The Other Thing Happening in Paris – Climate Change

My chiropractor recently told me ‘There’s no guarantee that you won’t have more than one problem at a time.’ He was speaking the truth about the health of my spine. And his words are equally true when applied to the state of our world.

256px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17Most people who know me assume that I am preoccupied with the escalating violence and the deteriorating relationships around the globe. And I am. I’m feeling the turmoil, and spending most of my waking hours trying toward contribute reconciliation and peace.

On that theme, so many things to say: Let us mourn deeply for the lives lost this month to attacks this in Paris…and Beirut and Kano and Bamako and Minneapolis…Let’s grieve for victims of all nationalities and religions, whether they were killed by our enemies or by our allies. Let’s plan for security to protect innocent people in ethical ways. Let’s make America’s streets safe for African American citizens. Let’s welcome refugees, even when we feel frightened or inconvenienced. In the words of the best article I’ve read this week, the world is scary as hell – love anyway.  

Paris this month seems to symbolize all the sadness one heart can absorb. However violence and resilience are not the only things happening there. Paris is also host to the global Climate Change Summit, running from 30 November to 11 December. Yes, there have already been a lot of inter-governmental meetings on this topic. And, yes, there will probably be a lot more. But this one is particularly important because it aims to reach a new global agreement on aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This Summit arrives just as 2015 is declared likely the warmest year on record. While there are legitimate differences of opinion, the mainstream scientific consensus is that we face ‘severe and pervasive impacts’ to human life. Those impacts strike unequally. The USA and other industrialized countries have caused the problem, and they continue to dominate emissions policy negotiations, while developing countries bear most of the pain. Within countries, the poor and marginalized face the toughest situations of all. There is good reason to consider unjust climate policy as a form of violence.

So we have more than one problem. And those problems are now colliding. The French government has cancelled a public outdoor march that was scheduled to coincide with the invitation-only Climate Change Summit. This seems reasonable in light of the heightened state of Paris security but guess what? it further silences the voices of ordinary people, including those most affected by climate change. It makes it less likely that we will achieve fair and scientifically adequate outcomes.

IMG_0041 (2) (2)
Small steps of change. This isn’t petrol!

So what can I do? I can pray for a heart big enough to hold more than one problem at a time. And for discernment in how to invest my time. These dilemmas are very practical – for example, this weekend in Seattle, there is a Black Lives Matter event that has been on my calendar for months. There is a Rally for Refugees. And now there are multiple climate events, designed to stand in for the global crowd that won’t be marching in Paris. I don’t have the capacity to do all of these things.

So…gulp…this weekend I’m choosing a climate rally. Frankly I’d be much more comfortable marching for black lives or refugees, and it will hurt to miss those events. But my personal conviction is that if we continue to ignore climate change, it may soon overtake the rest of our problems. Climate may become like an unexpected fire that consumes our towns while we are busy fighting with our neighbors.

So, off I go to march for climate justice. And to actively support the friends and colleagues who are hitting the streets to speak out on other issues. There are far too many problems in this world to tackle them in isolation. Let’s link our arms and take action together.


This week there are more than 2300 marches taking place all over the world, to coincide with the Paris Climate Change Summit. To find an event near you, check out:


Earth photo “The Blue Marble” by NASA (crew of Apollo 17). Public Domain.

Published by Michelle G. Garred

Just Peace researcher, strategist and evaluator

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