Pat and Sharon were invited to attend the COP26 climate talks in Scotland. We will post a blog for each day we attend. The posts are longer than usual, but it is like drinking from a firehose! The Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) is sharing these posts with agriculture and conservation groups throughout the West. The IWJV’s mission is to protect migratory birds and habitat. Thanks for sharing, Dave and Hannah!
Greetings from Scotland! Pat and Sharon O’Toole are delegates to the COP26 event in Glasgow. COP stands for “Congress of Parties” and this is the 26th year it has been held. The gathering is sponsored by the United Nations (UN) in order to address climate change—both its consequences, and strategies to slow or reverse the rise in temperatures, severe storms, flooding, effects on health and other consequences.
We are in Glasgow representing the organization Solutions from the Land, where Pat serves as a Board member. SfL focuses on land-based solutions to global challenges, with ranchers, farmers, foresters and partners who advocate for enabling agricultural landscapes to bring solutions in such challenging areas as food and energy security, sustainable economic development and environmental improvement. (See solutionsfromtheland.org.)
Pat also serves a President of the Family Farm Alliance, representing irrigators, and on the boards of Partnerscapes and the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV). The IWJV staff has kindly offered to distribute this blog, so thanks guys.
In the debate over climate change, and ways to address its effects, agriculture has become a whipping boy. Competing studies, including those by the UN, cite statistics attributing methane pollution to livestock production. These percentages range from minor to as much as 32 percent. This usually includes the agricultural part of the transportation sector, as we run tractors, transport food and drive home from the grocery store. Animal agriculture has been a particular target. It is easy to attack domestic livestock production without recognizing that properly managed grazing animals are a tool—indeed one of the very best tools—to regenerate soils and plants on the landscape.
Agriculture has been scarcely represented at past COPs and the discussions led by the United Nations. In fact, SfL is one of the few organizations which has shown up at the table to consistently carry the message that we are a solution, not a problem. Pat likes to say, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” We also need to be in the kitchen!
Our first impression is the stark gap between those who are on the land, and those who think they know a lot about it. Our job is to bridge that gap.
Last week—the first week of COP26—was attended by four American agriculturalists with SfL. This week, Pat and Sharon are attending with Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. Up to 30,000 people are delegates and around 100,000 people, many of them young, are demonstrating outside. The demonstrators are demanding action to avert the disastrous effects of climate change, but we didn’t hear any solutions proffered. The folks inside the “Blue Zone” are supposed to come up with those.
Getting to Glasgow, being invited to the event, and just being able to attend has been complicated. The days leading up to arrival included lots of paperwork, proof of vaccination, and a negative Covid19 test. As one wag said, “30,000 people getting together in the midst of a pandemic—what could possibly go wrong?!”
The organizers have taken plenty of covid precautions, including daily self-tests reported to the Scottish government, and loads of sanitizers, wipes and masking. Outside, it’s just a bunch of people milling about.
We arrived a couple of days early and decided to see the sights. All the locals told us that we must visit the Highlands—at least that’s what we think they said since their English is somewhat different than what we hear in Wyoming. We booked a tour and went north. It is amazing country! We were heartened to see the pastures dotted with sheep and cattle.
As we travelled further north to Loch Ness (didn’t see the monster), the country became wilder and the scene of many a battle with the British. Think “Braveheart” and “Outlander.” In the rough north country, almost all of the cattle were Scottish Highlanders. With the chill and the wet, you can sure see why they’ve developed those coats!
The Scottish people couldn’t be nicer. They are not just friendly, but really go out of their way to help. Yesterday a young man saw us struggling to buy train tickets, and he stayed with us until we had the proper tickets in hand. We are staying in Edinburg, about an hour’s train ride away from Glasgow. In Wyoming, we’re a little short on public transportation, so the assistance was much appreciated.
This is an adventure, both in seeing the countryside and in attending the COP with people from all over the world. Our goal is to carry forward our message that agriculture is essential, and that it is a solution.