I sit here at my laptop with so many observations and experiences running through my head.
The 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) is coming to an end. For civil society, the folks from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with limited resources, it is over and we are all heading home as waves of humans pass through the Sharm el Sheikh airport. My theme of the week: cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes, especially relating to behavioral decisions and attitude changes.
For 30 years now, world leaders have been gathering to work together to ensure our planet remains habitable into the future. For 29 of those years, they have failed to mention in all of their agreements and protocols the primary culprit of global warming: the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels.
They continue to put forth false solutions, pretending that something good will result. They continue to ignore the cries of civil society for a just transition.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has allowed this COP to be hosted in Egypt, a country whose human rights and environment record are questionable. And that host country drove us to a very isolated tourist town. Far from the good people of Egypt, far from their natural gas processing plants, far from the places in Egypt that are suffering the impacts of climate change right now. We have been welcomed into what feels like an ill-prepared Olympic Village — buildings hastily constructed, landscapes of non-native species wilting from recent transplant into the hot dry air. Irrigation hoses everywhere. Disposable plastic bottles everywhere. Sharm feels like a Vegas wanna-be — all the bling and the glitz of fancy resorts and endless strings of lights. So much needless consumption of energy and water.
And at the same time, as it always is, the people are kind and friendly and the natural landscape of mountains and coral reefs — when you get beyond the cheesy Vegas parts — is breathtakingly beautiful. I take away memories of new brief encounters: the Egyptian woman cleaning the toilets (the only work available here to local women) with whom I chatted via Google Translate as we shared photos of our children, the late night (early morning?) taxi driver who taught me a few useful Arabic phrases, the British man here to do tech support who told me about his daughter in law school who wants to change the world.
And I take home with me new comrades from Climate Generation’s week two delegation and other activists I met here. Colleagues who I trust will carry the work forward in their local communities, folks with whom I will stay connected as we build solidarity out from our local work to global networks.
I carry home the memories of so many brilliant and fired up young people and impacted communities; they will be my inspiration for the road ahead.
Together we will find ways to heal the planet despite the corporate powers of fossil fuel companies. Together we will bring a just transition to reality and step away, once and for all, from this present cognitive dissonance.
Susan Phillips is an activist, educator/facilitator/trainer, specialist in participatory and servant leadership, and an experienced non-profit leader. She has led programs for unhoused youth in the Twin Cities and Central America, held leadership roles in the food justice and education justice ecosystems, and volunteered in youth leadership settings. Susan has a BA in Cultural Anthropology and a MA in Leadership Studies. When not engaged in community building projects, Susan is a backyard farmer, artist, year-round cyclist, student of life, and parent of three fantastic young adults. Susan joined the Climate Generation team in September as our new Executive Director, and is excited to participate directly in our Window Into COP27 program.