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My Turn: Heading home to Germany to learn about climate change

  • GYORGY



Monday, November 13, 2017

I have traveled to my former home in Bonn, Germany, for the month of November. Why now, after some years of settling in back in Franklin County?

It’s because from Nov. 6 to Nov. 17, Germany’s former capital will host the next UN climate change conference (COP 23), where government delegations from around the world will discuss steps after the 2015 Paris Agreement. Yes, the voluntary one to reduce climate-warming gases, that only Syria and the USA are not signing. Another holdout, Nicaragua, finally signed on Oct 23, not wanting to be in that company. They had resisted because the agreement was not strong enough.

The island nation of Fiji is the actual conference organizer. But as it is threatened by climate disruption and unable to welcome some 20,000 people, the summit will be held in Bonn, home to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). With the current backdrop of disastrous storms, raging wildfires and melting glaciers happening around the world, negotiations to strengthen the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement will be key, and resistance to the Trumpian withdrawal surely loud.

Thanks to a grant from the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, U.S. sponsor of our Women & Life on Earth internet project, I am able to be part of this history and report back. Not from the conference floor, but outside and from various public forums, where people from around the world will meet, act and demonstrate as “civil society” for stronger, rapid action for climate protection. I am looking forward to speakers and workshops at the People’s Climate Summit; to joining a climate march against coal, with a focus on the largest CO2 emitter in Europe — a giant open-pit coal mine north of Bonn; a Save the Climate demonstration and more.

As Nov. 11 is the 99th anniversary of the end of World War I, this is an appropriate time to make connections between militarism and climate disruption. It is also the anniversary week of the Women’s Pentagon Action back in 1980, when 2,000 women surrounded that center of war, demanding “no more amazing inventions for death!”

As Traprock Director Pat Hynes says, “Climate change is inevitably an issue of peace because the Pentagon is the single largest contributor of climate change emissions in the world. And as the Pentagon goes, so go the military budgets of other major powers,” in her article “War and Warming: Can We Save the Planet Without Taking on the Pentagon?”

The twin dangers we face, of a nuclear war and more climate catastrophes, are increased by our government’s misguided, even criminal, priorities. “Between 2010 and 2015,” Hynes writes, “the federal government invested $56 billion in clean energy internationally, while it recently committed to $1 trillion for modernizing nuclear weapons, their infrastructure and their delivery systems by 2030.”

Is this the future we want? Other countries have taken the lead in ecological transitions, and we need to know their stories.

Following the summit, I will interview German climate and peace activists and experts. How is Germany meeting its climate goals? After so much success with solar and wind energy, why is there still such dependence on coal and cars? How successful is the country’s post-Fukushima shutdown of some, and current phase-out of the rest, of its nuclear reactors?

And then there is the influx of war-related refugees — and right-wing movements against them. Seeing the activist Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s new movie “Human Flow” recently brought this issue home with moving force. The 65 million people now fleeing war, oppression and climate changes, too, represent the largest number of refugees since World War II.

Germany has changed since I lived there, and now the U.S. has too, in ways that alarm and astonish the world. I expect that much will be learned and exchanged. And look forward to going, reporting back, and coming home again.

Anna Gyorgy coordinates the Women & Life on Earth website, wloe.org, and lives in Wendell. Email her at: info@wloe.org.