Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A carbon-neutral experiment

This year is different for Mark and I in that we are experimenting with a (mostly) carbon-neutral experience. In 2009, we both traveled to Copenhagen. Last year I was in Mexico while Mark blogged from Columbia. This year we are both stateside and attending the climate talks on a virtual basis.

The obvious advantages to this is the fact that we are not traveling around the world to attend the meetings in person. The net result is a savings in fuel and real costs as well. It also takes it's own mental toll to be constantly on the move and eating not much more than granola and almonds for two weeks straight. I look forward to eating real meals and being able to tuck my daughter into bed at night.

Having attended the talks for a couple of years we are in a pretty good position to be able to interpret what we are seeing and hearing via the live webcasts. Things make much more sense to me now than they did that first year in Copenhagen. In that sense, I anticipate there will be little content lost due to our virtual attendance.

However, there is a definite cost to not attending the talks in person. Virtual attendance eliminates the possibility of hearing chatter in hallways or overhearing negotiators talking amongst themselves. You can't look at delegates and gauge their reaction to statements. You can't cross-check or triangulate your observations with other observers. Lastly, we won't be able to attend any of the side events that are put on by individual countries and NGO's alike. Some of the side events are fairly worthless and are as useful as sitting in on poorly produced propaganda pieces.  The best, however, offer insight into what people are thinking, an alternative viewpoint, or tell you something you didn't know a lot about beforehand. They also allow you to make contacts and get to know some of the other people working in the field. That is invaluable.

In the end, we'll have to wait and see just how virtual attendance stacks up to being there in reality. I'm looking at it as an interesting experiment.

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