Pondering Fate

Rounding out the triumvirate of part-time employment I have distracting me from writing That Damn Paper (the new official title of my dissertation) is a teaching position in the School of Social Work.  Last week I lectured alone for the first time, on material new to the course and to me.  I’m one of three with teaching responsibility for these classes, which is an absolutely fabulous set-up; low stress and interesting all at the same time.

On Tuesday, the students will have an in-class simulation of a UN Global Humanitarian Forum based on a variety of readings on Human Development.  To give them a primer of what is expected, one of my colleagues sent out links to videos from last year’s UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Bonn.

This is the sort of stuff that gets passed around my collegial circles all the time… climate change, gazillions impacted, always the lowest on the totem that get sunk… yeah, yeah.  It buzzes around back there as we focus on whatever tiny section of the Global Health pie we’re devouring.  It’s not that we’re not interested, it’s just that well… sometimes it feels like folks in this field tire of the gore and horrors. And sometimes you get so caught up in just doing a job and just getting ahead that the senses get dulled. Passion is not something easy to sustain. Then, sometimes, an ear picks up a few words and slowly lifts the head around to attention.

The discussion of the Himalayas, and the ONE BILLION people who live on either side, is what turned my head. Because that’s right, of course. One third of our roughly 6 billion earthlings call either India or China home, so it’s right to throw those numbers out there. At least a billion people live to the north and south of the Himalayan range and rely on it’s freshwater runoff.

I know. His tongue is a bit serpent-like. I hope it didn’t distract too much from his arguments. By the way, this guy, Yvo de Boer, is the Executive Secretary of the UFCCC. Like most folks at the UN, I feel like he’s caught in a battle of conscious and politics… wanting to get tough and present vision and do all those hard-line things that Greenpeace (et al) slam him on, but having to deal with arrogant leaders (ahem, GW) who aren’t having it and would simply shut it all out if he did go that route. I dunno. Maybe this is me dreaming? I always want to believe that people long to do more than they are able.

A statement made by 17-year old Rishika Das Roy, from Kolkata, India, was also sent to students. Here are some photographs of her community, the Sunderbans. I wonder what her statement would have been if she had attended the meeting as the Executive Director of the UNFCCC for the day, rather than a “witness”?

Watching the two speakers — their different roles, ages, positions, passions, intents, and approaches — the hierarchies in it all just stood out. This young woman is poised to be a leader in some capacity. Will 30 years of working with International organizations dull her passions, force her to recognize the compromises in politics, shake her down to broad numbers of impact? Is this fate for all go-gooders? That we become jaded, pessimistic, burnt out, fed up?