Allison Considine

It first hits me 39,017 feet above Spain. I am shifting in my airplane seat, as the flight attendants deliver breakfast trays at what my body thinks is the middle of the night. I reach for my coat and glimpse the tag: “Made in Morocco.” 

COP22 Beginnings

November 9, 2016

Allison Considine

It first hits me 39,017 feet above Spain. I am shifting in my airplane seat, as the flight attendants deliver breakfast trays at what my body thinks is the middle of the night. I reach for my coat and glimpse the tag: “Made in Morocco.” Huh, I marvel. I am warmed by a coat made in Morocco bought months ago in Paris.

Allison ConsidineAllison Considine, ILR '17, is a member of Cornell's COP22 delegation

I arrange it over my lap and grab the yogurt from the breakfast tray: “Upstate Farms,” a Buffalo-Niagara region dairy co-op. Cows around my hometown in western New York produced the milk that made the yogurt that is served on the Philadelphia-Madrid American Airlines flight.

As an Industrial and Labor Relations student, I find that classes rarely pass without some mention of globalization. But global capital flows and knowledge diffusion and multinational corporations lack a certain potency when bulleted in homogenous Powerpoint slides. On my flight to COP22, I am reminded that there is nothing new in global meetings. We are always already meeting--me and the worker who sewed my coat, the Spanish man flying home eating a dairy product made by Upstate New Yorkers. Our global community cannot help but affect each other. Finally, though, we get to meet face to face. Can we make these meetings ethical? Can we see one another and recognize that we are facing problems larger than our own economies and concerns, problems that require unprecedented coordination?

Allison Considine

Arriving is unreal. I am buzzing with energy, and I feel the city buzzing right back, as babies stare out from their mother’s laps on motor scooters racing under rows of striking red and green Moroccan flags. Acrid exhaust mixes with the dusty smell of the city's pink bricks. We enter the first day of COP with anticipation, excitement, and curiosity. The Cornell booth quickly becomes a hot spot for the side events hall, and I assure myself it's for our engaging research and not the basket of spicy red cinnamon candies we have at the front of our table.

My French comes back to me faster than I expected, and I’m incredibly grateful for my semester abroad in Paris that allows me to speak with ease with everyone from NGO representatives to country delegates from Burkina Faso and the Moroccan Ministry of Labor. I explain who we are. (Note: being at COP requires you to lose the sense of self-importance Cornell can engender. I’ve answered “what country is that in?” as many times as I’ve had the light of recognition spark in a passerby’s eyes.) I describe some of the research we are doing and emphasize the breadth and depth of climate-change related study at Cornell, grateful for fast figures like the 450+ researchers that work with the Atkinson Center.

Highlights of the past few days include the UNESCO panel on indigenous knowledge that Cornell professor Dawit Solomon participated in, featuring panelists discussing climate adaptation and indigenous knowledge. An indigenous Filipina panelist described traditional forest management practices that ensure the protection and maintenance of these valuable carbon sinks through a mixture of social norms, family inheritance practices, and spiritual beliefs, and how government involvement in declaring the forest a protected area, without actually giving full rights to the indigenous community, has disrupted what was a sustainable and climate-friendly environment.

COP22 Sign for Gender Equality

Many of my most striking memories have come in unscripted moments--not at the events highlighting financing of NDCs, but in a sheepish, and then enthusiastic, conversation with a Mexican delegate as we both waited for a talk on Asia, women, and the law. We end up drawing in several women concerned with gender and climate change. I am reminded of the importance of incorporating a gendered focus in my study of just transition policies to ensure that new policies are not merely shifting male fossil fuel workers into the green energy industry, but finding ways to create greater equity in the energy industry. This may mean changing our conceptions of work to revalue unpaid domestic labor and care work and decrease work hours to allow all people to access economies or foster their families.

Sand painted map of the world

I write this as we reel from the election results. These thoughts were gathered before, and I sought to preserve the tone and excitement I felt. Now I seek to remind myself that small-scale actions, such as increasing Aboriginal controlled fire burning to reduce the devastating effects of modern wildfires, will continue to happen and bring change. This isn’t over. We are still here. We are still building connections and sharing knowledge and best practices.