Sail to the COP Blog #5: From crisis to positive vibes

5 November 2019

“We remain true to our golden purpose to make a more just and better tomorrow via transforming the travel sector”

A struggle for Chilean people
The Regina Maris sails towards Praia, the capital of Cape Verde. We have just spent a lovely two days on the island of Santo Antao enjoying the hospitality of the local community. Our sugar cane chewing, swimming and general frolicking is unfortunately cut short by a few shorts blasts of the ship’s horn. Captain Martin’s brother calls in to inform us that the ship and it’s crew needed some extra visas for Brazil. So we need to rush to Praia for the Dutch consulate…

We continue the think tank as planned, and prepare for our COP side events. Then the news come in. President Piñera of Chile has cancelled COP25 in Santiago in light of the civil unrest in the country. We had been of course keeping a sharp eye out for the events in Chile, and expressed our solidarity to those protesting injustices. Some had even joked about the possibility of ‘Fail to the COP’. However, none had been able to emotionally prepare for the eventuality. The news inspired diverse reactions. Many feel strongly for the struggle of the Chilean people.

Root causes
The climate crisis and the many socio-economic crises globally share a root cause: The exploitation and greed intrinsic to crony-capitalist systems, and the apparent indifference of those in power. Many systems we have built are not sustainable either ecologically or socially. In imagining and constructing transformation for better societies, we have to hear everyone’s voice. All sectors need to change, including the travel sector. The Sail to the COP statement summarises: “…transformations are a chance for governments, citizens and businesses to build new social structures that work for everyone. The Chilean government is missing that chance, we hope that they begin to listen to these unheard voices.”

Changing course
We sit in Praia, Cape Verde. One hour since the news. Everyone has jumped into to crisis work mode. The sounds of typing, phone interviews and small discussion groups fill the salty Atlantic air. We prepare press releases and statements for the outside world, while contemplating the best course of action for our own project. We need to bring certain participants to South America, but at the same time the COP might be in Bonn – the exact opposite way. “The winds would be against us though”, someone points out… Our biggest enemies are time and uncertainty. We have no concept of when definite news of the new location of the COP will come, when the COP will be and who will be allowed to partake. At the same time, we’re on a strict deadline to reach our Brazilian projects.

It’s time to take a step back. What are the main goals and principles of Sail to the COP? The name of the Conference is in our name, and we have been preparing for impact at a place where world would have eyes on us. But we can also fulfil many of our goals by completing the think tank and delivering our solutions for our partners and wider audiences – outside of the COP. We can yet do our part in transforming the travel industry into something fairer and more sustainable. Based on the best available information we expect to reach an European or South American COP later, as it looks that the conference will be postponed until early 2020. We thus take the risk to head for Belem, Brazil.

No one ever expects the Spanish Participation Some days into our Atlantic crossing we get some confusing news via satellite. The COP will be in Madrid, and will take place during the original dates in December 2019. This confirms that we won’t make it to the COP, even if we turned around that very minute. The mood plummets. But only for a while. We once again plunge ourselves into crisis mode: to plan new routes and make sure we maximise the positive impacts of our project. We make tentative plans to do our projects in Belem, and then continue to either Curacao or Martinique to attend the COP in all possible ways remote and electronic. Our European home team also jumps into action and we start organising a physical presence for Sail to the COP at Madrid. As always, Sail to the COP was never about one central figure, or even us 36 sailing across the Atlantic. Its energy core is made of a golden purpose to make a more just and better tomorrow via transforming the travel sector. This vision and mission can still be pushed in Madrid by some equally amazing individuals.

We also plan to contribute to our own vision by starting a new campaign: Rail to the COP. The idea is to get all European delegations and observers to travel to Madrid by train. Hardly a distance or time constraint compared to the travel arrangements made for Santiago. We see no excuse to travel to a Climate Summit within Europe by flying: the single-most carbon-intense purchase an individual or organisation can make.

True grit
The irony of the COP being relocated to Europe does not escape us. It’s a regular source of nervous laughs and shaking heads on the ship. Ultimately however, this is exactly how life unfolds… You can plan and roadmap to your heart’s content, but ultimately it’s your resilience and agility that matters. When it comes to the people in this project, you can colour me impressed twice over. The ability of this group to overcome challenges and make the best of them is nothing short of awesome. This project has put us through more than any of us expected. These trials of fire have nothing but exposed our true grit; we might not sail to the COP, but you have not heard the last of us.

Santo

 
Location
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