On December 12th, the world will be a little bit different than it is now. That sounds a bit dramatic but I can say that with confidence (if for no other reason than that our lovely world goes through twists and turns to make it a little different every day, even without our help). On December 12th, the U.N. climate talks in Paris will be over and then we will be know if something hopeful has just ended, or if something momentous has just begun.
Delegates from over 190 countries will convene November 30th-December 11th in Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. There is a reason why this conference, the 21st of its kind, has received an unusually high level of scrutiny—for the first time since negotiations began more than 20 years ago, participants will attempt to come to a legally binding agreement on climate change. The benchmark goal—avoiding a 2 degrees C global temperature rise, the temperature at which the real problems would truly begin.
But here’s the thing about Paris. Paris is not the test, those leaders in attendance are not the test, the media sound bites that will be fed back to those of us who are not in attendance are not the test. We are the test. Paris is not the work. We assign the work. In Paris, many leaders will make promises. But promises are nothing without accountability.
So this is where we come in. The global challenge is daunting, so perhaps it’s best to reframe it as a series of local issues. Luckily, we here in New Orleans have a golden opportunity to make a real climate impact at the local level. Every 3 years our regulated public utility, Entergy-New Orleans, must present City Council with their 20-year plan for meeting our city’s energy needs. Currently, against the wishes of 350 Louisiana as well as more than 70% of Louisiana residents, Entergy has no plans to include renewable sources of electricity in their portfolio. To ensure fossil fuels remain in the ground where they belong, City Council should mandate a provision that 20% of the city’s electricity should be met by renewable sources by 2020. Entergy’s plan was supposed to be set back in October but luckily, City Council is pushing back on Entergy due to their fossil-fuel-heavy portfolio—but they need to hear from you, their constituents, to ensure that they keep the pressure on.
On December 12th, we will march from the banks of the Mississippi to the steps of City Hall. We will do this as a 2nd line in honor of the city that we love. We will deliver a message in the form of art that will be waiting for our Councilmembers when they arrive at work on Monday. And there will be many other actions too, before and after the 12th, which will promote this local tactic for solving a global problem.
So, on December 12th, let’s make some noise. Then let’s go home, get some rest, wake up December 13th and make some more noise. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. For those of us whose life essence is tied to this planet on which we live, let’s bang the drums and holler for all we’re worth to keep ourselves alive. Demand action, show appreciation for good policymaking when it happens and condemn the bad policymaking when it happens. Raise the bar, demand more action. Take action in our own lives. Support our friends who may not think much about climate change but who are pursuing their own labors of love and urgency—those who are Fighting for 15, who are biking from NOLA to Angola, whose Black Lives Matter, who are seeking Justice and Beyond, and all the others. Because the success of our fight depends on the success of theirs, and vice versa. Be uplifted, be discouraged, be burnt out, acknowledge your needs, take some time for yourself, be inspired, stand up, live to fight another day.
Fight with love and purpose, and draw strength in each other and in the shady paths under the oak trees and the sparkling bayou waters of this lovely place we call home. Be mindful, be earnest, and make the choice every day to be part of this planet and this humanity.