The city, any city, is a tool that society created for its people. It is the space for citizens to come together and become a force of power. Each city is symbolic in its own way because, as human beings dwelling within them, we are the ones that construct their meaning.
After the climate marches, society has reconstructed the meaning of cities like Paris, Zurich, London, Sidney, Beirut, Sao Paolo, Bargny, Oslo, Manila and even Aleppo. Today, thanks to their participation in the marches, these cities are at the heart of the struggle to combat climate change, they are symbols, granted because their people gave them that significance. After all, what makes a city is its people.
So, what meaning does your city have? And how will you contribute, also as an individual, to giving it that meaning?
In November, the Guardian came up with a classy introductory video on the Climate Change Conference in Paris.
People were not silenced, even after the traumatising attacks in Paris. It is an inspiration to see how, on the 30th of November, despite threats and fears from terrorism, people all around the world gathered in one way or another to march, to make themselves heard, to take action and hold their governments accountable for the decisions they were about to make.
Whether it was by marching through the streets with drums, music and painted faces; or placing a pair of shoes with name tags, sign posts and even plants in a main square; collectively people have demonstrated how they can be a force of power that transcends boundaries of all sorts.
Whilst officially, the Conference is due to conclude on the 11th of December, so far we know that…
“Today, the 100 per cent clean energy target is a major element of the deal in the final stages of negotiation in Paris.” – Avaaz in The Independent, 8th December
The Guardian interviewed activist and actor Emma Thompson who reminds us that:
“Every single person on this Earth has the power to change the world. And when we all come together, our power becomes irresistible. Now we must use our power to tackle the biggest threat humanity has ever faced.”
After the 30th November it hit me.
I had always known that climate was a major issue and I had made efforts to reduce my carbon footprint. For example, I cycle everywhere I go, I have greatly reduced my meat consumption, I try my best to buy bio products and make an effort to use my own bags at the supermarket.
But this is not enough. It’s not fast enough. That 100% target is never going to happen if we, as individuals don’t hold our government accountable for it on a daily basis. But how cane we hold them accountable if we ourselves, as individuals, don’t live up to that target.
So are we only going to act when we follow the crowd on a climate march?
Or are we also going to act individually? Daily? On a people-scale? To see how we can spread the word, how we can show others how delicious the taste of an egg is when it has been hatched in freedom; the fact that eating less meat is not a major sacrifice and how the challenge of cooking non-meat dishes is actually a motivation (for those who like to cook); the fact that travelling by bike is healthier, quicker, more enjoyable and you gain an incredible feeling of freedom and independence when you do it; that once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll never want to go back…I’ve already started this campaign with my mum, who have you campaigned for?
So this is not just about me or you, it’s about how we invite others (not guilt trip them), in to a more sustainable lifestyle. Because at the end of the day, this campaign becomes about realising that people aren’t bothering you about your carbon footprint to make you feel guilty and drive you crazy, they are doing it because they care about the planet you share, the life you live and how much you and your children will be able to continue enjoying it.
On a wider scale, as Emma Thompson says, when we all come together, our power becomes irresistible. Cities are an opportunity to concentrate this collective action, to spread the word more quickly, to become and example to others. They allow us to take public transport, to use our bikes, to find innovative ways of being green through urban agriculture or wonderful markets, so why aren’t more people taking advantage of this opportunity?
Imagine how much more power we would have if we all come together, having already achieved very low carbon footprints individually.
Who is going to argue with us?