(Please note I have adjusted the core commitment per the update at the bottom of this message.)
There are long messages and short messages in this world. I offer both:
- This December nations around the world will send delegates to the COP21 (United Nations Climate Change Conference - Conference of Parties) in Paris, France
- I plan to bring my eyes, ears, and voice (and audio/video/photography gear) to this gathering... to ultimately raise awareness about this important issue and urge responsible action by lawmakers.
- I have been given the opportunity to formally represent [Mayor Bill Peduto] and the City of Pittsburgh at an official COP21 precursor event: the World Summit Climate & Territories
[in Lyon, France on July 1 & 2]
- [I also plan] to act as an informal but dedicated liaison for numerous entities in Pittsburgh to the global community.
- my hope is that you all as climatologically-concerned members of the Pittsburgh community will help me offset some of the costs with a generous donation of your own hard-earned money. [you can donate here]
- for every $250 donated, I commit to give at *least* one presentation to the regional Pittsburgh community
- This is your chance to personally play a role and have a meaningful impact on the most important climate negotiations of our time. And possibly of all time.
And now for the long version...
I have been following the progress of international climate negotiations for several years now, and we’re at a critical juncture: This December nations around the world will send delegates to the COP21 (United Nations Climate Change Conference - Conference of Parties) in Paris, France to negotiate a strong international climate agreement designed to keep the impacts of human-caused climate change below 2 degrees C. If the past is any indication, however, pressure from various beneficiaries of the status quo will emerge to undermine the talks and weaken the agreement, thereby undermining humanity’s access to a livable climate. Furthermore, current commitments by nations who have given them are not sufficient to achieve the 2C goal, and many people argue that even 2C is not sufficient-- that we should strive for 1.5C or less. I plan to bring my eyes, ears, and voice (and audio/video/photography gear) to this gathering either as an official attendee (if I can gain access inside the conference) or as a citizen documentarian outside of the official conference venue (if conference access in not available to me-- in which case I will cover a multitude of events, discussions, and protests in Paris scheduled to coincide with the negotiations). Everything that I have learned in my YERT adventure and subsequent research and activism drives me to attend and participate in a meaningful way-- to ultimately raise awareness about this important issue and urge responsible action by lawmakers.
In addition, through a recent and serendipitous conversation with Pittsburgh’s Mayor, Bill Peduto, I have been given the opportunity to formally represent him and the City of Pittsburgh at an official COP21 precursor event: the World Summit Climate & Territories
in Lyon, France. This is *the* primary convergence for “subnational governments and non-state actors” to formulate “widely shared commitments and proposals on climate action.” This event will give me a more accessible platform to share Pittsburgh’s progress on tackling climate change while learning from other global governments and organizations about their progress, hopefully enabling me to act as an informal but dedicated liaison for numerous entities in Pittsburgh to the global community. It may also increase my chances of acquiring official attendance at the December COP21 event. An additional benefit to attending the Summit is that it takes place next week on July 1 and 2, giving time for the results of this gathering to have an actual impact on the negotiations in December. I will also plan to give local presentations about the Summit proceedings to the Pittsburgh community prior to December, enabling more people to learn about and take action in support of a strong agreement. My showing up to watch negotiators put icing on a cake that was baked over the course of years is good, but having a say in the baking process is even better, and that’s what this Summit enables for all of us.
There are obvious concerns about spending so much carbon dioxide to fly to events aiming to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. My response is that I will be flying primarily in service of the Pittsburgh community as a part of the global community working to reduce climate change. (This is anything but a vacation to France, though I must admit I love French food). I will document my travels and work to bring the most up-to-date and relevant news to the Pittsburgh community through a series of public presentations around the region. I will also purchase carbon offsets as a gesture towards mitigating the carbon dioxide generated by my travels (planning to purchase approximately 2x anticipated CO2 generated). It is ultimately very difficult to reach a strong international agreement on anything without at least some face-to-face meetings, and I plan to make them count.
These journeys also present a financial challenge: The opportunity to represent the city next week does not come with a free ride. I have to pay my way to the event in Lyon, France next week, and again in Paris in December. I plan to cover the journey to Paris in December through frequent flier miles (via my credit card points, not from frequent flying these days! ;-), and have located a free place to stay with friends. I would only encounter food and public transportation costs for that trip. The suddenness of the trip to Lyon next week, however, presents a much more expensive opportunity, probably costing about $3,000 for airplane, local travel, food, and lodging. I am pursuing CouchSurfing options with an account profile I have carefully nurtured over the years, but have yet to lock in free lodging. Three free meals are provided with the conference, but I will need to eat a bit more than that to stay at full strength during the journey. I estimate that both trips combined will cost between $3k and $5k.
I believe that the opportunity to meaningfully represent Pittsburgh in Lyon (and later in Paris) is ultimately worth risking my own personal financial resources, so I am proceeding with the journey next week and again in December, but my hope is that you all as climatologically-concerned members of the Pittsburgh community will help me offset some of the costs with a generous donation of your own hard-earned money. We’re all giving what we can, and I offer my time and some of my money to help this global community make key changes at a pivotal time. Furthermore, for every $250 donated, I commit to give at *least* one presentation to the regional Pittsburgh community (students, communities, organizations, etc.) about climate change and this negotiation process. I hope you will consider my request. This is your chance to personally play a role and have a meaningful impact on the most important climate negotiations of our time. And possibly of all time.You can support my efforts by...
- Making a non-deductible financial donation here at this GoFundMe website.
- Inviting me to speak to your community, organization, or institution in exchange for a supportive honorarium ($300-$500 requested, but I will be giving some free presentations, so if you’re interested please ask!).
- Interviewing me for your media program/video/podcast.
- Introducing me to foundations, organizations, or individuals who you believe may offer financial support.
- Purchasing a public screening license for either of my films:
- The Power of One Voice: A 50-Year Perspective on the Life of Rachel Carson
- YERT - Your Environmental Road Trip
- Hiring me as a videographer and/or headshot/event photographer.A few disclaimers/details so that we’re all on the same page:
- Donations are not tax deductible.
- I will also be seeking funding from other sources, possibly including (but not exclusive to) foundations.
- There is a good chance that I’ll be collaborating with at least one and possibly more media organizations to help get my stories to wider audiences. I do not yet know whether they will offer financial compensation for my efforts.
- I commit to give presentations in the Pittsburgh area regardless of how much money is raised, but I will keep close count of donations received and make a point to give a *minimum* of one presentation per $250 received. I will give some presentations before and some after December 2015. I will endeavor to give presentations in a diversity of neighborhoods.
- I will give at least one presentation per $250 donated (pure donations-- not including honoraria for speaking engagements, film licenses, or hired work) regardless of whether expenses are ultimately covered. If I receive donations exceeding my expenses, I will put that money towards finding, setting up, delivering, and promoting climate-related presentations in the Pittsburgh region.
- I may have an opportunity to combine trips and do a bit of filming for my upcoming Solar Roadways film or other film projects while in Europe. I figure it is only prudent to make the most of carbon dioxide spent on the journey. That said, donations will not be spent on any Solar Roadways or other filming detours not specifically related to the COP21 negotiations.
- I have assembled this plan fairly quickly and it is subject to change, particularly as I will very likely receive constructive criticism that I would like to accommodate. - I promise to seek guidance from donors about any material changes to this plan, and will do my best to keep the public interest at heart throughout the process. If at any point you feel that I have not kept my portion of the agreement, I will be happy to refund your donation to you.
- I reserve the right to refuse your donation for any reason.
- If for some reason I am unable to attend one or more of these events, I will either refund the donations (for the missed event(s)) or give them to a climate change-related charity organization.
Thank you for your support. I look forward to working together with you to make sure that we create the future we know is possible.
Yours in climate action,
mark at lens dot blueMarkAtCOP21.wordpress.com
Updated commitment message as of 11/27/15:
On the eve of my departure to Paris I've reached my COP21 climate journey stretch goal of $6000. WOW! Thank you to everybody who pitched in and helped keep me whole through this activism adventure. Quite a Thanksgiving weekend, thanks to all of you.
At a rate of one presentation per $250 contributed, I now owe 24 COP21 climate presentations to the universe--quite a task! I've given 15 presentations so far (counting my YouTube video as one presentation), received a couple of write-ups in the City Paper, gotten my presentation onto local cable, have a radio piece about my project on the way, and have several leads on events upon my return, but... here's my dilemma: I want to keep giving presentations at the $250 rate but I also don't know how much of a market there is for these things, and I don't want to be sitting on a pile of money that I can't convert into presentations! Here is my answer to the problem (unless I hear howls of protest from all of you, my dear supporters): I will raise the limit of my campaign and continue to seek more funding for presentations to give in the months following COP21 (my trip expenses are now covered), but if I get to a point where I feel that I can no longer fulfill my presentation commitment, I will announce that intention to this group and give any "un-converted" presentation money to the local Pittsburgh 350 branch and/or the Pittsburgh Citizens Climate Lobby (or another climate non-profit group if those others won't have the money). At that time, if you would prefer a refund, I will be happy to grant it to you on a first-come first-serve basis if you let me know within one week of my announcement, until there is no more un-converted presentation money remaining. I know the leadership of both organizations well and trust the money will be well spent on projects that would honor the spirit of this funding campaign.
In the meantime, if you know of any groups, venues, schools, universities, or dinner parties (even your own!) where I could give a post-COP21 presentation, please let me know! I'd love to start scheduling them ASAP.
Thank you for your support. It allows me to do what I love while serving the common good, and that is quite possibly the greatest gift I could ever receive this holiday season.