Symbols of Change, Hope and Natural Solutions on Display at Durban Climate Conference

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in COP17, Learn, The Wonk Room

Much of the media attention has focused on the high-level talks in closed-door meetings at the United Nations climate summit, but these annual conventions also serve to mobilize people, enabling networking, the exchange of creative ideas, and the search for symbols to inspire the challenging work that lies ahead for all nations in responding to climate change.

In this video, Frank Lowenstein, The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Adaptation Director, shares some of his impressions about symbols at the Durban, South Africa conference.

One display visited by many conference attendees is the “living beehive,” a large steel and soil pavilion that both supports and is held together by living plants that will continue to grow after the conference is gone. The “living beehive” was constructed near the conference center in tribute to the shape of indigenous South African dwellings that use natural materials to provide effective shelter from heat, rain and cold. In a side trip from the conference to a national park, Lowenstein saw some examples of these huts.

“This beehive structure is really a metaphor for the organic, natural solutions provided by nature for protecting people from climate change – solutions from nature that can sometimes be combined with engineered solutions,” Lowenstein says.

The Conservancy’s work to help people and nature prepare and respond to a changing climate is focused on working with the power of nature, where possible, to withstand the disruptions and extreme weather events that are being associated with rapidly warming temperatures. Examples of these nature-based solutions are replanting forests on hillsides to prevent erosion and mudslides, or protecting mangroves and wetlands that can buffer coastal communities from storm damage.

Regardless of whether there are major breakthroughs at the COP 17 negotiations, people, communities, businesses and nations will continue to work together to deal with climate change and its impacts.

“We need to be working together to build symbols of hope, like this beehive,” Lowenstein says. “But we’re hoping that Durban will go beyond symbols, that Durban will be the place where the countries of the world come together to give governments and communities the tools they need to bring nature into service, to bring nature to our rescue, to help us adapt to the challenges of climate change.”

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and writer for The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Paul Mackie (The baobab, an iconic tree of the African savanna, was incorporated into the COP 17 logo and a huge tree was sculpted out of wooden planks at the Durbin conference center.)

Photo 2 by: Frank Lowenstein/TNC (Indigenous huts in the Basotho Cultural Villaage in Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa.)

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