We’re in the 11th hour of the COP negotiations, which by most accounts are not going well. But while negotiators are hashing out humanity’s future with a generous helping of corporate-friendly policies, a sprawling civil society mobilization is underway with different plans: a 100% renewable future with justice for all. The Climate Ribbon is in the thick of that mobilization, holding space all over Paris for people to connect, grieve and make a commitment to act in solidarity beyond Paris.
All this week the Tree stood at the center of the Climate Action Zone. Thousands of people read and wrote ribbons, shared their stories, and were inspired to take this project home to their communities.
Some of the loves and losses we witnessed:
“Hummingbirds in my rainforest.” — Eric in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico
“My father who grew up in an extremely polluted part of Detroit and is battling throat cancer.” — Mattie M., Chicago, USA
"The greener pastures in my community.” — Ekai Nabenyo, 23, Turkana, Kenya
“Le joie de vivre!” — Olga, Paris, 67
We’ve been leading ribbon rituals at climate actions and events across Paris, from the Climate Strike youth convergence to an intimate circle of dedicated climate activists at the Eroles Project. The high point may have been the public exchange of ribbons that kicked-off the giant human-banner spectacle at the Eiffel Tower that has become the viral iconic image of the COP21.
At event after event, we’ve seen how the Tree and the ribbon ritual can have a profound effect on people: it is grounding, it sets a tone, it brings people into their heart. Inspired by this, we will be taking your ribbon-stories to the UN Conference and handing them directly to the delegates as they arrive for the closing sessions these next few days. May they speak as strongly to the delegates as they have to the public.
Families and children, in particular, have been affected by the Tree. One of our volunteers guided 3 young French-Algerian children through the ritual. Too young to read, they picked out a ribbon just based on its color, and untied it from the Tree. The volunteer read the ribbon to them: Sean, 26, in London, does not want to lose “very big cats, and very small fish.” The three children listened intently. And then she asked them: “Do you want to help Sean?” Oui, yes, they all said, nodding decisively.
Carrying your stories to Paris has been challenging—not just because of all the work we’ve had to do on a shoestring budget, but because it’s a strange and grave responsibility. Although we’ve brought a lot of hope here to Paris, we’ve also become the vessel for a lot of sadness. The Tree with all it’s ribbons is a monument to all that we stand to lose and are losing. Many of us have cried more than once during these two weeks at the COP, reading the ribbons, and pausing to reckon with all that it means.
May we do all we can to defend the beloved places and sacred values that people have brought to the Tree.
Yours in love and grief and hope.
(Photo credits: Walter Hergst, Michael Premo, Josiah Werning, Rae Abileah.)