COP21 started for me the night before in a McDonalds of all places. After arriving late to our ‘not the best but will do’ kind of sleeping arrangement, getting all the batteries and everything else on charge, and starting all the downloads of pictures and videos, we washed up and went seeking food. Everything was closed by then so Mcdees to the rescue.
After our not so pleasant dinner, we were leaving and passed a man reading a COP21 magazine. I asked him a question about the COP21, we exchanged pleasantries, and he asked if we’d like to sit. We took up his offer, and ended up sitting with him until the McDonalds staff were all waiting at the door for us to leave.
His name was Bruno, a French Scientist living and working in Belgium. He taught me more about climate change in relation to the different eco systems and how we all are interconnected with our planet. My view and understanding about the connectivity in terms of energy, oceans, land use, biodiversity and how none of them sustain only themselves. We’re all going down if we lose one key thing as it’s all connected. Tech will only get us part of the way out of the mess: we need to give the planet time to heal itself. He spoke about cumulative impacts, baseline analytics and many other things in a way that my kids could understand. He was engaging and sincere with what he spoke about and how he spoke about it. It was at times a scary discussion but throughout it I always felt there was a sense of positivity and that we all can make a difference, maybe even just being here.
We shot the breeze till Mcdees staff put the lights out. Here I was sitting and having a grown ups discussion- who’d of thunk it!
Next morning we were up and off to the conference proper at Le Bourget…. We arrived but were told to leave our bikes at the entrance of the complex due to security issues. We got in which was a surprise as we had been told we had to have registered weeks before. I approached one of the organisers behind the ‘help’ desk, he was a man who liked our plan. He spoke to the French police and after not too much chat plus a few smiles we were allowed to bring our bikes right in front of the public entrance for a quick photo opportunity. Although we had to remove the batteries and leave them at the gate for security. We set up our bikes in front of the entrance for our photo shoot and then it started. Queues of people started walking up and chatting about what we were doing, where have we come from and where were we going to end. There was such a diverse group of people at COP21, each having their own reason/discipline for being at the forum. We were interviewed by a whole host of foreign radios and TV. People from small organisations to large NGOs. Everybody really got what we were doing, about how important it is to keep spreading the message. It made me feel part of the solution even if it was just for the day. When explaining what the PHN stood for and our Ebike Africa message, they loved it. They further validated Last Mile Delivery enterprise, the potential to scale up an enterprise that will go a long way in affecting climate change and have a positive impact on your community.
We eventually had to just walk away after 4 hours of non-stop talk and try to see inside the convention. We left the bikes with people still walking about intrigued by them.
By the time we left it was dark and the traffic was utterly mental. We still had to make it further into Paris… another 16kms. There were cars everywhere, pouring out of every side street making it more busy and crazy. We had forgotten what traffic was and how unpredictable it is. There were at least two accidents right in front of us, scary stuff when you’re trying not to get hit dragging a 6ft trailer.
Eventually we found a hostel after again finding our first place to be just too small. Our room view of Sacré Coeur was the perfect end to a great day. It didn’t dawn on me then how great a feat we had just accomplished – not until long after we had returned to Glasgow.
The next day Uwe (Susanne’s boyfriend) arrived and we got sorted at breakfast and took the bikes and trailer out into Paris for a ride and to see the other COP21 sites. Security was on high alert and we were quickly ushered away from any public building but we did get some amazing shots. The day was topped off with a night time ride down the Champs-Élysées onto L’Arc de Triomphe.
The next day was a rush and I missed the Eurostar, thankfully managing to get the next one with a lot of help from Suz and Uwe. Uwe kindly took my trailer back to Germany so I wouldn’t have to take it on the train which in hindsight would have been impossible to do. It was the start of another eventful day having missed all my other train connections and half the country being in a flood. I rerouted all round the country and eventually got back to Glasgow 10 and a half hours later.
I was home and tired, but happy if still a little delirious. It was time to start thinking and planning the next leg… a slightly longer version of the first with a few more things to consider… Africa!