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In less than a month representatives from over 190 countries around the world will gather for the 21st United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21 or CMP 11) will be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society. The stated objective of the conference is to obtain a “legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C”.

We have heard a lot about climate change in the last several years and I expect that we will hear much more in the time to come.

The discussion about climate change, at the political level, began in Berlin in 1995 and some 20 years later we are still in the discussion mode. We know with certainty that this is an issue we need to attend to. But has there really been action, action that can help to sustain human life and life of the planet? Do we have another 20 years to continue the discussion, I would think not. Time is now of the essence!

As a Canadian I am reassured to read in the news that our newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invited the Canadian opposition leaders (Thomas Mulcair, Gilles Duceppe, Elizabeth May and the conservative party representative) to attend with him. In addition the invitation has been extended to each of the Canadian provinces and territories. Most if not all have confirmed that the Premier and the provincial minister responsible for environmental issues will attend the conference. This is encouraging!

I am excited that there is an effort to involve the general population so even if there is no possibility that you could attend the conference there are small ways that you can feel you are somewhat involved.

The website for COP21 offers some tools for us regular folk: a quiz about the COP21 and “10 climate friendly habits” that we can attempt to establish in our lives in our own little corner of the world. This is admirable and the ideas are ones that make sense: *turn off the light when you leave a room; *do not waste water;*recycle waste and use fewer disposable products;*beware of overheating your home in the winter;* change your eating habits;*cut done on paper;*switch off appliances in standby mode: * use energy efficient appliances; *start cycling, using public transportation and carpooling; and *reduce internet use on your computer, phone and tablet. These are all things that we should make habits of ours no matter where we live. Nonetheless I cannot help but be skeptical! These are ideas that have been floated about for several years and I am not convinced that they have really been integrated into people’s lives and even if they have they apparently have not made a significant difference… we are still facing the major tipping point toward devastation of our environment. Although I am a strong believer in our personal power and our ability as individuals to contribute to major change, we are still operating within a current cultural context that supports officialdoms much bigger than any of us. These powerful groups continue to ignore that they may have a role in changing their habits as well. Unless the major corporations of the world jump on the bandwagon we will not experience the shift that is needed to halt our journey towards destruction.

I am excited to see so many countries and so many people involved in the conference, this is encouraging. There appears to be interest in addressing the climate change issues or at least having an opportunity to have a paid trip to Paris. There goes my skepticism! I am sure that much thought has been put into how to effectively harvest the input of the nearly 50,000 participants so that meaningful options and ideas will emerge and will have a positive impact on our world. For the most part it is a wait and see situation. I have signed up for the COP21 newsletter and I am anxious to hear what comes out of the event.

Having said this I am truly skeptical. Yes we have new participants in terms of countries and leaders of the same. Yes we have increased awareness of the issues and the urgency of the same. Yes we have the science that makes it more and more difficult to be a naysayer and remain in denial about what all of this really means. My skepticism comes from our apparent single focus on climate change and the environment outside of our recognition of the much larger context within with we operate and within which we have created much of the damage to begin with.

I believe that to truly address the critical issues of our day and to truly make a difference we need an economic –political shift that will change the overall playing field within which we operate. Without a change in our overconsumption overall we are doomed. Focusing on the use of fossil fuels and attention to how much we use, how we use water and etc. we will not do enough to really change things. It will not make enough of a difference to turn our direction into one that will allow us and our planet to survive.

Instead if we recognize that we are bound by a current cultural context that promotes and depends on overproduction and overconsumption of everything and that this current cultural context is guided by a single focus on economics above all else and that this focus, economics, is guarded by power, status and aggression we cannot expect to see a change in climate change. A shift in the balance of power is critical.

We can help to generate this re-balancing by recognizing that each of us has the power to choose, the power to recognize our role in the trajectory of our world, and realization that each of us and our choices matter for all of humanity and for all of the world. Without this rebalancing we will go nowhere.

We have known the climate change facts for many years, we have seen the evidence in shifting weather patterns over the last many years, and yet we remain in denial. We remain disconnected from our world and the ways in which we continue to damage it. We need to reconnect with what matters and what will make a difference.  

In my book Remembering what it means to be human (see www.irenemcdermott.com) I present my thoughts about the cultural context which sets the parameters for the way we live and how it blind us from seeing what make sense for us as humans, for nature, for our environment. I believe we need to challenge that context, that dominant thinking. We need to remember the elements of our essential nature, we need to reconnect with what it means to be human. Until we make this connection within this opened awareness we will continue to discuss but we will not see the climate and other change that is needed for us and our world.

Let’s not sit back and wait for the results of the COP21 to unfold, let’s begin the dialogue now! What do we want to see in our world? What will we do as individuals do to make a difference for the future of our world and for the future of our children and grandchildren? How can we begin to wake up our friends and neighbours so that they too can start to make a difference? How do we connect with our communities to broaden the scope of our actions? How do we work together to influence the political-corporate context such that it moves away from the engrained focus on economics towards a focus on the health of humans, nature and the continued existence of a healthy planet?

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I am anxious to hear your thoughts!!!

Irene McDermott©2015

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