The Living Heart of COP21 Climate Conversations

The Living Heart of COP21 Climate Conversations

January 6, 2016

To offer simplicity to an incredibly complex time in Paris during COP21, I will share with you photographs from my time here. As delegates went back and forth on measurements and politics to determine an “agreeable” amount of climate warming and economically viable CO2 targets, another more radical conversation was taking place -- global citizens were coming together to strengthen a deeper paradigm shift, one that fully honors environmental regeneration and social justice. 

There was much to be learned from these independent actions and initiatives happening at the periphery of the political process. The initiatives showcased below represent a small sample of the inspiring life-lines and heartbeats that pulsed through the streets of Paris during these exceptionally potent times.

“Inspire” projected onto the Eiffel Tower by #Climatesign

In the city of love it comes as no surprise that much of the solution and a willingness to face the challenges of a changing climate lie not only in a game of numbers but more so rather at the heart of the matter -- in love. Our love for the forest, for flowing clear waterways, for biodiversity and for our fellow human beings of this planet.

The surrounding actions offered immense hope for a collaborative, collective future, through the ever expanding network of informed, awakened and aware changemakers from around the world. Conversations were varied from indigenous ecological stewardship, design thinking, open-source models, soil rehabilitation and ‘divest - invest’ financial portfolios. All conversations provide a lens through which we can begin to reimagine our relationship to earth, to responsibility and to one another.  

Love Letter to Planet Earth

Returning once again to the love of this Earth, artists collected over 4,000 Love Letters from around the world and hand delivered the envelope to Nick Nuttall of the UNFCCC.

Earth to Paris

Inside the stunning architecture of The Petit Palais in Paris a diverse group of politicians, artists, activists, models, tech entrepreneurs, storytellers, journalists, inventors, educators and researchers gather to hold high-level conversations on the latest developments across a broad spectrum of topics.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urgently expressed the need for the youth to be involved in this movement stating, “You have the right to challenge your leaders, you have the responsibility to be part of this process.” 

Christine Coc of the Maya Leaders Alliance in Belize shared the stage with Alec Baldwin and amplified Ban Ki Moon’s sentiment that the power rests with the people and bottom-up change. Coc received an Equator Prize for her work in protecting her indigenous land and peoples from large scale resource extraction taking place in the rainforest. “No amount of money in this world can give us back clean water when it’s poisoned,” said Coc.

John Kerry diplomatically entertained any possibility for solutions that get us below 1.5 C of warming, expressing concern for that which would be “destroyed as a consequence of the things that we do or because we are unwilling to do things, I am for embracing conceptually, aspirationally anything that gets us below 2 degrees centigrade.”

Earth to Paris was a well-executed production funded by 111 diverse partners including National Geographic, Mashable, The United Nations, Twitter, Facebook and VOGUE. The #EarthToParis message generated over 1.3 billion impressions and reached over 75 million people. 

International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature

The International Tribunal on the Rights of Nature was a beautifully orchestrated citizen-led initiative -- a jury style process to hear firsthand from frontline cases where environmental destruction is not only allowed but is sanctioned by governments and corporations.

The UNDP Equator Prize is a United Nations initiative to honor 21 outstanding local and indigenous community initiatives who are advancing innovative solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. This marked a deep dive and an exercise into the meeting place of heart, legislation and the intrinsic value of nature. 

Instituto Raoni is the voice of the Kayapó, a Brazilian indigenous group that is leading the fight against unfettered deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. 

Kichwa Indigenous Delegation

The Kichwa tribe in the Sarayaku region of the Amazon in Ecuador believe in the ‘living forest’, where humans, animals and plants live in harmony. A large delegation of indigenous people from around the world were present in Paris to make sure their voices and stories are heard. Here they tell their story and sail down the Seine in a traditional Canoe. 

Climate Ribbon Project

During the weeks of COP21 Climate Ribbon Project asked the question “WHAT DO YOU LOVE AND HOPE TO NEVER LOSE TO CLIMATE CHAOS?” Colorful responses poured in, in hundreds of languages.  

Aerial Art Ritual

Approval from the mayor’s office for outdoor public action was received just 48-hours before this photo was taken in front of the Eiffel Tower. Over 300 people from around the world gathered to express solidarity for a 100% renewable future. Indigenous wisdom keepers held the heartbeat of the planet in the center of the circle and Women climate leaders spoke to the reality and truths of stabilizing climate in their corners of the world. 

Hundreds from around the world unite in a giant message of freedom, standing with the people of Paris and calling for 100% renewable energy, during the United Nations COP21 Climate Summit.

Photo by Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q

World famous photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand in collaboration with John Quigley from Spectral Q and Magalie Bonneau from Dancing Without Borders created the art, ritual and powerful image that circled the world through viral sharing and international publications. The world heard this heartfelt call for a 100% Renewable future.  

A view from the top of the peace sign looking into the center where indigenous wisdom keepers held the heartbeat, drum rhythm of the Earth.  

John Quigley and Magalie Bonneau - co-producers, scouting early morning from a 52m crane. Drone use was prohibited.

Greenpeace activist Arin de Hoog assists in the pre-photo preparations in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Chief Caleen Sisk, Winnemen Wintu Tribal Chief and Spiritual Leader offered the opening prayer. Dabadi, wisdom keeper from the Toltec nation in Mexico (on the left), closed the ritual by honoring the directions.

Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Navajo Solar Director, North America.

Place to B

Headquarters for the media that change the world. This location hosted and facilitated meetings, partnerships and conversations. A co-working and co-living hub hosting an exceptional range of speakers from Charles Eisenstein to Dr. Vandana Shiva. 


A couple scenes from the POC21 showcase Innovation Community, where 100+ makers, designers, engineers, scientists and geeks were showcasing projects operating on open source principles to eco hacking the future. 

Solidarity, Mourning and Love - Additional Scenes from Paris

Flowers, art and candles create an altar and memorial at Place de la République and at the sites of the November 13th attacks.

Although clashes did erupt between public actions in the street and the police force, the overall tone was one of peace as fellow human beings stepped out to bring attention to the severity of our collective situation -- the terrorism, multinational war, and full scale environmental systems collapse are more than enough reason to lay down differences, to step out of fear and into a collective action that serves us all. There was a deep set stillness, a revolutionary solidarity and a collective love that brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. 

Below is an excerpt from Charles Eisenstein’s reflections on the heart of the challenges that lay ahead. 

“I am certain we will not "save our planet" (or at least the ecological basis of civilization) by merely being more clever in our deployment of Earth's "resources". We will not escape this crisis so long as we see the planet and everything on it as instruments of our utility. The present climate change narrative veers too close to instrumental utilitarian logic -- that we should value the earth because of what will happen to us if we don't. Where did we develop the habit of making choices based on maximizing or minimizing a number? We got it from the money world. We are seeking to apply our numbers games to a new target, CO2 rather than dollars. I don't think that is a deep enough revolution. We need a revolution in means, not only a revolution in ends.
In other words, what we need is a revolution of love.” - Charles Eisenstein

After my time in Paris I hold in my heart both urgency and patience. From a place deep within I believe in the strength and determination of the human spirit and our new (incredibly powerful) tools for global collaboration. When we work together for a common goal rooted in meaning there is a common knowing that a desired outcome involves the participation of both mind and heart, a deep revolution from the seat of our earthbound soul.

Two young women sit alongside the Seine late at night. 

Annual Report 2015

Annual Report 2015

Preparing for the COP21 Paris Climate Summit

Preparing for the COP21 Paris Climate Summit