by Shiv Srivastava
I was quickly snapped back to the flashy particleboard-adorned structure that I was standing in. Milling about were a cadre of middle aged NGO workers toting canvas bags stamped with the logos of Renault and Nissan. One of the woman had an Air France pin on her lapel, and I thought she may have been a steward. It turns out Air France was a major sponsor of the climate event and they were handing out free items at their booth. I got a cup.
These corporate representatives were huddling around their friend, who was breezily peddling a bike that was connected to a blender: a swirl of red and yellow pulsated inside the glass carafe. I turned back to the crying woman in time to see the journalists struggling to make out what she was saying. The blender continued.
I did not fully realize it at the time, but that was a perfect distillation of what the atmosphere at the generation climate area had to offer. A highly corporate affair packed to the brim with distraction. Virtual reality headsets, flat screen adorned booths, and of course smoothies all packaged as magical climate solutions.
Before entering the public United Nations COP21 space in Le Bourget (a general festival area meant to provide people with an idea of how climate change, if unchecked, could impact our earth), my expectations were relatively low. However, I was not prepared for the industry trade show environment that awaited inside. To be certain there were academic presentations on things such as sustainable drought response and soil erosion. I was also very impressed that indigenous voices were present and given platforms to speak. Yet, the talks were tertiary at best and I could not shake the feeling that many of the indigenous groups present at this venue were here as a consolation for being shut out of the more substantive events next door.
My feelings on the event can be summed up as such, I never was able to hear what that Peruvian woman was trying to say, but I enjoyed a fairly decent smoothie out of my Air France cup.