While our changing climate is affecting us all, it’s undeniably having a larger impact on strangers who are very far from our own lives and experiences: Fishermen living on remote islands in the Pacific that even the travel magazines don’t go to photograph; Pastoral herdsmen living on the fringe of deserts and grassland; Urban dwellers in growing countries seldom mentioned here in Paris. These are the people who need our help the most.
Many of us as individuals have felt the tug of altruism over the years. We’ve known that someone needs help and we can do some small thing, write a check, serve on a board, send a letter. Do something. Do anything.
But this ‘COP’ though, it is something quite different. It represents a collective act at a scale that could not be larger. An act like this, cannot rely on just an altruistic impulse, and it can’t rely on any one aspect of our society. Neither government, nor business, nor civil society can do it alone. There is no ‘silver bullet’. We have to do something together. This is a massive act of collective, thoughtful empathy.
And it’s all beginning to add up to what they are calling here The Paris Moment.
I am often asked why, after a career spent in banking and living in cities and airports, I joined The Nature Conservancy. My answer usually references my love of mountaineering and sailing in my youth.
On one such sailing trip twenty-five years ago, I was sailing from the British Virgin Islands to Bermuda with my father. In those days, GPS was in its infancy (at least for civilians) so every day at noon, we would sight and record the position of the sun and any other surroundings.
It had been eight days on the rising-and-falling ocean swell, surging forward in those wonderful 30-knot trade winds. Eight days of seeing nothing on the horizon other than sea-birds and the occasional flying-fish, or dolphin fin. And then something seemed to change. After a few hours, we realized what it was. We had been sensing land just over the horizon.
Right now, in Paris, I recognize that same feeling I had all those years ago. We can’t quite see the land yet, but we are close, and we can sense that it’s near.
It will be good to set foot on land for a bit. Get some rest, re-provision. But even if and when we reach an agreement, our journey will not be over. We’ll have to soon set out again to cross an ever-bigger ocean.
And for the voyage ahead we will be part of a much larger fleet, and we will all know the course we are steering.