Bellies and Burkas: Vignettes from COP17 (Part 1)

Bellies and Burkas: Vignettes from COP17

With my first step onto South African soil, I was greeted by a contrast that is seared into my memory.  As rhythmic Indian-infused music played, a line of ladies danced for us in midriff-baring tops and balloon-like skirts in vibrant fabrics.  We paused momentarily to take in the sight  and I noticed a line of women approach from behind the dancers clad from head to toe and faces covered with simple black cloth. Without their eyes visible one can only imagine what they thought of the dance.  The Climate Conference is a chance for the whole world to meet. For two weeks we are attempting to negotiate the cultural, environmental and socioeconomic differences that too often create a divide. If we are lucky we may find the threads from which we can build a binding agreement to preserve the planet that sustains us all.

Peace and War

I rode in a cab with a man named peace and a man named war.  Peace, our driver, told me: I do not wish to abuse the rights of any human being. I respect the rights of the client, of each person I drive, of all people I meet. I was blessed with a gentle heart.

I asked the man whose name meant war how that name was picked. We all need war, he told me, someone to fight for what is right when we are confronted with forces of evil.  Warriors.

So I arrived at the gates of the COP with Peace and War.

Be Sure to Wear a Flower in your Hair

Ten Yale students have joined the official delegation of the Maldives for COP17.  Representing their interests means we are a part of the AOSIS negotiating bloc or Association of Small Island States, a coalition of 43 nations among the most vulnerable to climate change. AOSIS is the only coalition whose members come from each of the continents, spanning the Asian Pacific, Indian Ocean, coasts of Africa and the Caribbean. Yet among the 20,000 some delegates here in Durban, AOSIS members are always easy to spot.  You can find them by the flowers in their hair (or in their lapels).