London and Paris here I come

The international climate change talks (COP21) kick off this coming week, signalled by marches all over the world today and tomorrow. I’ve just been looking at photos of the mass movement in Wellington on the opposite side of the world, and linking up with people I know who are going to the one in London tomorrow.

I’ve been to a couple of climate marches before (both in London) and have always loved it because of the atmosphere. It has felt so positive and full of energy. I’m hoping this one will be no different. I can’t help worrying a bit with the recent attacks in paris a) putting some people off and b) changing the feel a bit. However, there’s no point worrying. We’ve just got to keep on with showing our governments how much support and call that there is for them to act for us all to achieve the ambitious agreement we need.

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I have spent a few evenings this week researching the civil society activities going on while I am in Paris between Friday 4th and Tuesday 8th December. I’m really excited having never been to a COP (Conference of the Parties) before. I decided I just couldn’t miss this one with it being so close to where I live and not having to fly to it. It will be great to learn about the different initiatives and efforts towards tackling climate change around the world, all within one city.

My Friday evening and Saturday in Paris will mostly involve helping at the International Alliance of Research Universities’ (IARU) Climate Forum. Students from the ten different institutions part of this network (including the University of Cambridge, where I’m working now) will present their ideas for improving the sustainability of their respective universities. The idea is to share ideas, challenges, lessons, meet each other and create greater mutual motivation to implement and achieve their ideas.

On Saturday evening I will go to the Pathway to Paris concert with singers and speakers including Thom Yorke, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Patti Smith and lots more which is pretty exciting. From then on I’ll be playing it by ear but have in mind the following list of events and exhibitions:

Earth to Paris event

The Global Village of climate-friendly alternatives

Climate Generation Areas (COP21’s official space for civil society)

If Not Us Then Who talks

Solutions COP21

Place to B events

Whatever is going on in the negotiating spaces, I’m hoping the focus on civil society will be inspiring, and allow me to share and meet with others and hear more about the various grassroots and non-governmental efforts towards climate change. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some of those on here in the next couple of weeks!

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Speaking about my trip in Cambridge…

On Tuesday 28th April, I will be giving a short talk about my trip, the people I met, initiatives I came across and lessons I learnt. If you want to come along, please do. Details below:

Tuesday 28th April | 18.30-19.30 | Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall | https://www.facebook.com/events/1576068459316888/

You are invited to attend a short talk by Emily Dunning, who has just returned from a 6-month trip to New Zealand, via the Trans-Mongolian Expressway, China and Japan and a few other countries in-between. She has been meeting people working on sustainability initiatives, particularly those inspiring others to take action. They vary from youth climate action groups in Taiwan to clean-up events in Russia to the social enterprise ethos inspiring change in Japan.

Expect half an hour of sharing some of her stories, introducing some of the people she met and the lessons she has learnt, then half an hour to engage in conversation about what it means for you, and the activities going on in Cambridge and the UK.

Who’s it for?
– Anyone interested in grassroots sustainability worldwide
– Those who want to hear about social enterprise in other countries
– Anyone wanting inspiration for travel
– Anyone who is a bit dissatisfied with where they’re at right now needing that gentle nudge to do something different.

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Lessons learnt, experiences in summary

A longer reflection on the headlines below can be found on the Centre for Social Innovation blog

At the risk of sounding clichéd, travelling really does re-instil the goodness of human nature.

It is difficult to live in the here and now.

Culture, society and infrastructure significantly affect how easy it is to be green.

Most common response to the greatest challenge of those working towards environmental sustainability? “Money”.

Most common response to how behaviour change is measured? “It’s difficult!”/”It’s a work in progress”.

What first motivates people to take action on environmental issues? Varied BUT common themes – teacher/parent/friend, nature, seeing injustice, having children.

And the most important three of all:

Individuals really can and do make significant changes.

Individuals who do make changes are empowered, confident, and believe in their ability to make a difference.

Connecting with others is key for creating wide-spread change.

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Events galore today

I’m on my way to London at the moment to go to two conferences:

This Changes Everything – a swish-looking event based around Naomi Klein’s book, creating a space for people from different social & environmental movements to join together.

New Directions for Local Action – a collaborative event between a few NGOs involved in campaigning, providing training and workshops around local movement building.

They are within walking distance from each other so I’m intending to flit between both!

Hopefully I’ll be feeling inspired and motivated to be part of plans leading up to the Paris climate change conference in November by the end of the day.

Wrapping up

Getting in touch with everyone I have met on this trip…
Dear all,
I hope this email finds you well.
My trip has come to an end and I am now back in the UK – it has been a phenomenal journey, all thanks to all of you who I met along the way.
I am currently reviewing and rounding up all that I learnt, and putting together some final outcomes.
I wanted to get back in touch with each of you, for a number of reasons:
- to maintain our connection, and to reiterate to get in touch if any of you come to the UK in future – it would be great to see you again!
- to ask if there is any useful follow up you would like us to have (e.g. for me to share some of my experiences with you that might be particularly relevant to your circumstances/initiative, to promote again what you are doing through my networks, or something else I might be able to help with!)
- to offer to link you up with any organisations/initiatives I have met elsewhere that are particularly relevant/useful to what you are doing (note I will only do this on agreement of both sides).
More than anything else, this trip has taught me the importance of sharing and of linking up and staying in touch with others working towards shared aims – it is the way real change happens and spreads, how positive actions take root, and, as far as I can see, it’s the way we will move from small pockets of fantastic things happening to full-scale sustainable living.
It has been a privilege to meet every one of you and to learn about the contexts you are working in, the challenges you are facing, the great things you are achieving, but most of all the drive with which you are acting. I hope you all continue to have great success.
With so many incredible people working on these efforts, I feel more positive about the challenges we are all trying to overcome, and more motivated to keep working on them. I hope that these words convey the inspiration you have all given me, and I hope I can reflect it back to give you extra motivation too!
Thank you for meeting with me, and please keep in touch.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Emily
@changeseeking

Inspiration a long way from here

After travelling through Siberia, feeling quite far away, it was fantastic to find a hub of activity going on around environmental action in Irkutsk. Two of the people leading in this area are Svetlana and Lubov who have so much positive energy running through their veins. Unsurprisingly they have been making lots happen. You can read a brief summary of their initiatives here: http://www.seekthechange.org/profiles/russia/eco-idea/

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