What's Going on in Paris?

No, not Louis Vuitton. World leaders have converged in Paris to discuss debt reform in the face of the climate crisis.

What's Going on in Paris?
Photograph by Sean Davidson for Atmos

LISTENING: to my hungry cat cry
groggy AF
imaginary ants because actual ants are invading my office

Seems like everyone is in Paris this week.

There was Pharrell Williams' Louis Vuitton debut Tuesday night that some of my favorite celebrities attended — from Mama Rihanna to Zaddy Zendaya. More important than musicians and fashion icons, however, are the many world leaders who are in Paris this week to talk about climate finance and reparations for the Global South. Some 50 heads of state are gathering to form a summary of commitments that will help guide COP28 in Dubai later this year. Climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate are expected to attend, too.

Countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are feeling the impacts of the climate crisis first and worst. They need economic assistance to survive the cyclones and drought and rains and heat waves already hitting them. They need incentives to skip fossil fuels and afford clean energy investments. Their people need access to electricity, but solar panels and wind farms aren't cheap. A future where homes have pollution-free light and internet won't be possible without some help.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, and I'm all for climate reparations.

Seems like so is Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, a U.N. agency that provides loans to world governments in need. Usually, those loans come with strings attached. Maybe a country must allow more free trade or foreign investments in exchange — all of which may come at a cost to its health and environment. I minored in sociology in my undergraduate studies, and my big takeaway about the IMF during that period was that it suuuuucks.

I can't ignore, however, the calls from within the agency to make room for reparations.

“Timely debt relief is essential,” Georgieva said at this week's global summit. “Vulnerable countries hit by the impacts of climate change need urgent assistance to be able to address new pressing needs while remaining able to meet their obligations [on debt repayments].”

Some voices from the climate justice movement have been calling for debt relief as one form of climate reparations. After all, these countries in the Global South have made minimal contributions toward global carbon emissions. It is only fair that those that created this mess help clean it up.

While I was at Atmos, I commissioned a Juneteenth essay by Tamara Toles O'Laughlin on the concept of climate reparations. She defines the term below:

Climate reparations, a term coined by law profesor Dr. Maxine Burkett, is a framework that assesses the harm caused by the past emissions of major polluters and looks to improve the lives of the climate vulnerable through direct programs, policies, and/or mechanisms. It moves money and other resources to increase the likelihood that the climate vulnerable will survive the crises. It calls out the endless accumulation of wealth by fossil fuel majors and reroutes it to the people they hurt.

What better moment than now?

The climate crisis is becoming more inescapable and unignorable. New Yorkers got a taste of what's in store. People are dying by the dozens from extreme weather for which they are unprepared. Across the globe, people are suffering.

I'm grateful that some government leaders, at least, can see the grim possibilities that lie ahead if finance remains an obstacle. Right now, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley is leading the call for reforms at the summit. She's even enlisted Bad Gal Riri to call for swift action.

It seems unlikely that the summit will result in a complete transformation of the world's development banks. I doubt that even the glamorous Rihanna can convince them to listen. I do, however, believe in us — those dedicated to making the world just a tiny bit better.

We are not motivated by dollar signs. We are motivated by a higher power: love.

How many more lives, families, and regions are our leaders willing to sacrifice to fulfill loan agreements and debt paymenets? Money shouldn't determine whether a country can afford to evacuate its people and rebuild after a storm. Profit margins shouldn't settle whether a country builds a new oil pipeline or a solar farm, instead.

And yet, this is how our global economy functions. This is how capitalism fails communities every day. 🌀

Next week's will be the last edition where all the extras below (save for the Rest in Power section) are available to free members. Editions featuring exclusive interviews will be sent to paid members only moving forward, too. If you love seeing the collages I've created and the stories I'm reading, be sure to upgrade your membership here. There are multiple options that should be affordable to everyone.

I've also decided to move the newsletter's Rest in Power section up to better emphasize how many lives are being cut short while governments waste time debating and talking.

Rest in Power

While we can't say for certain that climate change led to these specific weather events (we need an attribution study for that), we do know that the Earth's rising temperatures are already creating more disasters like these.

Northern and eastern India are currently experiencing a severe heat wave. At least 68 people are dead in the district of Ballia as a result.

A cyclone that struck southern Brazil last week has killed at least 14 people.

Floods and landslides from monsoon rains have left at least six people dead in Nepal. Some 28 people remain missing.

Currently Reading

My latest story for Atmos explores what the potential extinction of black ash means for northeastern Indigenous basket weavers.

I still can't believe the governor of Texas is removing mandatory water breaks for outdoor workers during the state's record-breaking heat wave.

It's still Pride, baby! Loved this feature on Pattie Gonia from Emily Atkin at HEATED. (Pattie content never gets old around here.)

We need more TV stories that talk about climate change. My girl Kendra Pierre-Louis writes about it for Mother Jones.

On whether insects feel pain: "To live, to eat, we almost inevitably kill other living things, even if our labor division means that you personally don't do the killing. But to the extent that the affected creatures are probably sentient, we have a moral obligation to minimize their suffering—whether in research labs, on feed-and-food farms, or in agricultural settings."

One-third of humanity. That's how many people rest in lands that may soon become "unlivable." ProPublica's got the data here.


007. REFRESH by Yessenia Funes using mixed media, 2023.
take a breath
take a rest
we all need a little
every now
and then
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See you next week. xx

- Yessenia