The civil society space at COP, as well as the negotiation "Blue Zone" according to what I’ve heard, is filled by huddled groups discussing, debriefing and planning their next move. Many people don’t even know what the COP is trying to accomplish, or how their work relates to the negotiating text. This creates an interesting dilemma. As a student studying the UNFCCC, I’ve come into this space with a research question: what kinds of indigenous narratives make it to COP and why—my own agenda. In pursuing research, I’m trying to draw my agenda out of individual actors that are often concerned with completely different issues and topics. Especially when talking to historically marginalized indigenous communities, forcing my own message on them just seems disrespectful.
So I changed my strategy. I want to engage with people, to hear what they care about, what’s at the forefront of their decision to engage in this space. Sure, I’m still a curious person. But to experience the depth of knowledge this community brings to the table, you have to approach people on their terms, thinking about their issues. My place here is to dig into COP, to figure out a small piece of this gigantic, severely hyped event. Now I just have to figure out what to say when I get asked that ubiquitous icebreaker question: “So what are you here for?”