Saturday, December 3, 2011

Forgetting who we are: Day Six at UN Climate Change Forum

It is difficult to forget who you are at the UN Climate Change Forum in South Africa. I know I am white. I know I am rich. I know I am from a developed country. And, even if I try to forget, I know I am Canadian.

Canada has been taking a lot of heat at the Climate Change Forum. The threat of abandoning the Kyoto Protocol has made Canada very unpopular. This is unfamiliar territory for us. It is disconcerting.

So at the briefing this morning with Canada’s Ambassador to Climate Change, I resolved to forget my “quiet in the land” trait and secured some private moments with the Ambassador before he rushed out of the room.

“Mr Ambassador,” I said as I quickly rushed to his side. “As Canadians we have always felt proud of our peace keeping role and our place of favour in international dialogue. I think many people are afraid that we are losing that attribute. I know we are concerned as a Mennonite community. How would you like me to explain our apparent change of character to my constituency?”

 “My mandate is clear – to develop a new agreement,” explained the Ambassador. “A new agreement implies that we will need to revise our commitments and increase them. But it will be from a level playing field. We are still committed to reducing our impact on climate change.”

I have admired and appreciated Ambassador Guy St. Jacque’s willingness to meet with us every morning. I respect him for participating in this daily context of difficult questions.  I want to be a supportive presence as a Canadian faith leader encouraging our government to be the best we can.

At times I forget who I am and feel tempted to join in critical dialogue. Sometimes the outside critic is the easiest position to adopt. But I see a leader who is trying to do his best balancing competing values and concerns. I think he knows who he is – a Canadian Ambassador and Lead Negotiator.... concerned about finding a sustainable corrective to climate change.

 I want to remain clear on who I am too – a faith leader who possesses a hope in the power of God to transform ..... living in a country whose claim to affluence needs to be transformed. The earth belongs to none, but is given to all. Every person, family, tribe, community and nation is responsible for the health of such a lavish treasure. None are excluded for the care and all must be included in its gifts.

I finished the day with the routine shuttle to my bed and breakfast. “Where are you from,” my seatmate asked as we started moving?

I smiled and took a deep breath.

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