From our own correspondent: eye-witness experience of COP 26

Lin Patterson writes

The day I arrived, Sat 6 Nov, was the beginning of the second week of the Conference of the Parties climate summit (COP26) and the day of the big march calling for real action on the climate emergency.

I found the Quaker meeting house in central Glasgow in the morning where the banner had been delivered previously. We set off walking to the Kelvingrove Park to await the start of movement within the gathering crowd. Eventually, the Quaker banner with its forty nine messages from all over the UK was successfully carried through the streets with the Quaker group in the multifaith contingent. The photographer from The Friend magazine took lots of photos, as did others.

But the day was wet and sometimes very windy. Although I was bundled up well in waterproofs, ‘disaster’ struck when drenching rain penetrated and disabled my phone. I found my way ‘home’ by bus about 30 minutes away from the city, with the help of chance-met fellow residents of the Bath XR house which was booked back in June. But without a phone from Saturday to Thursday 11th I had no access to contacts or means of communication. Now with a new phone I will try to recap, some highlights.

An experience in the initial journey to London oddly presaged the core issue of the existential crisis being addressed at COP. My anxieties about the venture to Scotland had all clustered around possible travel difficulties. That night I was standing on the crowded platform at Bath station when it was announced that the train was only half as long as planned. I went up to a station official and asked if my reservation would still be valid, to which the answer was no. Then I asked where one should stand for the shortened soon-to-approach train. The official suddenly took pity on me and offered me a upgraded ticket to First Class. I was flushed with gratitude and took my place in the practically empty carriage. But with a moment’s reflection I realised how unfair it was for those jostling and standing in other carriages. Did I leave? No. But the inequity was glaring, and the ethos that underlies it is at the root of what has to be undone for survival of humanity and other living things.

The somber message of that embedded unfairness has been offset by countless acts of kindness. Many strangers who stopped to check their phones to give me directions, a housemate who lent a basic phone with emergency numbers, and by sharing together at the house on a daily basis.

But offsetting has a more ominous, deeply contentious meaning. We watched a film, “Lost Along the Line”, showing vast tracts of dead saplings, grown to offset the burning of fossil fuels, because sometimes offsetting has been exposed as greenwashing. Forests are greatly endangered. Wildlife rich forests are being felled for HS2 because the solid concrete base must be straight to handle the great speed of the trains, so it cannot deviate around “protected” woodland, and other forests are being destroyed to create biofuel by Drax. I stood in front of the Drax office holding a Bath XR banner reading “AXE DRAX BIOFUEL GREENWASH SCAM”, while the Samba drums beat out their amazing patterns.

I was willing to get arrested early in the week, and thought the opportunity might arise during a mass “die in” in front of the large JP Morgan office, where we lay in the rain holding a piece of paper saying “Ddrowned” or “burnt”. Mine was “Starved”.

…to be continued

Quakers at COP26 in Glasgow. Image: Quakers in Britain. For more on this see: What the world needs from COP26

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