This post by Susie Crate is part a series from the members of the AAA delegation at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany.
Wow! COP 23, not unlike the previous COPs I have attended, is a powerhouse of energy, ideas, inspiration and community! At first it is overwhelming with so much going on, not only in the designated places but also in between them. And yes, critics talk about how awful we are for flying here, but I would argue that we actually offset all the carbon we generate coming here by all the good work we are inspired to do once we are here and when we return to the ‘real’ world.
But enough of that . . . and more about knowledge and ways of knowing. It is clear to me how desperately almost every aspect of the COP needs to engage anthropology—all these scientists, policymakers, academics, activists, NGOs, and other stakeholders, working to bring about the goals of the Paris Agreement—but with little, if any, ability to talk across their areas of expertise. Perhaps more importantly, many are clearly having issues communicating with their constituents on the ground where they need to be bringing the goals into reality.
Take for example the Blue Carbon panel I attended today. The representative of the ecology ministry was talking about their country’s challenges not just in bringing back the mangroves that were removed by the big corporate fishing interests decades ago, but also in explaining to the present day fishers, both artisanal and commercial, what their efforts will be to protect and enhance their blue carbon resources. Similarly, I went to a session called ‘Water Knowledge to Respond to Climate Uncertainty,’ because I thought they would be talking about how local communities had valuable knowledge about their water systems and precipitation that enhances scientific understanding (yes I am naïve)—but turned out they were discussing how to get people to understand the science. In short—there is a lot going on here but we also have so far to go . . .
Susie Crate is a professor of anthropology in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University.