By Kimberly Lopez Castellanos
For the whole two weeks while in Paris, I was on the outside. Since the beginning of the course, I felt the need to network, communicate, and spread the stories of activists; whether these activists were from the frontline communities or some of the many youth trying to create a platform for the undermined voices that needed to be heard.
The final days of COP21 were full of energy. I found myself trying to plan and attend more actions than attending workshops and lectures in the alternative spaces. As I look over the pictures and videos I captured, I realize that I learned so much from being a part of those spaces. The stories and solutions were presented to me first-hand from people that are going through the struggles. I cannot believe I was able to experience this with so many amazing people. Here is a VERY small recap of the actions that occurred in the final 3 days of COP21 in the outside spaces.
On December 10th, Young Friends of the Earth, arranged an action in front of the Peace Wall surrounding the Human Rights Day. The main purpose of this action was to call on the U.S. to reject false solutions that lead to poverty, pollution, patriarchy, and war. There were speakers from across the U.S. speaking on behalf of their communities based on their experiences. The event involved mic checks, chants, music, and dancing.
Who said climate politics couldn’t be a game? In order to refrain from using so much jargon, some friends from the inside and outside spaces decided to play a game of tug of war to reenact the powers of dirty energy companies and civil society. The messaging was to promote the unity and solidarity within civil society. Dirty energy companies have a power, but that power can be taken away if civil society works together to take them down and provide real sustainable solutions.
December 11th was the final day of the Climate Generations space. The need for a just deal. The text is unacceptable, illegal and immoral. It condemns many small island states and other developing countries by encouraging a 2 degree celsius world above pre-industrial levels. How is that something to consider if even now at .86 degrees, there are many frontline communities being affected by the unfortunate disasters of climate change. This action was carried out throughout the Green Space.We collected many people to form the march around the space to join in chanting and singing.
Later that day, the YOUNGO (Youth Constituency of Non-Governmental Organizations) actions team created a space for people from frontline communities and other people affected to speak up about their concerns and struggles. It was a stance in solidarity with the people who had real solutions and a rejection of false solutions.
On December 12th, around 15 thousand people were prepared to mobilize despite being in a country going through a state of emergency. Any group of more than two with a political message in public could be detained at any point. However, civil society decided to go on with an action on D12 in which the red line symbolized the victims of climate change. Starting at noon, the occupation took over the Avenue de la Grande Armée between Place de Etoile and Porte Maillot.
But it did not end there! On our way to the human chain action at the eiffel tower, we realized that we could easily take over the streets. Hundreds of us turned the occupation into a march. Once we arrived to Pont d’Iena, we sat. Suddenly, it turned into a sit-in. No one questioned this action. It went on for about 45 minutes. The people reclaiming what was theirs in the first place. It provided a sense of reclaiming power. Of course this action had to end in a song. Augustin and Angela played their song “Hombre de Papel” and so many people kept quiet to hear the lyrics. Can you imagine that power? Within seconds, the screams and shouts diminished to hear musicians play about corrupt negotiators. If that’s not a strong statement, what is?
The energy translated from all these actions was palpable. Moments like these in which people from different backgrounds come together to create a meaningful statements is why I decided to come to Paris despite being aware that the text would be a failure. This trip was definitely unforgettable. I met amazing people with different struggles trying to stand up for their rights. I don’t think this experience could be comparable if I were home following policy and tracking actions from a computer. So COP21, despite the unfortunate outcome, you did succeed in creating multiple spaces for understanding and solidarity to be possible.