In November and December 2015 Emergence organised three events that represented a creative local response to the historic Paris climate talks: COP21.
Photo by Thom Hill
These events were for those deeply concerned about climate change but unable or unwilling to travel to Paris to be part of COP21 (Conference of Parties). Supported by Cinema & Co, The Environment Centre and Volcano Theatre, we had our very own COP in Swansea, which in this case stood for ‘Confluence Of People’.
Each of the COP Swansea events included screenings, discussions, and art-making focusing on the path to the 21st climate change talks in Paris.
Each screening charted the story of how artists and activists have been pro-actively involved in the debate to tackle climate change and global injustice. The films represented a focus for the conversation and a catalyst for the creative activities that followed them. The films we showed were:
Chasing Ice (2015)
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Acclaimed photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet.
The Age of Stupid (2009)
Director: Franny Armstrong
The Age of Stupid stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as a man living in the devastated future world of 2055, looking back at old footage from our time and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?
This Changes Everything (2015)
Director: Avi Lewis
Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. Inspired by Naomi Klein’s international non-fiction bestseller This Changes Everything.
So, why was COP21 important?
COP21 (Conference of Parties) was the largest-ever gathering of world leaders to discuss climate change. More than 190 nations were represented in the Paris talks from 30th November to the 11th December 2015.
It was widely recognised that these were crunch talks in negotiating the vital international agreements in the battle against climate change.
COP21 aimed ‘to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world’ and focused on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions (current commitments on emissions end in 2020), although no-one underestimated the political challenge in pulling this off.
Scientists have warned that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. That threshold is estimated as a temperature rise of 2C above pre-industrial levels, and on current emissions trajectories we are heading for a rise of about 5C. So what happened in Paris and beyond was vitally important to the future sustainability of the planet.
COP Swansea 1,2 & 3 was attended by ‘absolute beginners’ to the climate change debate, die-hard activists and in-betweenies. It was a space to learn about the issues, share emotional responses to climate chaos and the massive global issues of the day. We made use of the author and eco-activist Joanna Macy’s change and empowerment work to facilitate the days: the ‘Work that Reconnects’. This underpinned our methodology, design and shape of each day and featured activities such as art-making, poetry, written creative responses and structured conversations. Phil Ralph brought the ‘One Eyed Man’ to the proceedings – a mix of stand-up, storytelling and confessional -bringing doubt, uncertainty and despair into the room often using humour to punctuate the formality or pompousness of any proceedings! There was also powerful music from singer/songwriter Eleanor Brown.
For Emergence: Fern Smith & Philip Ralph (curators, designers, facilitators, project management, marketing and administration).
Presenting Artists: Eleanor Brown (singer/song-writer), Eleanor Flaherty (photographer), Thom Hill (film-maker).
Support Team & Volunteers: Patrick Driscoll, Anna Piggot, Yanis Paikos, Chris Bird-Jones, Phil McDonnell, The Glitterationists (arts collective), Phoebe Gauntlett, Sarah Huws-Davies.
“The enormity and range of issues that add up to climate change can be hard to take in. We really can’t do it all alone but we can do a lot in our own backyards and preferably together as part of this thing called humanity.” (Patrick Driscall) Read more
“I broke all personal records travelling to town on Saturday 5th December. Sitting high in the saddle, arms outstretched, I was freewheeling most of the way, literally gone with the wind. Those coming the other way with painful grimaces on their faces and heads turned to the north as the sand blasted their skin like a sadistic exfoliator.” (Peter Anderson) Read more
“I am well aware that I mostly go about my day living a life that is contributing to this destruction, and as this is something I have to deal with every day, I have to put my hands up and say I do push it to the back of my mind and carry on. This is the case for most people, and is a hard burden to live with.” (Phoebe Gauntlett) Read more
“I’m so glad I stayed after the film, as I felt confused and despondent wondering what the point was. As others shared their feelings I realised I wasn’t alone – people were equally as confused, upset, and left with feels of guilt. There was also a strong sense of belief in the power of people coming together to share in the emotions of it all and finding support and solutions together.” (Bethan Cox) Read more
“There is also nothing like shared emotions to feel solidarity with one another. It was impossible to leave COP1 and and still think ‘no one else cares about climate change’. While the existential crisis has (thankfully!) subsidised for the time being, I am left with a hugely liberating sense that it is OK to talk, and that other people do care.” (Anna Pigott) Read more
“I want everything to be alright. I want to bury myself in DVD box sets and holidays in the sun and nice food and a warm house. I want everything to stay as it is. And yet, the way things are isn’t especially making me happy. In fact, most of the time, it makes me miserable. So, why don’t I want to change it? Because I know this life. I know this way of being. And the future… is really scary…” (Phil Ralph) Read more
COP Swansea also talked about practical ways we could contribute to creating a more life-sustaining world. We came up with the following local and UK projects: