COP21 – Framing our future in France

Categories:  News & Politics    Environment
Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 at 11:45 AM
COP21 – Framing our future in France by Janine Fenell, Climate Reality Leader
Photo by Ron Mader,

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The road to Paris – and the talks that will likely define this generation – is paved with good intentions. However, I am struck by the magnitude of our diversity; in beliefs, customs, language and lifestyle. I wonder how we can bridge those divides to save our planet; especially now with the shadow of terrorism and killing lurking in the streets of Paris.

This December, the annual Conference of Parties (COP21) meets in Paris with the primary focus of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius. COP21 is expected to have 25,000 official delegates and 50,000 participants from over 190 countries. All participants do yearn for success in these talks for our “vast and endless” universe. 

The event’s keynote speakers are incredible, but one man in particular seems to put everything in perspective: Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation. He also serves as Director of Native American Studies at SUNY-Buffalo. Lyons addressed the U.N. in 1992 and spoke of the complexity of climate change. He also discusses our commonality and, of course, the Seventh Generation:

Our societies are based upon great democratic principles of the authority of the people and equal responsibilities for the men and women. This was a great way of life across this Great Turtle Island and freedom and respect was everywhere. Our leaders were instructed to be men of vision and to make every decision on behalf of the seventh generation to come; to have compassion and love for the generation yet unborn. We were instructed to give thanks for all that sustains us … we were told that there would come a time when the world would be covered with smoke … when we could not find clean water … and there would be disease and great suffering. We were told there would come a time when, tending our gardens, we would pull up our plants and the vines would be empty.

Unfortunately, the predictions are dire and we see them manifest in our daily news accounts on a global basis. Lyons ends with this advice:

Even though you and I are in different boats, you in your boat, and we in our canoe, we share the same River of Life; our children will pay for our selfishness, for our greed, and for our lack of vision. It is not too late. We must join hands with the rest of creation and speak of common sense, responsibility, brotherhood and peace.

Lyons is right, Al Gore is right: it is not too late! But what needs to be done is massive. It will challenge our very soul. We all own this earth – a Turtle Island in the vastness of space – and so we are the stewards. First we must focus on what makes us the same; united with boots on the ground for Earth. Our most basic needs, as defined by Maslow’s Hierarchy, are threatened: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, and sleep; as are our safety needs: protection from the elements, security, order, and stability. That threat – that fear – is exactly what we must face in Paris and moving forward.

Janine Fenell is a Climate Reality Leader trained in 2015 Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Miami. Visit for more information.

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