COP is so much more than just the official negotiations and this became most apparent to me on Thursday when I got caught up in a number of different demonstration events! These events happened over in the Bonn Zone, which has become increasingly vibrant and lively as the week has gone on. The demonstrations covered a diverse range of topics, from gender equality and indigenous rights to natural gas extraction.
The first demonstration I saw was just as I was coming back to the Walker Stand after grabbing a coffee. On the main stage in the Bonn Zone a large group were doing aerobic exercises, each illustrating a key demand of Woman and Gender Constituency at the UNFCCC for the gender action plan being worked on at this COP. Although the main goal was to raise awareness of the different climate issues related to gender, it also looked like a pretty good work out!
Later in the afternoon, I heard chanting from across the exhibition Zone. A group had gathered with banners and placards to share stories about natural gas extraction. The group was made up of a number of local organisations that are protesting natural gas extraction or pipelines in their local communities. This included representatives from Mozambique, Catalonia and, a group particularly close to my heart, Frack Free Lancashire. Using some catchy chants and the power of storytelling this group attracted quite a crowd. The stories they told were about the exploitation of local communities, the disregard for local human health and the putting of profits before people by large multi-national corporations and governments. Although a climate change issue, with many countries suggesting the use of natural gas as a “transition fuel”, this issue clearly illustrates the intersection with many other issues such as land rights, water safety and local pollution.
Just as I was about to wander off for back to the stand someone whipped out a little drum and we were led to join another demonstration by the main stage. This was organised by the indigenous youth group with the aim to raise awareness of the way that indigenous people are treated in these climate negotiations. They wanted to illustrate the feeling of not having a voice and the tokenistic nature of their involvement in the COP process. The tag line of the demonstration was “Pass the Mike” so that non-indigenous people were not presuming to speak on behalf of indigenous people but letting them tell their own stories. To do this we all got in a circle with the non-independent people’s mouths taped shut saying “Decolonise”. Going with that theme I don't want to give my hashed interpretation of their experience of the event so suggest you check out the twitter accounts of Kera O'Regan ,Te Ara Whatu and Indigenous Environment Network . But I do want to say that I personally felt this was a very powerful statement on the very real human effects of climate change that are happening right now but often feel a million miles away when you're sat at your research desk or in a nice negation room.