As many will likely remember, Bubba Gump was a fictional character in a fairytale who’s largely oblivious to his surroundings. Unfortunately, after one day in Cancun, I’m coming to the conclusion that sometimes a fictional character can represent reality much more closely than hope.
The difference in setting could not be more stark between COP-15 and COP-16. There are the obvious differences: the first was held in the land of Hans Christian Andersen, the latter is being held in land of tanned bikini clad bodies. But the differences I’m talking about have nothing to do with future sufferers of skin melanoma.
Arriving blurry eyed but optimistic last year, the first poster I saw at the airport advertised the expectation that Copenhagen was “Hopenhagen.” Arriving bright eyed but dejected this year, the advertisement I saw was for Bubba Gump’s shrimp restaurant. Last year, the masses in Copenhagen were alive with the idealistic belief that a solution to climate change was at hand. This year, the masses in Cancun are alert to the nearest bar with a deal on margaritas.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against tanned bikini clad bodies or margaritas. At the same time, it does give one pause when the vast majority of people just outside the conference walls are oblivious to the debate which could have a drastic impact not only on their own lives but the lives of future generations.
At the same time, I am actually beginning to see more hope in Cancun than in Copenhagen. The discussion in Cancun is focused on what is achievable considering the realities – not only economically but also socially and politically – that we face today. Yes, from the ivory tower, a global, cross sectoral treaty to address climate change is the goal. Yes, the science is saying we need to have 80% reductions in the next 40 years. That said, sometimes when you shoot for the perfect solution you miss the target altogether. Unfortunately, whether those inside these walls like it or not, hope is great, but if it isn’t aligned with reality, it is nothing more than a fairytale.