It’s an incredible privilege to get to come to COP. It’s a privilege to get to have a badge and go inside the heavily guarded fences. And tonight, Kristen asked us: do you think this was worth it?
And I said yes. Yes, because I got to make some amazing new friends and comrades in Nicole and Kyle. Yes, because I got to meet amazing Indigenous women from around the planet. Yes, because Glasgow is amazing and people have been kind and it was nice to travel abroad for the first time in 7 years.
But COP itself? It was hard. I didn’t think it would be that hard because I’ve been to the Democratic National Convention twice and those days are long and full of procedure and long lines.
But this was so, so much harder. So much harder because all lives on our planet depend on these negotiations. Negotiations that we are here to observe but we aren’t privy to in any real way.
I’ve learned more about what’s happening from group chats than from being at the conference.
And honestly, as a person with a chronic illness, the conference felt so incredibly inaccessible. COVID obviously made this worse, with so much extra to do to adhere to the protocols attempting to keep us safe.
My body hurts. It hurts from marching for hours and hours on multiple days in the rain and the cold but I think it hurts because of everything else happening at this conference too.
There are so many men in suits and I haven’t seen any of them cry, but I’ve held hands with Indigenous people as we’ve cried and cried.
Do those men feel it?
Do they feel the panic we feel?
Do they feel the loss that the islanders feel, knowing that their homelands are seen as acceptable sacrifices in closed door negotiations?
Have they tasted the foods that we might lose when toxic algaes or tar sands oil ruin our traditional fishing and harvesting lands?
Do they understand how many of our youth know the feeling of zip ties on their wrists and the feeling of milk as it washes tear gas from your eyes, tear gas used against you when you put your body on the line to protect your water and your land?
I wonder these things, as they rush past me, busy to get into the important rooms while the rest of us wait in line. As their badges say that they matter and that we are just there to watch.
I wonder if they think of the women in the Amazon when they decide it’s not too important to include demands for human rights or prior and informed consent of Indigenous people? Did they hear the song of the woman from Mujeres Amazonicas, as she sang for her murdered friend from outside the gates? Did they hear our drums from their private lounges, the ones reserved for ministers?
But was it worth it to come? Yes.
Yes it was. Today, we went to the New York Times Climate Hub, and I went first for a panel on intergenerational work on climate. After that panel was finished, there was a talk with a man named Andrew Snyder. I didn’t know who he was, so I googled him. Turns out, Andrew Snyder is the head of the Bezos Earth Fund.
As in Jeff Bezos. CEO. Entrepreneur. Born in 1954. As in Amazon. As in, pledged $10 billion dollars over 10 years for climate work when his net worth is over $205 billion.
I sat near the front and when it was time for questions I asked him how he reconciles being a greenwasher for one of the world’s most destructive capitalists. And of course, he blew off this question and he was in the hurry to catch a train, but I got to ask the question and I got to be 15 feet from him while I said it on the New York Times livestream. I got to look him in the eye. And that meant something to me. I hope he thinks about it before he falls asleep at night. And even if he doesn’t, I hope it planted a tiny seed in the minds of some people that thought that Bezos’ $10 million dollar pledge meant a single thing.
My body hurts and I twisted my ankle and I am angry, I am so angry, but we are here and I was there today to ask a question that no one else may have asked if I wasn’t there.
Ashley Fairbanks is the Creative Director of 100% Campaign. She is a member of Climate Generation’s Window into COP26 Delegation this November. She is a passionate organizer for issues like stopping the Line 3 pipeline, Indigenous rights, and police abolition. Learn more about Ashley and subscribe to follow her experience at COP26.