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COP26 – a daily reflection

COP26 day 13. The End is Nigh….or maybe not

COP26, and after a frenetic fortnight it’s the (intended) final day of negotiations and drafting…though these are already looking like going far into the night, and perhaps tomorrow and further.

Some are calling the COP a failure, others saying that it’s to be greeted with ‘cautious optimism’ – that the mere fact that some things are on the table, albeit with watery commitments, is a significant step forward.

Either way, it’s clearly not going to be enough to secure a safe and thriving future for us, and our cohabitants on the planet; we passed that point some time back.

What has been very beautiful is the commitment of campaigners and activists, relentlessly and sometimes joyfully laying their passion – and sometimes themselves – on the line in the interests of climate justice. Not for them the bloodless protestations that we can, with a few tweaks, ‘preserve our way of life’ (who is this ‘we’, you speak of, Global Northern male? a miniscule proportion of the planet). And is that really a worthwhile ambition?

What has happened to you, you decision-makers and ‘leaders’? What has happened to you, wealthy narcissists who believe that the values of humanity and respect for this world don’t apply to you? You poor souls, you seem to be…what’s the opposite of evolving – devolving, or regressing, or otherwise retreating back into some sort of spiritual primordial slime, I guess.

If you align your power with the money you control, the businesses, the lives, you give an immense hostage (yourselves) to fortune. When those things betray you, there is nothing to rely on.

Many of us, ordinary people, made the same mistakes along the way, even if we didn’t find ourselves elevated on that particular value scale to your own heady heights; most people, perhaps, still do. Normalising the acquisitiveness, normalising the defensiveness.

Who has done this damage to you? Who has led you to believe that you’re only worth something, worthwhile, worthy, if you have money and status and control over people and events?…..That’s such a fragile “strength”, and as a human you can be so much more. When you’re ready – and please, sooner rather than later, but it has to be when YOU are ready – come and join us.

Join those of us who are learning that strength doesn’t have to depend on control; that we can enjoy the true pleasures of life – community, connection, the security that comes of knowing that there are people who’ll help if you need it; a lungful of forest air, or (if you’re me) a lungful of sea water when you’re wild swimming…the love and fealty of a dog; the recognition of a thought, in a well-written book. The smile of someone you’ve helped. The joy of ‘wasting’ (and there ain’t no such thing) an afternoon…..

Sometimes I flirt with anger, at the economic power you control yet refuse to share or even use well, because you’re too scared and because your egos rely on it.

And sometimes – sometimes – I feel a pang of pity. Because there’s a world, or maybe I mean a life, on offer – right here in the here and now – where people are learning to look their vulnerabilities in the face; to step into, and through, their fears for themselves and their children in a climate-addled future. And to decide that, whatever the outcomes – perhaps now beyond anyone’s control, there’s always a good reason to do the right thing. Not just because it feels better, or because it helps someone else, but because it just is. And because it is, we are.

COP26 Day 11. Talking Transport, but Heading the Wrong Way

There aren’t too many people still feeling enthusiastic about how the negotiations are going – well, aside from those set to profit from initiatives to ‘green’ the economy, though this seems to mean a colour similar to that of faded dollar bills.

It’s deeply depressing to read of the creation of a new financial vehicle – the ‘Natural Asset Company’, which will ‘hold
the rights to the ecosystem services produced on a given chunk of land, services like carbon sequestration or clean water.
‘ That’s an estimated $4 quadrillion worth of assets, or commodified nature, so far apparently….and it’s being touted as a route to a more sustainable economy.

It’s not.

Attempts to put a monetary value on nature aren’t new: for decades now, there have been attempts to price the value of various aspects of the environment…from the worth of bees and other pollinators to the agricultural industry, in pollinating food crops, to the heavy lifting that plants do in cleaning our water and air.

But to decide on nature’s ‘worth’ in terms of money alone is dangerously reductive…we all know that the things that really matter aren’t to be commoditised, whether we’re talking about love or companionship, a beautiful view, a moment of peace, a feeling of security – or indeed the complex interactions of the mycelia under our feet.

Just as GDP growth is a numbskulled, one-dimensional, outdated 1980’s way of measuring ‘progress’, so is any effort to express the worth of the environment in monetary terms. It sees nature as being of no more than its utility value to mankind, which is both narcissistic and stupid; much of the time, we don’t yet even understand the benefits we derive from being part of the beautiful, unfathomably complex system that sustains us. So – if we misprice it, what then? As a former fund manager, I’m acutely aware of the risks of mispricing assets; someone always has to pay. The stakes, when it comes to our planet, are much, much higher, and there will be many many people footing that bill.

In any event, I don’t even want to call manifestations of nature ‘resources’, because that reduces them to more stuff for us to use up and dispose of. But even if they were, should not (and morally cannot) be up for sale. If they ‘belong’ to anyone, they belong to us all – and most of all those who’ve tended the land, managed their carbon outputs, loved nature as one would love one’s dearest. This latest sleight of hand is a theft of the Earth’s bounty, an attempt to create scarcity of common ‘goods’ like breathable air and drinkable water, things that should be (that within living memory have been) both abundant and free.

Next they’ll be putting a price on our freedom of thought….

You can see an external report from ‘Unlimited Hangout’ below: some aspects of how NACs will be operated have yet to emerge.

COP26 Day 10: Today the Focus is on Gender

…but I used up my (well, Janet Lees’) poem referencing some gender issues on Sunday night. It’s a fact that the world over, women are worst affected by austerity, climate chaos and much more…it’s a fact.

But I used it up. So instead, here’s a wonderful interview with DAF’s recently-appointed Facilitators’ Coordinator, Igor Polskiy: https://cometogether.me/igor-polskiy-biocentric-paradigm-shift-compassionate-action-and-post-crisis-hope/.

In it, Igor is interviewed by DAF’s David Baum – who’s well known for so gracefully and thoughtfully MC’ing many DAF and other interviews, including the Core Team’s periodic Facebook Live events. This interview with Igor is a beautiful discussion, with David eliciting his views on what it means to be human in the face of collapse what we can do…and why radical hope can flood in once we relinquish ‘hope’ in outcomes that are increasingly improbable.

It’s a terrific, insightful listen. Give your ears a treat.

https://cometogether.me/igor-polskiy-biocentric-paradigm-shift-compassionate-action-and-post-crisis-hope/

COP 26 Day 9: The Day After the Day of Rest


Do I know what I feel, and do I feel what I know? These question arose as I pondered the Conference of Parties’ formal day off yesterday, on November 7, 2021.


Having been raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, the notion that Sunday is a day of rest came quickly to mind. I don’t belong to a religious denomination – my reflection on Day 7 was an attempt at the ‘sacred’ point of view I hold. It seemed that metaphysical considerations were in the ether, and when the spirit moves you….


I meditate with my eyes open, letting my surroundings envelop me. When successful it’s a full-body experience, a sort of communion with the houseplants, the cats, and all that passes by out the window. What I know in those moments is not consciously held in my eyes, or brain, or body. It’s a peaceful sense of hugely expansive and encompassing boundaries. What I know/feel the rest of the time – moving through daily life and making decisions – tends not to be restful at all.


This bears on Deep Adaptation in that we are most definitely not going to think our way out of this predicament, and neither are those supposedly making decisions in Glasgow. As the unpredicted begets the unexpected we’re going to be forced to feel our way forward. We don’t need one day of rest, but a wealth of time to practice embracing the present, exactly as it is, in a community that includes and encompasses all the others.


To those pursuing mitigation strategies and negotiated goals, this suggestion may seem wildly impractical. However, adaptation, at heart, prepares and strengthens our ability to move gracefully in every direction. We need to take more days off, and use them to rest up, and to practice, because whatever happens next is going to take every ounce of our fortitude and spirit.


P.S. If the day of rest in your culture includes a habit of tithing, please remember that this community is shepherded by the Deep Adaptation Forum. For more information and to donate, please visit https://opencollective.com/deep-adaptation-forum

Day 8 of COP26: a day of rest

Today, Sunday, is a day off for the negotiators and other formal invitees to COP26 in Glasgow. Doubtless it’ll be much needed; whilst we’ve heard some encouraging statements, lots of details still need to be hammered out. Will it result in good outcomes, or will it all be just hot air? As with anything complex, woven through with vested interests, the truth will probably be somewhere in that in-between space.

So it seems a good time to share with you this pointed, poignant poem by DAF’s very own poetry editor, and acclaimed poet in her own right, Janet Lees. Thank you, Janet!

Hot air

At the talks, an invisible woman listens

to standing stones of men. They come 

from far north where the land bleeds oil.

They make the air hot with their busy mouths.

Their breath finds its way into pipes and wires, 

into the lungs of the woman. 

She carries it back to her tinderbox village, 

where the earth’s bones jut through its skin,

scorching the feet of children who walk for water

attended by birds wearing funeral suits. 

She opens her mouth to speak 

and the oil men’s heat comes out. 

Her neighbour’s boy David takes it full force;

a blowtorch stripping his pea-stick bones. 

The hot squall travels fast, opening cracks 

that eat elephants whole, sucking the earth’s 

burned skin up to the edge of space, 

where it turns to dust and drifts back down 

onto graves full of sticks marked only by stones – 

no trace of the words that served as spades.

Janet Lees, https://janetlees.weebly.com/. Originally published in the Planet in Peril anthology, Fly on the Wall Press (https://www.flyonthewallpress.co.uk/planet-in-peril)

Day 7: Who exactly is paying attention to COP26?


Today’s theme in Glasgow is Nature, and yet such framing falls into the exact same trap that is the cause of our predicament. Setting this thing we call ‘Nature’ above or outside or separate from the realm of the human species is a seductive trick of the intellect. Nature – that thing over there on other side of window, the fence, the road. As if we are not part and parcel of this interdependent living entity we call Earth! As if Earth had nothing to do with the rise of every being that shares this place with her and each other.


Who exactly is paying attention to COP? We posit that Nature is not. Whales are busy embodying the essences of whalehood, mushrooms are mushrooming to their rhizomatic content, rivers and oceans are making estuary wherever they meet, and so on. Yet, conversely, Nature is the only one paying attention, as the logic and good sense of the paragraph above indicates. COP is simply a manifestation of humans being human as only the Earth would have us be. Some of us care about what’s happening, a sizeable number of our species are fully occupied keeping their families warm and fed, and others simply don’t give a rat’s ass about or are actively opposing the endeavor. All of this must be Earth’s preference right now, contrary though it seems.


So, COP will inevitably disappoint those humans paying attention…and so what. A horrific extinction event is in full swing, and yet every new day is also a Cambrian explosion of eros, abundance, and vitality which will continue day in and out for a few billion years more. Internalizing our place within such ‘Nature’ is an opportunity to (re)learn that only we can take care of ourselves – and ‘ourselves’ equals all that we categorize as human and Nature and whales and mushrooms and tidal estuaries.


Many activities organized by Deep Adaptation Forum aim to help foster this understanding, including Earth Listening, Wider Embraces, Deep Relating, and numerous others listed at DeepAdaptation.info/events. ‘We’ in the DA community appreciate the effort that ‘you’ make to enable and embody the interdependence at the heart of ‘our’ mutual flourishing. Onward to COP Day #8 and to every other capital-D day that is yet to come.

Day 6: Here’s what we wish for you, here’s what we need of you

Apologies for the couple of days’ hiatus, unfortunately I got myself stranded on what we Manxies call “the other island”; but we never, ever call “the mainland”. But I’ve been following the COP26, and no doubt some of you have too. It’s an up-and-down journey, isn’t it….? Today was all about young people, and some immense gatherings took place. In several cases, we’re seeing better ‘leadership’ – if for the minute we take that to mean inspiring and motivating others and modelling inclusive, meaningful action – from these youngsters than we are from some of the so-called grownups.

I was thinking about that when I attended a daily gathering and vigil this morning, to hold all those in Glasgow (decision-makers, negotiators and campaigners) in our hearts for comfort, courage and compassion. Even if you suspect, as I do, that there’ll be more ‘noise than signal’ and plenty of headlines with scant detail behind them….even then, even then their wholeheartedness deserves care. All that fragile hope, courage and love. And they will be heard.

In any event, we ended this morning’s vigil with a perfect blessing, for those negotiating at COP26. It was John O’Donohue’s ‘A Blessing for One Who Holds Power’. Below, you’ll find a recording of the man himself reading his own work; following that, the text. Enjoy, and if you practice that kind of faith, perhaps wish it on those who need it most….

A blessing for one who holds power

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,

Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,

May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

When the way is flat and dull in times of grey endurance,

May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.

When thirst burns in times of drought,

May you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have the wisdom to read time clearly

And to know when the seed of change will flourish.

In your hear may there be a sanctuary

For the stillness where clarity is born
May your work be infused with passion and creativity

And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.

May your soul find the graciousness

To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell

wherein our heart would silently atrophy.

May you welcome your own vulnerability

as the ground where healing and truth join.

May the integrity of soul be your first ideal,

the source that will guide and bless your work.

John O’Donohue: taken from his book, Benedictus...available here: https://www.johnodonohue.com/store

Day 3: …and then they went home.

Today, the third day of the COP, was also the second part of the World Leaders’ Summit. There were impassioned speeches, some commitments, some disappointments. If these are our leaders, where are they taking us? Who knows, but most of them have now ‘done their bit’ and are safely ensconced on their private jets, headed for home whilst the talks move from rhetoric to horsetrading.

Many DAF community members see the process of making changes on the scale needed as an ‘inside job’ – that right living can help people to do right things, regardless of (and unattached to) the outcomes. For me, the hermeneutician Raimon Panikkar sums this up beautifully in his “nine sutras to live by”. He says:

“I have given myself nine rules, or sutras:
1. Begin with myself (not trying to change others).
2. Begin within myself (hence, without impetus from outside).
3. Open myself to the whole of reality (not a ‘specialized’ spirituality).
4. Begin where I myself am…no waiting for the ideal point of departure. For eg: once I have money, once I get married etc…
5. Do not consider the consequences. Here one needs a pure heart: otherwise one will be afraid. No one can calculate all consequences ahead of time, not even a computer.
6. Be in solidarity – hence not in isolation. Solitude need not mean isolation. Solidarity can mean group, family, friends, whatever.
7. Be self-motivated – hence, without outside help, without predetermination, without a fixed goal. The true self can never be motivated by a goal!
8. Be non-violent – not straining the will, not wanting to overcome anything. Otherwise one is merely repressing constantly.
9. ALWAYS MAKE A FRESH START!”

As these ‘leaders’ fly home, entrusting the next stages to their delegates, may the ongoing negotiations be conducted in a spirit of solidarity, an openness to our current reality, and a willingness to start afresh from right where we find ourselves now.

Day 2: The World Leaders’ Summit is the main item on COP26’s agenda today

What does ‘leadership’ look like, at a gathering invested with so much at stake and so many vested interests?

We’d suggest that it means starting with honesty. Can our leaders and negotiators be brave enough to state the truth of our current predicament – including the centuries of appalling behaviour on the part of an entitled minority which have contributed to this predicament, and left the poorest least well placed to cope? To date, clearly not: this is the 26th such meeting and at the moment, the trajectory’s still in the wrong direction.

In the Deep Adaptation Forum, we believe in facing difficult and sometimes uncomfortable truths – about the state of the world, and about ourselves. Our objective is to (learn to) do this with courage, compassion and respect, and to support one another in learning and unlearning many things on a journey towards cooperation, resilience and justice.

Leadership in crises such as these often looks different to that which passes for it in the corporate world. Rather than relying on confident, educated, charismatic and often entitled individuals, it can revolve around a different model: this was highlighted in a recent blog post where we reviewed Professor Jonathan Gosling’s contribution to the new book edited by Professors Jem Bendell and Rupert Read, “Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Change”. (You can read it here). Professor Gosling speaks eloquently of the need for leaders blessed with humility – the humility to listen and learn from others, to recognize their own limitations, and indeed to relinquish their role when the time is right. May all of those leading us through the climate negotiations in Glasgow be blessed with that humility.

Day 1: The Opening of the Meeting.

Today, 31 October 2021, is the opening day of the 26th Conference of the Parties on climate change (COP26). It’s taking place in Glasgow, and the city is jam-packed. Colleagues and friends are speaking of crowded streets, difficulty in getting around, and everywhere excited reunions as old allies meet in an atmosphere which is a heady mix of high hopes and muted expectations.

The run-up to the event has been full of drama; will the Australians go? Will China? And what of those who can’t be there, but should be – thwarted by costs, travel restrictions and COVID isolation requirements, some of the world’s most affected states, such as Vanuatu, look unlikely to be able to send their highest-level government delegates. This compromises their chances of a good outcome.

COP26 is being touted as a ‘last chance’ for world leaders to agree to the changes that are so desperately needed. Well – maybe, and maybe it’s not. But today, we in the Deep Adaptation Forum (www.deepadaptation.info) hold on to the hope that all parties – especially those holding the lion’s share of the power – will negotiate with honesty, goodwill and commitment, mindful of the needs of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Each day we’ll post a comment on what’s happening at COP26.

climate change, COP26

Comment

  • Regarding day 6, a web of concerns has been published by Vijay Prasad, of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research. He notes that agriculture, in the sense of food production, got short shrift.
    “The organizers of COP26 designated themes for many of the days during the conference, such as energy, finance, and transport. There was no day set aside for a discussion of agriculture; instead, it was bundled into “Nature Day” on Nov. 6, during which the main topic was deforestation.”

    https://thetricontinental.org/newsletterissue/agricultural-technology/

    It’s been over ten years since I was at an international conference. That one concerned the international response to ordinary people’s cries for the removal of un-exploded ordnance, and a cease to the manufacture of cluster munitions, an especially cruel and stupid armament. As a result, I’m superficially familiar with the lobbying of governments by NGOs, but looking back at that meeting of States Parties, I recall no interaction between NGOs and the corporate players who manufacture weapons and who fought indirectly against the global treaty banning cluster munitions, through government lobbying elsewhere. It seems as though the corporate representatives were plentiful, though, at COP26.

    Deforestation and industrial agriculture are ‘overshoot phenomena’. Prasad argues that COP26 outcomes regarding agriculture are dominated by governments and corporations with little concern for traditional or indigenous practices of harvesting food. He spotlights one proposal put by the USA and UAE, called AIM4C (Aim for Climate).

    At the launch of AIM4C, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak expresses a need to be able to profitably feed ~9 billion people by 2050 – he says this at about 3:50 on the video below.

    https://www.aimforclimate.org/#uae-pavilion-cop26-aim-for-climate

    Watching this video leads me to suggest that direct engagements by activists with ‘overshooting’ businesses must begin and/or continue. Secretary Vilsak is no doubt lobbied continuously by agribusiness giants, and his announcement at Glasgow reflects the outcomes of that work.

    I see the need to start conversations with the agribusinesses that appear mainly focused on profits and annual reports that affect their patterns of financial instrument transactions. At present, lobbying by activists concerned about overshoot appears aimed toward governments. I appreciate how difficult it is to lobby profit-focused entities, from my experience in the late 70s with a uranium miner, whose AGM we entered, a lot of us, with one share each. Our ‘majority’ made good press, but did not affect the balance of stock holdings. One of the board’s comments was that they were not a democracy

    For those of us who have the time, the opportunity and the resilience, I believe it is worth the gamble to widen the focus of lobbying by approaching agribusinesses (and other ‘overshooting profit-oriented corporate entities), and their representatives directly, to explain our concerns. My understanding is, that wasn’t possible at COP26. I hope it happens post-COP26, and bears fruit by COP27. Twitter and LinkedIn seem like direct routes to individuals within these organisations, for those of us too far from the administrative centres.

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