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School of Sustainability News Alumni and Student Spotlights

January 16, 2015

sustainability-student-megan-barryThis past December, representatives from around the world gathered in Lima, Peru to discuss our collective course on climate change. Megan Barry, a Fall 2014 graduate of the School of Sustainability's Master’s in Sustainable Solutions program, attended the historic conference. She shares her experience in this month’s Student Spotlight.

How did you snag a seat at the Lima Climate Change Conference?

I was serving as a research assistant to climate scientist Sonja Klinsky at the time. One aspect of my work was to analyze the various meanings of the term “transformation” with regard to climate change and climate finance. The conference was a perfect venue for this research because “transformation” is frequently used in this context.

What was it like?

I knew the conference would be huge, but I was still amazed once I got there. The number and diversity of attendees - people from every corner of the globe, and with different goals – was incredible.

There were a few large, general sessions every day, which most participants attended. Then, there were multiple smaller sessions (100 or so attendees) on specific topics. I went to the ones that were most pertinent to my research.

Did technology play a significant role?

Technology was crucial to keeping things structured and organized. It was also helpful outside of the conference. For example, a public transportation app designed for conference attendees helped me to commute to and from the venue – and around Lima – exclusively by bus!

What did you learn?

A few keys things. One is that it was very difficult to categorize attendees. It would have made our research easier if, for example, all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) used “transformation” in one sense, and all private interest groups used it in another. The reality is much more complex, and we are still formalizing our findings.

I can say that, generally, “transformation” was used in one of two ways: to describe the energy sector alone, or to describe a broader social movement.

The second major takeaway is that this conference requires a lot of patience and a genuine desire to understand the views of others. Every major representative has a point of view and the opportunity to share it, which takes a long time. You really need to be receptive and committed to progress, to creating a space to communicate and make change, for this process to work.