January 13, 2016
We all make new year’s resolutions -- lose weight, get healthy, organize the closet, etc. They’re good – they create a burst of self-improvement. My idea is to do something a bit different this year - to tap into our innate desire to do more and to resolve to care more. Apparently, I’m not alone, and if you’ve seen the new Kleenex ads, you’ll know what I mean.
As a communicator focused on global issues and social impact, I care about the environment and so I take caring to a very specific place – climate change in particular.
Why? You have heard about the United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP 21) that took place in Paris last month. The science reviewed there overwhelmingly points to several significant and impending global disasters if we don’t act.
I had the opportunity to attend the COP 21 with the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW), the nonprofit organization founded by Dena Merriam. GPIW took a 17-person interfaith delegation to COP 21 to raise awareness for the role of civil society in mitigating climate change. I helped organize events and moderated a session as part of Finn Partners’ ongoing support of GPIW and our own commitment to environmental issues.
GPIW organized a wide range of activities, including an official side event at the Climate Generation Forum and a 4-hour interfaith meditation at a Tibetan Buddhist temple in the center of Paris. Our delegation attended events at Le Bourget where U.N. negotiations took place. Dena spoke at the launch of the Citizens’ Pact for the Earth, a new initiative led by Vandana Shiva. We also met many different people, including Richard Branson, Jane Goodall, and Karenna Gore, the director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, who spoke with Dena at a special reception for the interfaith community. I attended an event on sustainable investing organized by the U.N. Global Compact and sponsored by a former client, Acciona, a Spanish renewable energy company and leader in sustainability.
One of the most powerful moments was when the GPIW delegation visited the memorial for the victims of the Paris attacks at the Place de la République. The monument was surrounded by candles and flowers, and messages from people from around the world. As we stood there together, spontaneously different religious leaders came forward to offer a prayer. It was Tiokasin Ghosthorse of the Cheyenne River Lakota (Sioux) Nation of South Dakota, whose song brought me to tears. It connected the pain and suffering of humanity with that of the planet.
At the GPIW side event at the U.N., it was also Tiokasin who spoke about the need to relate to one another and the environment in a new way connecting climate change with our disconnection from nature. The session was titled “The Inner Dimension of Climate Change.” Other panelists included preeminent U.S. eco-activist Rev. Dr. Richard Cizik as well as respected social and environmental advocates from the United States, Europe and Asia. The group called for a collective change in mindset in order for us meet the climate challenges ahead.
Now that the COP is over, it is clear we cannot leave it up to governments alone. Yes, it was a critical for world leaders to come to an agreement on how they will reduce carbon emissions and limit global warming, but the private sector, civil society, and individuals like you and I need to step up as well. Each of us can do our part to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere through the choices we make. We just need to make up our minds to make those choices.
For example, industrial agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. According to U.N. statistics industrial meat production alone contributes to nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s not just meat. According to the U.S. government, chemical fertilizers account for the majority of nitrous oxide emissions released into the atmosphere.
So as we embark on this new year, let’s resolve to care more and make a different kind of resolution. There’s still time. January isn’t over yet. I am making my own New Year’s Climate Resolution to reduce meat consumption and buy organic, chemical-free food. I hope others will join me and do the same. And thanks, Kleenex, for the additional inspiration. #resolvetocare
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