Before arriving in Germany, I expected to experience a lot of questions as to why I am here as an American, especially considering our country's intent to withdraw, but I soon found out that this was a false expectation.
The conference opened with Fiji's Prime Minister and COP President Frank Bainimarama. He expressed the need for a global action that connects all global citizens and began with a story of Fiji's first settlers thousands of years ago and how the drua, a Fijian ocean-going canoe, became a symbol of safe passage. Housed in the main entrance of the conference is a drua. The President said that its presence is "to remind us of our duty to fuel its sail with a collective determination to achieve our mission."
This is our moment of truth when all of us in this room will be tested. We must not be found wanting. We are all in the same canoe. which is why we have duha, a Fijian ocean-going canoe, in the foyer to remind us of our duty to fuel its sail with a collective determination to achieve our mission. So let's make the hard decisions that have to made for the sake of ourselves and the generations to come. Let's use the next two weeks to get the job done.
The COP President set a tone of unification. I soon saw first hand that despite the US not being committed, participants from all countries shared this belief and did not hold our federal government's stance against us. As an American citizen, I was welcomed in all discussions and interactions.
One morning, I aquatinted myself with the delegation of Niger and got to know two members. They welcomed me into their group as they went to a session on West Africa Development. Later, they gave me an invitation to another West African session the next day. Only once during our talks did they jokingly mention President Trump.
Another time, I had the opportunity to talk with a representative of an NGO based out of Bangladesh. She was happy to see an American citizen present at the conference.
I could mention multiple instances where I was greeted with open arms for being an American. While I had been welcomed as an American, there were also multiple instances in which our government was brought up. Some of these instances included comments that although we have withdrawn, the rest of the world can still make progress. Other instances included comments that criticized President Trump and pleaded that the US enter back into negotiations. It is recognized that progress will be made no matter what, but US participation would allow for more and faster progress.
Through my experiences, I belief the global spirit to be characterized as devoted to climate action and embracing to all groups (indigenous people, industries, NGOs) . I see how all the countries present have a strong will to take action. I see how other governments are making climate action a priority and how the world views our government and our citizens. With all that, I see that the US needs be a part of this global spirit.
Nature knows no pause in progress and development, and attaches her curse on all inaction. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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