Global warming, change, disruption: the words to say it... or not

Country : European Union

Tags : Cop 21

How can we write this first article for the start of the COP21, when (we are doing it in advance for the purposes of the translation) we still don't know what will come out of this summit? Where should we start? With messages of friendship and support from all those with whom we have been in contact during these months of Operation Climate. 

From Norway:

“I hope it is not too tough to be in Paris. I have spoken to the Prefecture today and they say that they will probably prohibit the majority of public gatherings around the COP, but we are going to come anyway…”


From Romania:

“Hello, how are you? I am so frightened I no longer know what to feel; sadness, confusion, rage or regret. I hope that you, your family and friends, are well. I am thinking of you.”


From Russia:

“How are you? Send news, especially from L. we are grief-stricken like you. You probably know what we are going through with the passengers from the Saint Petersburg flight. So much pain.”


On 17 November an editorial writer from the New York Times, Paul Krugman, wrote that terrorism could not and would not destroy our civilisation, while global warming could. 



"It's hot. No…"


So, global warming, as Cedric, one of the documentary's video-makers, would say: “It's hot. No, it's a bit more complicated than that. Yes, a bit more complicated.


The words do not have the same meaning for all the Europeans who took part in the making of this film. Global warming? Certainly not for those who told us about floods (they are familiar with the concept of “disruption”) but without any doubt for those witnessing the melting of glaciers.


But the discussions were more complicated with many of the video-makers. Some of them could not see what we were talking about. Often due to lack of information. Sometimes because they were genuinely not witnessing (or conscious of) any change at all. They love their area just as it is.


“It is hot of course, but the sea is there to cool us down and the garden is full of figs at the moment” a young Greek wrote to us. So we sent her some figures documenting how the drought had got worse on her island and how freshwater resources were in decline.



As long as you're happy, that's enough…


But often, especially in eastern countries, our contributors were not familiar with these words, or the objective of the COP21 (whose content there were unaware of): to keep global warming below 2 degrees. Friendly and educational exchanges with Ludmilla (18 years old), from Russia, who thought that two, three or four degrees would not make much of a difference where she lived, where temperatures fell below minus 20 in winter. In scholarly English punctuated by smileys: “Sometimes I wish it were less cold here. Except in summer I must admit, because we also have very high temperatures.”


We asked Europeans to film their corner of paradise that they would not like to see disappear due to climate change. Many chose only to film their corner of paradise. Their corner of paradise. At the risk of undermining a more informed public, they wanted to film what made them happy. That was enough.


But the reluctance or refusal to deal with the issue of climate change can also be explained by the fear that some people had of finding themselves mixed up in scientific or militant considerations in which they do not have complete confidence. Or even that they reject. We therefore had discussions with Europeans who do not believe in surveys about global warming caused by human activities, and who nevertheless love and take care of nature.


Thus, one of our Russo-Georgian contributors:

"There is only one problem. As you are no doubt aware, the concept of climate change and global warming is completely false and has been created by bastards like Al Gore and company to distract our attention from the real problems and to make us give them even more money and power." He went on “so my point could be the danger of seeing our beautiful nature lost because of the crazy race for profit of some people, who cut down our forests and pollute the earth as if their descendants could live on another planet in the universe.”


A young couple from Lithuania finally abandoned shooting their video. "To be honest, we are rather puzzled as to how we could make a video. We don't live by the sea, so we can't really see the consequences of climate change in our region. What we see, is the way in which big farmers leave their footprint on the earth, use too much fertiliser, pollute the water, etc. If it is thought that big farmers cause climate change, then that's another story…"



The private interests that destroy nature


We quickly realised that it was useless and out of place for us to become teachers. For many participants, there was an urgent need to take care of a natural environment that they could see shrinking, polluted.


A young Bulgarian wrote to us: "I love the Pirin Mountains, a unique place protected by UNESCO. Unfortunately, since last year, the Bulgarian Government has been trying to have these mountains removed from the list of sites protected by UNESCO so that it can build ski slopes, ski lifts and hotels, which will destroy the environment [...]. I think that might be an interesting subject for your film: the private interests that destroy nature."


Urban building in cities that are already suffocating, industrial over-fishing that deprives small fishermen of work and the sea of fish, water sources made dangerous by industrial spillages, and over and over again, the intimate pleasure of nature spoilt by domestic waste.


Very quickly, the question whether their videos and witness accounts were or were not part of a documentary devised in the context of this COP21, no longer arose. The indifference to the environment reported by these participants contributes to the causes of global warming. And each of them, on their scale, and each of us, on our level, takes case of nature and fights in whatever way we can.