COP 14 – So who’s attending?

Following on “a picture is worth a thousand dollars”

It seems that all are in agreement that climate change will affect the most those who contributed the least to the problem. Let’s call these people the ‘affectees’. I’ve always found it fascinating that you will almost always never find an ‘affectee’ at these meetings. Those of us from the ‘vulnerable’ developing countries are mostly from the labs of research organizations, lecture halls of universities, are politicians, government officials or from the NGO brigade – people whose ‘adaptive capacity’ seems quite intact and whose ‘GHG footprint’ is often comparable to the average citizen of the developed regions of the world. I have been looking out for those people who will be affected the most by climate change, but so far I haven’t come across a true ‘affectee’ walking these corridors. Of course there are indigenous people here and you can’t miss them because their strikingly beautiful traditional attires stand out in the sea of Armanis, Armanus, Armanos and other variations. But, even the few that make it here tend to be from the ‘elite’ (for lack of a better word) among these groups.


Over the weekend I talked to a Maasai from Tanzania dressed in their signature flashy red attire complete with colorful beads and the little stick they call ‘rungu’. He speaks very good English and seems quite educated on matters climate- he even was at the last COP in Bali, Indonesia. I don’t know him but I doubt when he is through with the COP he will head back to herding goats in the plains of the Serengeti. My guess is that he is either a ‘community mobilizer’ or ‘project advocate’ affiliated or working directly under an NGO.


I hear you say that there is no point of bringing ‘affectees’ who won’t or can’t engage in the discussions and I agree. In any case a true goat herder in the Serengeti wouldn’t care less for the power point presentations pressing for emissions stabilization by 2020 or the endless debates whether adaptation isn’t just development anyway. His most urgent concern is finding pasture for his herd and I doubt he is even aware that people somewhere in a cold Polish city are losing their hair arguing about measuring his ‘vulnerability’ and the best way to craft ‘effective interventions’. And yes, I realize that these meeting are about representation and not participation so this is not another call to ensure ‘participatory dialogue’ or a cry against ‘climate injustice’ but just an observation that reminds us of the little and no so little ironies of life.