In London, journey nearly over

We arrived in London on Saturday (23 June), our journey almost over. There was a major scare at the airport in Paris. After doing an automatic check-in and passing through passport control we were in the queue to check in our bags. It was then that I discovered that the black bag with all 30 plus hours of film from the last four and a half months was missing. No bag, film gone. I was told afterwards that I went white with shock. Through a combination of real exhaustion and carelessness the bag had been left behind in our lease car when we dropped it off and transferred to a shuttle. Fortunately we had time to spare and I had kept the paper with the phone number for the lease car company (only because it had a map on it and I’m a hoarder of maps!). They found the bag and delivered it to me at the arrivals area. This temporary loss had me questioning, for a short time, what I had achieved from this journey. Was it nothing without the film? I don’t believe so. In fact I have gained so much more in terms of a deepened understanding of the real issues people are already experiencing and some of the very positive things that are being done. I capped off the day by taking Emma to see Crowded House and Peter Gabriel in Hyde Park. It was a great way to finish a nearly disastrous day.

Yesterday I visited the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and gave a presentation covering my New Zealand adaptation work, lessons from this and reflections from the last four and a half months. It was well received, with plenty of questions and some discussion afterwards. One of the staff talked about the current international debate that is happening in terms of who pays who for adaptation and how you make the distinction between adaptation to climate change and adaptation to the inherent variability of climate. This sort of debate is paralysing international actions. I kept reinforcing my very clear view that the only way forward is to be guided by what is happening on the ground. Too many people now are spending too much time in meetings, workshops and seminars talking and debating what ought to be done to address climate change. Meanwhile, people on the ground are acting. The smartest farmers are, in my view, always ahead of everyone and I certainly believe we’ve encountered some very smart people of the land on our journey. We do need local, national and international policy but it will only be truly effective if shaped in a way that is relevant to people’s lives and aimed at empowering local people to own and implement local solutions. The problem is, to put it in the simple words of Michun Gurung, that we have too many talkers and not enough doers.

Where to from here? We are presently based in London until 7 July, then fly back to New Zealand. I have a couple of meetings lined up before we leave, including a return visit to DEFRA to talk in more depth to some staff there. I’m still searching for the right connections that will help me realise the goal of a documentary film. A book might also be a good idea.  Seeking funds to support grassroots exchanges and sharing of information is something I will continue working on.

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