lead testing in 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Bill Pugliano / Stringer / Getty Images

Can Elon Musk Fix Flint’s Water?

By Fiona E. McNeill

The Michigan community of Flint has become a byword for lead poisoning. Elon Musk recently entered the fray. He tweeted a promise to pay to fix the water in any house in Flint that had water contamination above acceptable levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
A researcher at Oregon State University examines creeping bentgrass. Oregon State University / Flickr / Tiffany Woods

You Need to Be Paying Attention to GMO Grass

By Dan Nosowitz

Creeping bentgrass doesn't get as much attention as other genetically modified plants. But this plant tells us an awful lot—emphasis on the "awful"—about how GMO plants are regulated and monitored.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!