The trip has come to an end. And what an experience it was. During the 12-14 hour days, it felt like it was going on forever, but at the end of the week I was questioning where my week had gone. Some of the highlights included getting 2 feet away from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, walking around Old Town, hearing the inspiring words of Christiana Figueres, working with my great NGO, Wildlife Conservation Society, actually seeing the international process at work, and getting to know my fellow VLS delegates better.
My biggest disappointment was the lack of discussion throughout the week on my chosen topic: wildlife, endangered species, and biodiversity. While I tried to tailor each of my posts to my topic and analyze each side event to figure out its indirect link to the conservation of species, I noticed that the topic was rarely, if ever, discussed. Biodiversity and ecosystems where mentioned broadly here and there (most notably in the ocean acidification and REDD+ side events I attended), but for the most part, I heard nothing on how climate change is adversely impacting species. I am aware that the UN has other treaties, such as the Convention on Biodiversity and CITES, but knowing what I know about how climate change is affecting species, I would have thought at least one side event would have had that focus. This became particularly more puzzling to me when I learned more than one wildlife conservation group attended the CoP. While I realize that most people place a higher value on the plights of the human race when it comes to climate change, the importance of conserving biodiversity cannot be overlooked. As the Lion King says: “we are all connected in the great circle of life.”
On my last night in Poland, Heather, Lindsay, and I had the unique experience of attending a Greenpeace party. Greenpeace gave a recap of of their 2 weeks at the CoP. They had some exciting protests against Poland’s reliance on coal and unveiled brilliant t-shirts: a play on the Godfather – the “coalfather.” I, not for lack of want, did not get lucky enough to secure one. There were also several demonstrations on the Arctic 30. Greenpeace is currently on a campaign to free the arctic 30; 30 peaceful activists from around the world who boarded the Arctic Sunrise in an attempt to board a Russian oil rig in protest of reliance on fossil fuels and to try and stop the drilling. The Russian authorities took control of the Arctic Sunrise and the arctic 30, who are now detained in Russia for piracy and hooliganism. Their call: “Free the Arctic 30.”
Overall, I am thankful for this cultural and learning experience.