Are we so blinded and hardened that we cannot appreciate the cries of humanity?

People holding hands around a tree
November 03, 2021

Photo Credit: TJ Watt

Are We so Blinded and Hardened that we Cannot Appreciate the Cries of Humanity?

It is Day Three of my witness as a member of the For the Love of Creation and the United Church of Canada delegation to COP26 and I must confess that my heart is heavy and my mind somewhat overwhelmed! “Are we so blinded and hardened that we cannot appreciate the cries of humanity?” (Mia A. Mottley, PM of Barbados)

Given all the statements that we have heard over the past two days from both wealthy and poor nations, large and small by both population and land mass, about the urgency and tipping points, you might think that at last we have understood the crisis, repent and want to change our past ways!!!!

As Mia A. Mottley, said clearly yesterday, “Leaders must not fail… do we have the resolve today to make the changes or do we say it’s failed before we have started and leave Glasgow to continue as before?” In many situations I am an optimist but today I feel the outrage and disappointment that many people in the world must feel. I don’t want to say that I think Glasgow will be a failure as it is only Day 3 and surely everyone gets the urgency but…

I am witnessing this global meeting through the eyes and lens of my computer as I sit holding a cup of tea, with a lighted candle, during the wee hours of the night on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen speaking people. As official observers we are not able to witness and hear all the high level meetings but we are listening to many of them on the ‘inside’. We as a team are also watching and trying to follow what is going on ‘outside’ the meetings. This COP has over 20,000 people registered as negotiators and officials, 13,000 as observers (like us) and thousands I hear are on the outside trying to get inside or doing their best to raise a counter narrative to the stories being told on the inside. Words are being spoken both inside and outside – which words are true? which words are being heard? which words will my grandson tell of this time?

As an activist for much of my life I have been honoured to meet land and water defenders, both indigenous and non-indigenous from around the world. I have seen the ecological devastation of gold mines in Guatemala, tailing ponds from fracked gas, and active logging of old growth forests just down the road from where I live on Vancouver Island. I have heard sibling activists tell us about the violence and injustices when corporations come into their communities to mine, build factories, or hydroelectric dams.

Today the ‘inside’ sessions were filled with pledges of billions of dollars, partnerships and net zero goals. Words like mitigation, adaptation, ambition, pathways, carbon emissions, integrated management, technology, commitment and even ‘low hanging fruits’!

As a tree hugger from a long way back and very much an advocate for the trees, I was keenly interested to hear that many of the sessions would be about forests and land use. Indeed many of the pledges today were for money to stop deforestation and some even for partnerships with Indigenous people and forest management. I don’t want to be cynical but I suppose I am. This is how I feel today about my observations of the ‘inside’.

I am forever grateful for all those leaders of small and larger struggling nations who are brave enough to stand at these meetings to share their ‘truths’ of devastation and losses facing them from climate change. I am even more grateful for all those people on the ‘outside’ of the meetings who are saying we need system change now and will continue to do this and work towards the human and ecological justice our world so desperately needs long after Glasgow meetings end.

I will light a candle again tomorrow, Day 4, and listen keenly for words like ‘net-positive’!

Listen to Mia Mottley’s, Prime Minister of Barbados speech

Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados speaks at COP26 Opening Ceremonies (Credit: COP26 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Janet Gray is attending COP26 virtually as a member of the joint United Church of Canada and For the Love of Creation virtual delegation to COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

You can follow the delegation #UCCanCOP26 and #FLCCOP26 and check back here for more personal reflections from the delegates in the coming days.