There are many reasons that people live in poverty. The one thing they all have in common is that no one chooses to be impoverished.
Some of the world's most poverty-stricken nations are in their predicament due to climate change.
With rising sea levels and unstable climates for food cultivation, some countries receive more than their fair share of the impact of climate change, which can have devastating effects on people's quality of life. The people and peoples who have done the least to cause this crisis are already suffering its impacts first and worst.
In 2014, P3 was invited to attend a United Nations affiliated climate change conference in Venezuela called the Social PreCOP. This conference saw 300 individuals from all backgrounds uniting to tackle the issue, including indigenous peoples, NGOs, social movements, and six P3 volunteers. It was the first PreCOP (that is, ministerial meeting before a UN climate conference) to involve civil society.
I was fortunate in being one of the P3 volunteers to attend. The conference structure was debates and discussions on five key areas of climate change, then collectively drafting a document that was submitted to the UN.
I spent a large portion of my time in the intergenerational equality discussion, where we considered the responsibilities of current generations in securing a sustainable future. It was eye opening to hear personal accounts of communities struggling produce enough food in the warmer climates, from people who had experienced this first hand. They often spoke in Spanish. However, the language barrier was dropped through a team of awesome live translators who provided a real-time English dialogue during the discussions through headsets. Similarly, whenever I spoke, my contributions could be heard in Spanish through the headsets.
The interaction wasn't confined to the debating chambers. After the days’ scheduled activities, we were able to meet people from a raft of cultures in a less formal setting. I have fond memories of sitting on the beach, strumming a Venezuelan cuatro, while locals held down chord shapes and sang. It was these moments that made me realise how alike people are. Those people facing the sharp end of climate change stick, are equally relatable as my New Zealand friends. We shared laughter and music under the moonlight.
What we achieved at the conference was threefold.
First, the document that we created was read at Ban Ki Moon’s Presidential Summit, which allowed the voice of the people to influence the Paris Agreement.
Second, P3 expanded its network of organisations with whom we can share ideas and create wider reaching impact.
Third, and on a more personal note, I learned about diversity. I learned how to see past barriers, and to work alongside people who don't even speak the same language. And I established friendships which span continents.