(Note: This entry is being posted a few days after it was written. Things have been so busy since we arrived in Tianjin that this has been my first chance to visit my blog this trip. I hope to update it soon!)
My husband and I are onboard a flight to Beijing, our final destination being the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, where he was invited to participate in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014. Lucky me, I get to tag along for the ride. We had the good fortune of attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland earlier this year for the first time, and T.J. must have done something right, since he was invited to participate in this gathering as well—and to, once again, take me along.
Seeing as I was attending the WEF for the first time, I went into the Davos adventure in January with no particular agenda. I was open to (but intimidated by) whatever experience awaited me in a convention center packed with the highest density of the world’s movers and shakers imaginable. Here heads of states, CEO’s, cultural icons and intellectual powerhouses are wined and dined; discuss, as is the WEF’s stated mission, ways of “improving the state of the world”; and behind closed doors, make high-level business negotiations, all in a pristine Swiss alpine setting. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a surreal divergence from my very unglamorous, mostly stay-at-home-mom existence of cleaning up potty accidents and prying unidentifiable dried foodstuffs off the dining room floor.
But I am headed into this WEF event with something of a mission. Since our trip to Davos, I have become galvanized around the need to join others who realize the urgent need to stem the effects of climate change and curtail further greenhouse gas emissions in order to sustain life on this planet. As luck would have it, climate change (along with technology and innovation) is one of the primary themes of the Tianjin meeting. I’m looking forward to attending sessions on managing limited water resources (of particular interest to me since I live in drought-stricken California), building more sustainable and resilient communities, and working toward energy solutions. Of course, it will be fascinating to hear these discussions in the country that is the world’s highest emitter of greenhouse gases, and which just this past weekend, made a historic commitment toward reducing its carbon output.
I’m hoping that T.J. and I won’t feel the effects of China’s carbon pollution too viscerally while we’re there, however. We decided to cancel our plans to sightsee in Beijing following the meeting in Tianjin, in large part because after learning just how bad the air pollution really is in Beijing, and taking into consideration T.J’s rather severe asthma troubles, we decided that we didn’t want to risk navigating an unfamiliar health system should he have an attack.
Of course, our soon-to-be 3- and 7-year olds will be happy to have us back sooner rather than later too; as secure as they are with my mom, who is taking care of them while we’re gone, they were reluctant to let us leave, especially our son (the almost-7-year-old). He wailed every night of the week leading up to our departure. It was pretty wrenching leaving him.
I will only have two days with him and my daughter when we get back to Berkeley and then I’m off on the People’s Climate Train, a 4-day, cross-country Amtrak ride with fellow climate change activists culminating, on September 21 in NYC, in what organizers project to be the biggest climate march in world history, scheduled to coincide with the UN Climate Summit 2014. I’m wondering how the discussions of climate change at the elite gathering at the WEF will compare with those among the grassroots train riders and protesters I’ll be meeting next week—a fortuitous juxtaposition.