Last night the conference goers staying at the Banana Backpackers Hostel in downtown Durban unwound in the humid night air. South African beer, cider, soda, and cigarettes eased their collective frustrations and enabled more light-hearted conversations. I followed the conversations along for a bit but quickly became absorbed in my own observations. A large bat occasionally revealed itself--flying under the nearby streetlamps. The haze shrouded moon was getting full overhead. Above the city lights, I could just make out the stars of Orion.
Police officers directed traffic below. “High-level” officials and their motorcades made their way to the conference center for late night negotiations. Some were accompanied by loud whir of low-flying helicopters spotlighting the surrounding buildings. I wondered what criteria they used to determine which officials required police motorcycles or police cars or police helicopters…
With only two days left of the conference, it was difficult for us at the hostel to tell whether all the late nights, early mornings, demonstrations, protests, policy recommendations, blogging, and heartfelt testimony would make a difference. As far as we knew, the U.S., China, and India would continue to hold-off an agreement. There was a sense that regardless of the negotiation’s outcomes, the real and meaningful climate change work would carry on back home.
Today the halls of the convention center are filled with anticipation and impending closure. Substantive negotiations will now only happen beyond the reach of observers like myself. Many of the veteran delegates and observers are packing up to return to their friends and families. Today here in Durban the decisions are out of our hands.
At this point, attendees of COP17 all know the science. We know the positions. We know the arguments. We know what is at stake. We hold our breath for another day under a muted hope that from all the effort, time, energy, and carbon expended over the past two weeks something worthwhile will follow.
Soon back in Montana, as winter constellations claim their position in the evening sky, I will once again see Orion. I will remember his stance in Durban. Pointing the way home. Pointing out where I can really make a difference.