The title is an acknowledgement that more than just the US is playing a role here at COP17. Some of the most vocal and straightforward public statements have been made by South American and Caribbean nations, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and Grenada. These nations are not often shined upon by American media, and partly because of this, I did not expect they would play a large role in Durban. One of the more interesting aspects of the COP process is that every nation gets to be here and has a voice.
Today was my second day in Durban and began with an adventure trying to reach the COP17 registration area. Theoretically, there are shuttles to the conference center and other buses, including the fascinating option Paul and I took: the mini-bus. Essentially if you crossed a taxi with a bus, you’d get the mini-bus in South Africa. They sort of have a set route, but have flexibility in where they go and if they make a stop. Maybe 15 people can squeeze in the vans, which all seem around 10 years old and have various defects. In my case, the door could only be opened from the outside and seat belts were sparse. Primarily locals utilize this service, I’m guessing because tourists usually don’t stumble upon them, or potentially fear them. Our driver put on a show by zipping between lanes and drifting forward and then swerving away from the pedestrians scattered along sidewalks and medians. This is definitely a different form of transportation than we encounter in the U.S., and I’m thinking it is a slightly lower carbon option than personal driving. Whether it is worth the risk, I can’t say.
Last Wednesday, young people across Minnesota participated in a statewide call-in day for clean air. Over 400 people picked up their phones to thank Senator Klobuchar for voting against Senator Paul’s recent dirty air initiative and to urge her to continue to reject further attacks.
Jonathan Pershing’s secretary is from Eagan, MN and we had lots to chat about before Sharon said: “let me look at Jonathan’s schedule, can you come in Monday morning at 9 am?” We cleared security, got three latecomers approved and Sharon ushered us to the meeting room. A few minutes later Dr. Pershing (who received his PhD from the University of MN) greeted us. I reminded him of our meeting in Cancun at COP 16 last December. I started the meeting by confirming our 20 minute time allotment (he ended up giving us 40) and each of us gave 2-3 minutes of heartfelt testimony about why we were in D.C. for the Tar Sands action and that we were here to represent the ‘call to action’ from thousands of Minnesotans through our newly established MN350 network, including the Will Steger Foundation, Cool Planet, Citizens Climate Lobby, and MN Interfaith Power and Light.
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