Jonathan J. Halperin
Jonathan J. Halperin
Designing Research, Communications
and Strategies for Sustainability

Frankfurt Airport, 8:10AM

As part of the global marketing of Hope in a Changing Climate, the award-winning film Halperin executive produced with a team from the Environmental Education Media Project, Halperin authored a series of blog posts from December 2009 to June 2010. The following dispatch is part of this series.

To learn more about the film and ecosystem restoration, see the Hope in a Changing Climate project.


Airport terminals always remind me a bit of terrariums -- enclosed spaces nonetheless bustling with life. En route to COP15, the fifteenth conference of parties struggling across a multilateral minefield to manage an increasingly our climate that has become increasingly unstable due to human-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

I will be meeting my colleague and partner, John D. Liu, who is already in Copenhagen and the founder of the Environmental Education Media Project.  It is almost exactly one year since he and I first met at an Internews conference in Athens and agreed to work together.  I was inspired by John’s multimedia presentation on ecosystem restoration, based on a decade of field work and camera work around the world.  And John sought assistance growing his organization so it could take his important message to larger and larger audiences of policymakers and citizens.

So, a year later we find ourselves with 12 versions of a new film, Hope in a Changing Climate, an op-ed about our work today in the International Herald Tribune, and a premiere next week at the Copenhagen Museum of Natural History.  In addition, we have two other screenings: at Agriculture Day at Copenhagen University, and at the Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s Good Planet film festival at the Danish Film Institute

John and I come to Copenhagen as newly minted faculty at the Center for Climate and Society at George Mason University, an interdisciplinary effort headed by Professor Paul Schopf. And through the tireless work of a team of Mason graduate students, we are also supporting facilitated discussions and screenings of “Hope in a Changing Climate” in 20 nations by 48 diverse organizations. They will be using our new Ecosystem Restoration Discussion Guide that is available at our two new revamped web properties: www.eemp.org and www.hopeinachangingclimate.org.

I wonder, watching people go by, like ants guided on specific paths, busy yet not, how much carbon delegates to the conference are emitting on the myriad flights.  What will come from this conference – action, words, inaction, stalemate?  With the new leadership of President Obama a welcome breath of fresh and honest air after the do-nothingness of the Bush Administration, are we really on a new path?  The magnitude of the problem, the global nature of climate change is both daunting and a source of opportunity.  It is like nothing world leaders and citizens have ever confronted.  And therein is the challenge and the opportunity for unprecedented cooperation.

As John Liu has said to hundreds of audiences in his years of work on this issue, we need a species-level response, not a national, or bilateral, or even multilateral response. It is beyond all that.  What we aim to do in the coming days, and what is done so powerfully in the movie, is to refocus the debate by placing it in the context not just of a single human life, or even of human history, but more properly in geologic and evolutionary time.  For it is the most fundamental cycles of nature that while profoundly robust are also dangerously out of whack now as carbon emissions climb because of how we use our land, power our societies, manage our water and grow crops and food.

We have made some ill-advised choices over time, but we have the opportunity to make better choices, to learn, to look out beyond our narrow national interests and to look to the future of our children and grandchildren.  I carry with me pictures of my son and daughter, both under 10, and wonder if we will succeed.  What will we leave for them?  I am, of course, an optimist.  There is after all, hope in our changing climate.

The ants are passing by.  Time for us to join them.  Time for us all to join together.

-- Jonathan J. Halperin

Issues: 

I have worked with Jonathan to full satisfaction on a number of small, strategic projects. He is a creative thinker with a deep understanding of the intricacies of sustainable agriculture and with a keen eye for business value.

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