Reflections of COP19: Optimist to Realist

Oxford online dictionary describes optimism as:

 noun

1. Hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something: the talks had been amicable and there were grounds for optimism


2. Philosophy the doctrine, especially as set forth by Leibniz, that this world is the best of all possible worlds. the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe.

Oxford online dictionary on the other hand describes realism as:

noun

1. The attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly: the summit was marked by a new mood of realism


2. The view that the subject matter of politics is political power, not matters of principle: political realism is the oldest approach to global politics


3. The doctrine that the law is better understood by analysis of judges rather than the judgments given: modern jurists have tended to underestimate the scope of American legal realism

Optimistic: Adjective

1. How I felt during the weeks preceding COP…

I’m generally an optimistic person. I always try to see the best in others regardless of the wrong done in their past, as long as they are being proactive about their future… COP has in my opinion demised this quality within me. I had faith in the world, and I had faith in the governments we elected to do right by its people, and right by their planet- I mean at the end of the day all these politicians are people and all people have some degree of compassion for others… or so I thought.

COP19 turned out to be a sobering experience to say the least. I thought that this conference I would see major change, and that the counties of the world would take action and stand up against climate change especially after events such as the typhoon that devastated the Philippines. But it was more casual, in that most nations already had opinions on things that they were discussing and there was little to discuss and more to argue.

Now that COP is coming to an end, and I have finished my official accreditation period, how I feel about the United Nation Conference on Climate Change, 19th Conference of Parties is more indicative of the definition of realism. I have much more realist expectations for what is to be accomplished at this COP and what I can expect to happen. At the end of the day these countries only care about their own well being first and foremost and if they can they try to make themselves appear to be more than what they are. For example, all the governments in the world saw what can result if climate change continues to increase but still the answer is not to make stricter policy to limit carbon emission, invest in greener solutions and divest, but rather to further stimulate their economies, move away from carbon taxes to decrease their climate target goals. As long as they aren’t the ones attending next years COP begging for help, begging that countries unite to put an end to climate change… Begging for countries to unite to put a stop to the increase in natural disasters that take so many lives year to year. As long as the developed nations have a good economy, I suppose the logic is that climate change will not affect them.

Just absorbing stories from delegates from small island states and Africa, hearing them tell me that they have seen a change in their life time, hearing them say that a certain species is less abundant. Hearing them talk about how drought is more common, and food production is more scare and the poverty that has pledged communities scares me. I scares me that the concern is not greater and it scares me most of all that countries such as Canada that have contributed a lot disaster relief to satisfy their guilt for not being proactive by donating money to the climate change induced disasters rather than investing in strategies to better prepare developing countries to adapt to the reality that events such as Typhoon Haiyan will become more frequent

At the end of the day, I can complain a lot about the governments that comprise the world and the decisions they make, Canada especially, but we were the ones that elected them. The blame is just as much on the citizens of Canada as it is on them. If we want to see change in our lifetime we must rise, and make our voices heard. We are the generation whose future these governments are negotiating for, if we do not agree with oil sands or pipelines we must make our voices heard. If we want Canada to regain the leadership role it once help and reestablish the international reputation it once held we must make our voices heard.

Despite thinking more realistically and decreased faith in our current governments, I retain my hope. I have hope that we can create effective change, and I have faith that we can make ethical decisions and overcome the fear that we may have of speaking out.

Do not be afraid of what people think or you, for what ever you believe in just remember:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

If you want more information about how to get involved or to learn more about climate change at the University of Waterloo please check out the following websites:

University of Waterloo Coaliton for Sustainable Development (UWCSD): http://uwcsd.com

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG): http://wpirg.org

Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCI): http://www.feds.ca/sustainability/

Environment Students Society (ESS): http://www.feds.ca/campus-life/student-societies/ess/

Get involved! We are the generation to effect change.

Author: Anand Balram

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Kai RW says:

    Excellent reflections Anand, and a solid way to summarize how our feelings change throughout such events, but also where the hope lies in the future… We absolutely must take action here at home to change the trajectory our nation is currently on. In the spirit of speaking one’s mind: Divestment UW, anyone? Every individual and institution must take action.

  2. Stewart Brown says:

    Your thoughts Anand are bright lodestars in guiding us towards climate action solutions that are real and durable. In creating sustainable outcomes I believe that it is essential to persistently sprinkle healthy doses of optimism upon challenging issues in order to achieve real eco-human progress.

    I have a comment on the gap of understanding that exists between rural and urban peoples. On one hand the predominant global entities drive urban economic principles and on the other hand the rural economies depend on the elements of life with which they are in close and direct daily contact. These différences seem to produce opposite understandings of the need for climate action.

    Since the inception of agricultural practices several thousands of years ago, I am the first generation in my family history who does not rely on soil, water, air, plants, animals, and organic products to make my living and to support my family. Thus, I have a weaker instinct than my ancestors to feel the perpetual and pressing need to care for the natural world around me.

    In opposition to my predecessors and similar to industrialized economies I rely on synthetic manufacturing and live an energy-rich lifestye. . Such conditions isolate me from emerging and dangerous climate realities. Instead I blithely obsess along with my neighbours about trivial issues. We need a reality check. We need to feel different things in a day in order to feel differently. We need to feel the living world around us.

    In an increasingly urban lifestyle how do we put our citizens in direct contact with nature and the pure compounds that sustain it? That I believe is an important piece of the solution to dissolve the blocades that prevent optimistic thought from producing real results. By connecting reguarly with living things and nature we learn to understand them, to care for them, and to protect them. As a result humans will individually and collectively make décisions to ensure the long-term health of our climate.

    Stewart Brown

    1. infouwcsd says:

      Couldn’t agree more – we need to become conscious of the ways in which our current lifestyles alienate us from a stronger connection to the natural world, and work to rebuild this. To fully understand the impacts we’re having on the natural world we must recognize our utter dependency on this world, even if the “supply chain” leading back to this world is longer than it once was. Thanks for the insights Stewart!
      -Kai RW

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