As soon as the week two groupies of Emory University arrived in Kraków, Poland for the 2018 Climate Conference, we all stepped out of the stale airport air and into the air of Poland. Although not stale – it did smell of coal.
What an odd smell for a city that was holding the conference – where hopefully the future of our planet would be saved. Instead was the blanket of coal that lay over Poland just going to keep us warm in our hotels – and therefore comfortable in our ways? I was curious – and got more answers as the week went on.
I’ll be honest, after I first noticed the smell I didn’t give much thought to the smell in Poland. I was too excited! I was going to the climate conference – this is like the Disney world wish of young environmental finally coming true (this excitement also made me ignore a pretty nasty case of the flu halfway through the week)!
But as the week went on, I had the opportunity to hear Al Gore speak. He shared the statistic with us that 33 of Europe’s most polluted cities were in Poland!
I was shocked – my in passing thought of the contradiction between the air quality and the purpose of this conference had merit!
The truth is in our face (or nose)!
This blog post is more of a personal reflection – rather than being based on the facts and statistics of why Poland was the right place to hold the COP24.
Poland is an example of what the reality looks like in many cities in our world.
While at the COP24, I found myself getting inspired more and more each day by the enthusiasm for progress, and also by the protests. I believe that Katowice, Poland was the right (although somewhat confusing) choice for this conference because at the end of everyday, no matter how inspired you were – we all stepped out of the conference center and breathed in a deep breathe of polluted Polish air. That breath grounded us in reality.
The only way any of us can make progress in fighting climate change is by being aware of the realities of it. Many of the people who came to fight came from more progressive and advanced countries that were making real progress in the climate fight – such as Germany. They don’t see the really bad. It’s also easy to get lost in the numbers or facts or this fight and not experience reality first hand.
But breathing in that coal infested air provided all party members a dose of reality to remember the harm that can come to us all if we don’t continue to fight.