Does a Priest Go on Holiday

Well this one did, right or wrong.

After the Climate Summit in Paris, I was both delighted with the results and exhausted. Almost too exhausted to realize what had just happened. I wasn't exhausted because I played a major role in the negotiations - I only had one brief meeting with John Kerry and two press conferences of any importance. My colleagues and I presented an 11 foot long Paris Pledge Scroll (www.parispledge.org) with over 5000 names of those committed to cutting their own carbon footprints to Karen Florini of the US State Department. And we gave a scheduled presentation about the work that the US faith community is doing in America. Important, yes, but nothing like the espresso-fueled all-nighters the government delegates were putting in.

No, the exhaustion came from being at the COP21 Center from early in the morning until late in the evenings. It was roughly a ½ mile between the Blue Zone (government delegates and those with official badges) and the Green Zone (open to anyone). Many of us had to walk this distance several times a day. Did I mention sore feet? Evenings were filled with dinners and meetings that went on into late night hours. So after ten days of that, my engine had run down.

Many of the people who were in Paris went home directly afterwards and back to work. I went on a holiday. Three days in London and then to Spain for two weeks. It wasn't until four days after the Climate Summit when I was being asked (in Spanish and broken English) about what went on in Paris, that I realized I had not yet fully processed the historic event that I had just witnessed. I had been focused on recovery and getting to Granada and meeting my family there for the holiday season.

After two days of sleeping in and feeling rested enough to reflect, I was pushed into having some sound and focused opinions and conversation about the Paris Agreement because some neighbors of my friend who's house we had rented invited me to dinner. After some small talk, what they really wanted to know from me was,
"Que PASO en Paris?" There were twelve people and only one couple who were fluent in English.

I had to make my responses simple because my Spanish vocabulary is very limited. Fortunately the man sitting next to me and enjoying an elegantly prepared and delicious Spanish dinner served as interpreter. It was a struggle to communicate the many factors and complicated issues that got resolved in Paris, but I was forced to focus on the big issues using the simplest of terms. Try that some time and OMG, an amazing thing happens. The highlights from Paris are extraordinary. I got very excited when I had to simplify the facts. It forced me to realize that history WAS made. All the nations of the world had come together and agreed that we have to address climate change. That alone would be enough to consider COP21 a success, but there was much more. 188 countries pledged emissions reductions. A five year review would happen to see how we are doing. There would be complete transparency and a committee to oversee the process. The Green Climate Fund was endorsed and pledges made for that too. The $100 billion for the developing world was in tact. (In my previous blog I wrote that GCF is a priority for the faith community because it will provide funds for the poor nations of the world that are developing but need support to do so without having to resort to fossil fuels for electricity.)

It was the holiday that gave me the time to rest and reflect and subsequently report that The Paris Agreement was a huge and historic success. "A floor, not a ceiling" as Secretary of State John Kerry called it. It is a major beginning - laying a path to a more hopeful future for the generations that come after us. It is not a perfect solution to the global problem, but finally it is being addressed by the entire global community.

Rested up and ready for another year of work in service and preaching the message of moral responsibility to protect Creation, I highly recommend a holiday for anyone, priest or otherwise. One needs time for reflection and if you were in Paris I suggest giving yourself a rest so you can realize that the Paris Agreement is and will be going forward just what we needed to push this movement along. It is a good follow up to Pope Francis's message of consideration for the common good before we do any more business as usual. Sooner or later, everyone needs a holiday.