At a recent holiday concert in Maine, Portland Symphony Orchestra conductor Robert Moody ended the event with a song filled with melancholy, despair and ultimately hope, feelings I believe mirror 2015’s lead up to our biggest news story of the year, the Paris climate accord.
The song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” is based on the poem “Christmas Bells" penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863, during America’s Civil War. Without his blessing, Longfellow’s son Charles had joined the Union as a soldier, and later was severely wounded in battle.
For those unfamiliar with the poems and many ensuing songs based on it, the song starts sweetly with the bells evoking, “Of peace on earth, good-will to men! “ But the words soon reflect the fallout of conflict, “And in despair I bowed my head…There is no peace on earth," I said; “For hate is strong…And mocks the song…Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then finally, resolution. “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep...The Right prevail…With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
Moody noted the lyrics are as pertinent today as they were during the period of their origin. He referred to the violence throughout our country, from San Bernardino to Charleston and in between.
I think it could also apply to recent events in Paris, where terrorists reminded the world that much discord remains among us, and a few weeks later hundreds of world leaders met at a climate summit that finally, after many attempts over many decades, came to an agreement that climate change needs to be dealt with quickly and with conviction.
Climate Deal = Peace?
In a November blog based on an article in The New Yorker, America Knows How published a blog called, “Could a Paris Accord on Climate Change Lead to Peace and Economic Stability?”
Another blog we published, again just before the United Nations Paris climate meeting in December, talked about whether the “Paris climate agreement could shape the economy of the 21st century.” It is based on a Reuters story that pointed out that an agreement had to take into account that cutting oil and other dirtier energy use in poor countries could make energy costs unaffordable for them, so the needs of rich and poor countries needed to be reconciled.
That an accord—albeit flawed—was reached at all in Paris is the big climate story of the year, and perhaps the decade.
In the business world, the lead up to the Paris conference was filled with convictions and pledges by companies to up their game on climate action, both alone in their own companies and together with other companies.
Here are but a few examples:
“13 Major U.S. Corporations Pledge Support—and Money—to Fight Climate Change" involved Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs and 10 other big U.S. companies joining the White House to launching the American Business Act on Climate Pledge to inject $140 billion in low-carbon investments into the global economy.
More pledges followed, in fact, hundreds of them worldwide from banks to retailers and even federal agencies, a fact some point to as having pushed the Paris agreement to a successful conclusion.
Also in the year running up to Paris, Pope Francis’s encyclical and subsequent visit to the United States, to China announcing climate goals, and major cities like New York and Los Angeles holding climate summits.
Acting Alone & Together
So as we close the year, we’ve gone the full cycle of emotions described by Longfellow in his poem: melancholy about the damage to the environment, despair that we might be too late and might not be able to unite to make changes, and ultimately hope with an agreement among nations to heal the planet.
The accord also crosses all sectors covered by America Knows How and its sister blogs.
As we enter 2016, watch for all of the sector blogs under the ecoAmerica parent working together to bring to you the progress companies, schools, churches, health professionals, communicators, municipalities and others are making as we move toward our own goals and those made by our partners.
Here’s how to find all our blogs and bloggers:
-ecoAffect, Ellen Hall, for eco-climate communication professionals
-Climate for Health, Anna Baker, for those following the impact of climate on health
-Path to Positive Communities, Stuart Wood, local climate leadership
-Blessed Tomorrow, Ryan J. Wood, religion
-Solution Generation, Sharon Chen, for higher education leaders
-Our newest blog focused on business, America Knows How, Lori Valigra
-And last but not least, our ringmaster, Cindy Frei, director of communications at our parent company ecoAmerica, with offices in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
May all of us in 2016 continue to hear the bells, and work together toward a healthier and more prosperous world.
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