Provoking a response to climate change

   Last month in Hong Kong, I was a "provocateur." I was invited to play this role at an international conference on climate change, Climate Dialogue: Low Carbon Cities for High Quality Living, in conjunction with the Clinton Climate Initiative's C40, the forty largest cities around the globe that have committed to tackling climate change. This event was in part, preparation for last week's COP-16 negotiations in Cancún.  

   Aside from giving a plenary speech, my role was to provoke the attending leaders into a deeper discussion about engaging the public to reduce the harms of climate change. This was based on TreePeople's experience of how people can effectively lead meaningful change from the "bottom up."

    My stories of the solutions we've pioneered at TreePeople were enthusiastically and very warmly received by many of the city staffers, academics and young people who attended. I'm already receiving requests to return to China to engage others.

    Attending this conference left me stunned at the gap between the international understanding of climate change, and the American misunderstanding of climate change. In fact, at one hand, I was delighted and relieved to see the state of readiness and action already occurring outside the United States. At the conference were many of the leading climate scientists from around the world. They were in complete agreement with each other on the urgent need to respond. There was no denial.

    On the other hand, I was left very concerned. All the scientists were quite upset - nearly demoralized - about how the good science, rigorously produced to the highest intellectual standards, was being undermined in the United States by well-funded disinformation campaigns. The U.S. is headed backwards, to the detriment of its own people. As a result it's further delaying global action sufficient to protect Americans and everyone else.

   Because the "top down" approach requiring political action in the United States is not working, it doesn't mean that people won't change quickly. TreePeople is responding to the urgent climate impacts that are threatening and hurting people today by bringing into our region both nature and community-based solutions to mitigate and protect against climate change. We call this approach the Functioning Community Forest. Instead of simply waiting for government action, you can participate and take meaningful action today.