Quaker Universalist Conversations

A Quaker View of Cancun and Climate Change

The January-February issue of Befriending Creation, the bi-monthly newsletter of Quaker Earthcare Witness, is now mounted on the QEW web site <http://www.quakerearthcare.org>. . . . Its lead article, written by Mary Gilbert, QEW representative to the United Nations, reports on the Quaker experience at the recent Cancun conference, “where the negotiating atmosphere was much more positive and participatory than last year’s contentious and frustrating summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.”
According to Gilbert:

The difference in atmosphere this time was due largely to Mexico’s Patricia Espinoza, who, as the new President of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), made sure that observers like me and Judy Lumb (also with QEW) could attend every plenary meeting right up to the final meetings on the final day. Espinoza repeatedly promised “no secret meetings” and “no surprise text” in Cancun. . . . Over our two weeks in Cancun we saw a real change in mood, from angry suspicion, “…we will see if you are for real!” to repeated standing ovations when Espinoza entered. A palpable sense of trust had grown.  Even low-lying countries and the small island states (some of which are already making plans to move whole populations because of sea-level rise and storm events), mountainous countries losing their glaciers, and nations already experiencing serious drought, were on board with the compromises.

Only Bolivia remained outside the agreement because the agreed document endorses a rise of up to 2°C, and if industrial nations live up to current pledges we can expect an increase of 4°C. Bolivia called this “genocide” and “ecocide.” (A fuller statement of Bolivia’s reasons is at http://pwccc.wordpress.com/.)

And Gilbert writes on the presence of other Quakers:

Judy Lumb and I both became fast friends, in both senses, with three Bolivian Quakers, Juan Yujra Ticona, Ruben Hilare, and Magaly Quispe, who were part of our delegation. We are now “family.”

A symbolic planting of 193 trees, one for each country, took place on the grounds of the Moon Palace, where negotiations were held. Planners provided national flags for each tree, and nationals from each country did the planting. Judy planted the tree for Belize—where she currently lives—and the Bolivians planted the tree for Bolivia.

Twice I walked in street demonstrations with the landless farmers’ movement, Via Campesina, and other grassroots groups. Some of these folks, for good reasons, were very hostile about the negotiations, and there was some violent rhetoric.

We found and used a meditation room, and later a meditation garden enhanced by the sound of falling water. Our group of five was not able to gather with the other Quakers who were there, but we did run into them individually.