Walk to Paris: Day 7

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 – Bernay to Beaumont le Roger

Today’s walk was uneventful. By “uneventful,” I mean pleasant. Temperature in the upper 50’s, partly sunny skies, calm roads. A perfect day for a 10-mile walk.

The eventful part of the day came later, with news that the French government would not allow two big public marches that were planned during the U.N. Climate Summit (COP21).

My first reaction was great surprise and even greater disappointment. Since the attacks, the French people I’ve spoken with were, of course, saddened and shocked by the killings. But they were also universally defiant.

day 5 pic 7 20151116_183050 - Version 2That defiance was best captured by a sign at the march and vigil in Lisieux. It read “Je suis en terrasse,” or literally,  “I am on the terrace.”

In other words, “I’m not going to live in fear. I’m not going to hide. I’ll continue to enjoy my coffee, my food and my friends on the terrace, in the café or at whatever public place I choose.”

I deeply admire that attitude. I am also grateful that the nations participating in COP21 have made it clear that they will attend, that they will not be scared off by terrorist attacks.

So what gives when it comes to the public component of COP21? I understand the risks, that terrorists might see a march of hundreds of thousands of people as a perfect opportunity for another attack. But couldn’t terrorists do just as much damage at a conference site where thousands of people – including world leaders and dignitaries – are gathered?

Maybe French authorities know things the rest of us don’t. Perhaps they have reconnaissance on plans by terrorists to stage attacks during one of the marches. But in the ongoing tension between liberty and security, it concerns me when the former is sacrificed for the latter – in this case, in a really big way.

On a related note . . . Could the terrorists have decided to stage the attacks in Paris specifically because of COP21? Much terrorist activity is funded by oil money, and a significant climate change agreement could kill that cash cow. If there is credence to this theory, it could help strengthen the resolve of COP21 participants to do something big, meaningful and lasting.

Terrorists have been successful at uniting most of the world against them. Perhaps they’ll inadvertently succeed at helping unite the world to get serious on climate action.

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