This morning marked the start of the much anticipated COP16 climate talks in Cancun and we’ve been on the scene scoping out what the general outlook is as the world’s leaders prepare to once again try to tackle global warming head on. It certainly feels odd to be in the center of a Disneyland-type paradise and be discussing something so daunting, but that’s exactly what is about to take place. Tensions are mounting as we wonder if the parties be able to surmount political differences and economic inequalities to get us closer to finding a solution to this planet-sized problem.
COP16 is centered around three main venues: The Moon Palace Resort, where most of the main events will take place, Cancunmesse, which will host side events, and The Climate Change Village, a cultural fair featuring concerts, exhibitions, educational demonstrations, and cultural dialogue. To gain access to any official venue, you have to put your bag through an x-ray machine and walk through a metal detector. Though access to the village is free to the public, the other venues require accreditation. Those who lack a badge can watch the talks on OneClimate.net beginning December 1st.
Amongst the world leaders, another attendee has made its way to the talks – art. At the Climate Change Village, local schoolchildren have build two globes: one representing a sustainable future, the other a dystopian possibility. Art students have chronicled Mexico’s natural wonders in digital photos. In a market downtown, UNESCO has posted satellite images of landscapes degraded by climate change. At the same market, parents can rent tiny battery-operated cartoon cars for their children. Last night, I saw a six-year-old brake to read about melting icecaps.
It feels odd. Along the sun-shiny sheen of Cancun’s beaches and jet skis lie the ravages of climate change. The Hotel Zone, a strip of mega-resorts along the highly developed Isla Cancun, was famously rebuilt after suffering hurricane damage. Some tons of sand were trucked in from farther out at sea. I was walking along one of these rebuilt beaches when I noticed a bright orange floating blob. A piece of coral reef. Yeah – the kind that takes years to produce.
During my downtime, I read some of the Kyoto Protocol. Seriously. Brew up a mug of tea and skim through that sucker. Because as imperfect and difficult and contested as it is, the hope it has in it is a little bit of food for the soul – the kind of hope that brought most people here in the first place. Hope that will, however faint, fuel the rest of the week here in Mexico.