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Chui-Ling Tam's blog

Owning the Climate Future of Migration

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP23 Fiji in Bonn.]

Reflecting on another marathon COP as I fly back to an Alberta recovering from wildfires, I am thinking of the silk frangipani flower in my suitcase. I had asked a Pacific delegate whether it was indeed a frangipani in her hair, a bloom that Indonesia’s Balinese women wear and place in Hindu offerings every morning. She confirmed it was, then explained that Pacific islanders weave them into garlands like a crown around their heads. Then she insisted I keep the flower.

At this “Pacific COP”, led by the Fiji Presidency but hosted far from the increasingly storm-battered islands of the Pacific Ocean, flowers were everywhere, worn by Pacific women delegates and the glowing young men and women who filmed their testaments for the Pacific Climate Warriors to share at these talks. These messages are full of love and practical defiance, a call to keep “1.5 to stay alive” but also an acknowledgment that there may well be a future where home will be a space of memory, destroyed by storms or drowned by rising seas.

There are often hints of tears.

The gendered politics of COP23 toilets

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP23 Fiji in Bonn.]

I see suits. After 11 days and 25 side events, visions of a sea of men in dark suits and short back and sides are swimming before my eyes. Even as I sit at the Indonesia pavilion facing the palm trees and thatch huts of the Fiji pavilion, with men in batik shirts and women with frangipani-adorned hair strolling past me, the overwhelming impression is of men in suits.

It’s not just me. Mary Robinson remarked on it too. The past Irish president and past UN Commissioner for Human Rights, now busy with the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, declared during a Climate Action Studio interview that it was nice to see women outnumber the men for a change. Robinson was one of four speakers, two men and two women, but the gender re-balance occurred courtesy of the 15-year-old girl conducting the interview. A few days earlier, the equally eloquent Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati and tireless climate warrior, told a worshipful room that Kiribati would disappear, but its people had plenty of time if we work on pre-emptive responses and training to prepare them for eventual climate-induced migration. The Kiribati diaspora would shine in new worlds, he said, and then he singled out a female compatriot and declared there was nothing to stop a beautiful Kiribati woman from becoming the prime minister of Australia.

Talanoa and communication space at COP23

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP23 Fiji in Bonn.]

One of the most remarkable innovations at COP23 Fiji has been its Talanoa Space in the Bonn zone. It features a huge wall of green foliage and red, white and pink flowers, a vibrant shock of tropical colour amid the cool white tones that permeate the spaces of COP. Speakers are seated in rotund wicker chairs, facing a tiered amphitheatre dotted with floor mats where audience members can comfortably sit cross-legged. The Talanoa Space includes smaller intimate spaces with more relaxed seating, where the occasional musician might start strumming a guitar amid the passing crowd of badge-wearing delegates.

Rewriting the fatwa at COP22

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP22 in Marrakech.]

At COP21 last year, a strained air of defiance and urgency permeated Paris, still reeling from the lethal Nov. 13 terrorist attacks launched by extremist forces under the guise of Islam. COP21 delegates and other visitors arriving in the City of Light a scant two weeks later were greeted by constant reminders of the attacks: impromptu shrines to the victims, police tape across bombed restaurants, the very visible and heavily armed security presence, and banners proclaiming "Je suis en terrasse" as French citizens reclaimed their public spaces.

Both before and after the Paris attacks, a conflicted and by turns demonizing narrative of Islam and its followers has emerged in various media and in the public consciousness. One popular framing is the description of Indonesia as “the world’s most populous Muslim nation”, where more than 80% of citizens officially observe Islam.


To read more blog posts, visit the One-Planet Talking Blog archive.

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