Gloucester native notes that sadness was prominent at 2009 climate conference
By Terry Weber/Correspondent
Dec. 25, 4009
Rebecca Lordan, a Gloucester native, joined world leaders, students, scientists and activists in Copenhagen at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.Lordan attended the conference as a representative of the League of Woman Voters, and as a citizen concerned about the environment. Home-schooled in Gloucester for about ages 15-18, Lordan attended Wheaton College in Norton, majoring in chemistry, and also studied French and public policy.
Currently, Lordan lives in Le Havre, France, teaching English to middle school children and is applying to graduate schools.
The two-week climate conference, which began Dec. 7, was a United Nations effort to convene world leaders in hopes of forging a treaty that limits greenhouse gas emissions.
Rebecca’s mother, Kathryn Lordan said, “I am so impressed that Rebecca is participating in the health of the world. Margaret Mead once said ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ Rebecca is part of that small group.”
Here is Rebecca Lordan’s essay on the Copenhagen conference: My impression of the conference was one of amazement, for a couple of reasons: First, I am amazed by how political climate change is. As I sat in meetings, countries made political statements that seemed fairly innocuous. The more hours I spent sitting there, the more nuances I picked up: words carefully measured and phrases calculated to have the intended political impact large or small. For me, I was frustrated by the formality of these meetings when talking about an issue with such urgency to the lives of millions.
Tuvalu’s representative, Mr. Ian Fry, stood up to address the President of the conference, Mrs. Connie Hedegaard: “...I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that’s not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.” Governments are talking politics and safeguarding economies while other countries like Tuvalu* are being erased by rising sea levels. How can we be adding up dollars, euros and yen, when others are subtracting square feet of land?
Second, I have been amazed that coverage in the U.S. is so limited since we are one of the most major players in the conference. I have seen more coverage of the holiday shopping on the news than of the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, although thousands of miles away, this conference was deciding our futures. It’s no wonder that so few people even know the conference is going on. Most of us are only aware of the climate bill, afraid of the impact it will have on our economy.
I sat on the metro with two Mauritanian officials my last day. We struck up conversation and I asked them how their negotiations were going. The response one man gave me made me cry: “The sad thing is that the future of my country and the world is in the hands of a few U.S. senators. The world is waiting for the U.S., then the rest will follow.” All eyes are watching the U.S. But the majority of the U.S. is not watching.
Third, the science is not deniable, but the data and research is being ignored. Although the U.S. will probably only still be an observer of the major effects of climate change in the coming years, many will be victims across the globe. Some nations are already seeing migration and it won’t be long until climate refugees are standing at Ellis Island. What will we say then? Will we wish we did something earlier when the consequences of inaction are in front of our noses or changing our lives? Or will we close our hearts and borders to the humans we are helping to orphan? And should the US be devastated in the coming years by these changes, what will we do? I imagine our pleas will fall on many deaf ears, as their pleas are now.
“Amazed” is one of the only words I can use to describe my feelings right now. As I slowly process the experience of attending the conference, I feel sadness too. It’s true, ignorance is bliss. But when face to face with climate change in years to come, “it was easier not to know” are not words I want to even whisper.