Guding Principles

Integrity, Compassion, Family, Responsibility, and Courage.  These were the motivational values that I ranked as my top five during the activity at the most recent Honor’s community meeting.  I really enjoyed the chance to sit, with twenty- five values spread out on the floor around me, take the time to read each one, and reflect on the significance that each holds in my life.  In the end, Integrity and Compassion were the most important. However, I recognize that I will encounter experiences that will change what I value the most.  Personal growth will be eagerly accepted. Although at times rooted in pain and hurt, transformation can also come from happiness and joy.  I believe that embracing sadness can help provide perspective and shape how people appreciate the future.  One quote that embodies this message is from Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”  Encounters with people in my life  have taught me that each person has a history, and has experienced things that are beyond his or her control.  I believe that the world is harsh enough;  it is not my place to make it worse.  Thus, compassion is one of the main values that guides my actions.

Before I collaborate with others, I need to recognize my tendency to approach group work as a pacifying contributor.  When I was younger, I loved to lead the way.  As time has passed, I’ve found that I now wait.  I try to read the group, and then volunteer my thoughts.  Especially in collaborative efforts, I try to encourage everyone to participate and am cognizant  of anything that I can do to make others more comfortable.  I believe that everyone should have a sense of responsibility.  If you say you are going to do something, it is important that you follow through. For me, power and recognition take a back seat to community, justice, and tolerance.  I try to live by a quote by Maya Angelo. It reads: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

All or Nothing

Last semester, much of what we learned in Climate Change Science, Politics, and Policy culminated in the mock negotiations.  It was through this process that I further developed my problem solving skills. We were each assigned a country, and throughout the semester we studied both domestic politics and our individual country’s involvement in international negotiations regarding climate change.  We then took on the role of our country as we participated in a simulation of the 2014 United Nations Conference on Climate Change.

The one requirement during the negotiations was that, in order for the text to be adopted, every country had to agree.  It was all or nothing.  Some of the issues that the delegates faced included: nations not agreeing upon binding or voluntary pledges for mitigation targets and contributions to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  Countries who were potentially large donors to the GCF wanted to ensure that the countries receiving money were held to mitigation targets, but were unwilling to take on mitigation targets themselves.  Nations that were most vulnerable also wanted binding commitments for both mitigation targets and contributions, language that the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries were simply not willing to accept without the promise of financial compensation.

Prior to the formal simulation, we had time to interact with the other twenty or so countries during informal discussions.  It was during this time that I tried very hard to gain support for my own proposal.  Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, accounts for a significant portion of their GDP.   I  planned to put forward a proposal stating that countries with oil could partner with countries to procure clean oil extraction technology. During the informal negotiations, I first approached Japan, a country with clean oil extraction technology.  The delegate from Japan agreed to supply countries with the technology requested, provided the receiving country donated some of the profits from the oil extraction from the GCF.  Other countries that had oil reserves were quick to endorse my proposal.  The next problem was that Germany did not want to be bound to this proposal and wanted nothing to do with oil.  Thus, the language was added “individually determined contracts” in order for it to be an opt-in proposal.  As a result, the proposal that I submitted during formal negotiations read:

“Agrees that developing Parties with oil revenue would donate a percentage to the GCF, contingent on individually determined contracts for green oil extraction technology.”

During the formal negotiation, this proposal was unanimously agreed upon.

Through this simulation, I experienced first-hand that international environments are extremely complex and often frustrating.  Although the need to find a solution is universally recognized, because each country brings with it so many different needs and ideas about how to solve the problem, it is hard to find universal common ground regarding the right approach. Through this process, I am now able to look at a problem with seemingly no easy solution and start to unravel the components that contribute to the issue. The skills I learned from this class are applicable to many of my classes this semester.  In particular, in my Roots of Racism class where we are tasked with trying to understand how race, a social construct, affects how people relate to each other and how we as a society can start to shift how we view race, these problem solving skills will be imperative.

Looking Beyond the Screen

Waiting for the Metro, the topic of conversation is not what one might expect from a group of college students.   If an eavesdropper were to lean in, she would hear discussion about the social construct of popular media. Perhaps the clandestine listener would hear our concern regarding the proliferation of text messaging and our disappointment surrounding the inability of young people to engage in interpersonal interaction. These topics, as well as many others, were addressed in the movie, Men, Women and Children, shown in a theater near the Chinatown/Gallery Place Metro stop.

A few friends and I recently learned that the American University library provides free tickets to advanced screenings of soon-to-be-released movies. Although the location and time of this movie made it inconvenient to attend, this was an opportunity that I did not want to pass up. Little did I know that being present at this film would prove to be far more educational than a typical Monday night in my dorm.

Walking out of the movie I felt a sense of awe, a renewed sense of wonder at our existence and our place in the universe. A recurring message in the movie was the interdependence and interconnectedness of communities. While following numerous storylines, the movie emphasized the necessity of kindness and forgiveness.

For me, emerging from movie theaters, be that blinking from sunlight or slipping into darkness, has taken on a new form. I have begun to view films as art rather than simply entertainment. I now find myself thinking critically about what I witnessed. It is exciting to enter into new dialogues that bring meaning and thought to my well-loved pastime of watching movies.