where’s your head at?

Apologies for the barren desert that has been my blog for the last month or so! Who knew a degree would actually take up most of your time?

This weekend I abandoned ship and took the train and bus home to Wales to try and recover from the month of hell that was coursework, mooting, work and everything law-related. The stability of my surroundings really made me think about what it is I am trying to achieve in this world, and it’s not just me who’s on the reflective path right now. I think almost the whole of the environmental movement are undergoing some self evaluation, even the UK Government is looking at the voting system!

Take me as an example, not even environmentally (for once), but I am studying law, solely to become an environmental lawyer, and there is no other way to do that except completing this degree. However my hellish month made me truly question what I was in it for. Why should I chase after the competitive and inevitably money-minded counterparts who I do my course with? Why should I feel inadequate next to their furtive information gathering and secret smiles on receiving their exam grades? (it is a bit like the UN) And the answer, after much thought (and some relief seeing as I have been working towards this for a while!) was that I want to be able to compete with them because then I know I am representing the environment in the best place possible. I need to be in the upper echelons if I want to create the change I am going to all this effort for. So it really should be worth the effort now, to make sure I get there. I do not however, condone work above everything else, and my bout of evaluation definitely clarified some small but very important priorities.

I am in this movement because I love life and the World that upholds it so much that I can’t bear to see it plundered and destroyed. Without the love for the things that make up my life I lack the core of inspiration that is what I need to convince others of my vision for a green future, and also, the inspiration to keep me going despite setbacks and failures. For me, if I don’t make time for love, music, exploring, food and other pleasures in my life I soon lose the will to live, and in truth, I am contradicting the reasons that I advocate the things that I do!

The UK Youth Climate Coalition is undergoing restructuring having evaluated their effectiveness over the year and a half it has been in existence. The co-directors Emma and Casper are handing over the reigns to give a new direction and focus to the Coalition.

Closer to home the Welsh Youth Forum on Sustainable Development faced up to the reality of whether it really is affecting the lives of young people in Wales. We concluded in the negative, and all of a sudden we have instigated systemic and drastic changes to shake us all up!

350.org are in a period of questioning their next moves, with Copenhagen over and done with, they are questioning whether 350 still the number the world needs to shout about or should they direct their campaigning talents elsewhere?

These are only 3 examples of many, but they are indicative of the vacuum that threatened to exist before Copenhagen, and has not become somewhat of a reality in Britain. Because although a lot of spirits are renewed by the collective efforts Copenhagen inspired, many campaigns were due to end by December 2009. So now what?

This is where you stop, take stock and have a breather to afford yourself more clarity.

Things get stagnant, volunteers and inspiration starts to flag, and without noticing it, you’re just not at the cutting edge where you want to be.

Some of the most important aspects of evaluation include governance structures-is your rep’s/board members/directors/partners/advisory board too impenetrable?! Are you actually doing the things that you say you/your organisation says its doing? How do you know? Do you get feedback from your target audience on your campaigns and methods of communicating messages? If not, maybe you should, because you’ll probably be surprised what hooked them.

I recently caught the biographical drama about Mo Mowlam on TV; having never really known anything about her, I was profoundly moved by Mo’s contribution to the negotiation of peace in Ireland. Her methods unorthodox, and all the while battling with cancer, she battled vile and degrading men, played them at their game and better, and won the nations hearts with her personality and capacity for honesty and modesty. (Not least calling Blair ‘babe’?! When I’m in that position I know I’ve made it.) When the wig that she had to wear got too hot or itchy, she’d whip it off-wherever she was.

One of my favourite quotes is: “If you haven’t been kissed by Mo in Northern Ireland, you must have been running hard in the opposite direction.” Admittedly however, it has been said that she confused her popularity with the public with her political popularity, which waned towards the end of her post in N.Ireland. She was offered posts by Blair that basically were a way to get her out of the way (Mayor of London anyone?), and although no one can guess what the cancer did to her way of thinking and life, if she just had had the capacity to stop and take stock, reassess her successes and failures, and then work on both, her political career could possibly have continued until her death in 2005…who knows.

So what’s in store to reassess for?

2010 is an important year.

Not in the same way that 2009-the year of Copenhagen was said to be, but in a much more tangible sense.

Copenhagen has marked the line that gives us a boundary on which to work on to achieve a global effort to battle climate change-in whatever form that takes, UN or no UN. Copenhagen was seen as this pie-in-the-sky summit that everyone was outwardly pinning all our hopes on so as to try and create a political reality out of a vision, despite being inwardly sceptical of any deal being achieved.

The world’s biggest ever summit of world leaders produced an accord that takes with it countries responsible for 80% of the world’s emissions, compared to the Kyoto Protocol which only has the potential to regulate 30% of global emissions. Significant amounts of money were laid on the table for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries- $30 billion USD between 2010 and 2012. But a lot of this money has been redirected from existing aid budgets! (Yes, inc. Gordon Brown) And nothing legal was in any sense produced, whilst removing the date for a legally binding deal in 2010!

Despite the good and the bad of the accord it has to be acknowledged that this accord was negotiated by a select group called the ‘friends of the chair’. Amounting to a sum total of 24 countries out of the 194 party to the UNFCCC which are supposed to be PART OF THE PROCESS! This move caused an absolute uproar the next morning, as the Danish Government chairing the negotiations brought the accord ‘out of the sky’. Countries like Tuvalu, Bolivia and some other vocal developing countries who hadn’t been involved were outraged that after all these collective negotiations, all the hard work and all-nighters had culminated in a document they were meant to sign that they had had no input into whatsoever.

Surely this is diplomatic suicide on the part of the Danish Government hosting the talks? In consensus (which the UN uses) convening a meeting with the most powerful countries in the room, which form a minority should not be able to drown out the numbers of those left out. Very undemocratically however, currently that is the direction on the UNFCCC. Which is why a lot of people are saying the sheer numbers of countries involved means that an agreement could never feasibly be reached…I understand their view, the anger, hurt and determination on every side was tangible in the plenary halls of Copenhagen, calls for better transparency frequently rang out and disrupted negotiations. The calls were met with impatience from the PM of Denmark who just wanted to ‘get on with the job’. Obviously he will never have a career in diplomacy because he should have realised that countries will not cooperate and participate in negotiations is they do not feel heard or if they disapprove of the process. Trust is the essence of willing participation. Without some serious mediation and ‘team-building’ (I’m not even joking!) I really don’t foresee an ambitious and legally binding deal that includes every country, coming out of Mexico (COP16).

Has the failure of Copenhagen, as the pinnacle of possibility, indicated the need for a change in tactics and process akin to that of UKYCC and WYFSD? Is the lumbering body of the UN capable of accommodating such change? (I would think not having experienced their inabilities and shortfalls so far, but that’s only an observation!)

So where are you at? Bored?

Start by voting to change British Politics: www.power2010.org.uk

Continue by getting involved in the British campaigning discourse: www.38degrees.org.uk is hosting discussions and a consultation on where they campaign next….

If you are interested in attending future UNFCCC negotiations yourself, to support under represented countries, get in touch with us via www.unfairplay.info


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