I have spent the last several days with a knot in my stomach about this week’s climate talks in Paris. Our international negotiations are adding up over decades of tenuous, largely non-binding, furtive bouts of negotiation and frustration over the international community’s inability to find a common path towards the drastic carbon reductions and changes in how we procure energy that we all know we must achieve. I do not think I am at all alone in my profound need to feel hopeful, while harboring a justifiably high level of skepticism given how difficult these negotiations are and how poor their history has been.
So it was with some real relief that I found a different and creative outlet for my concerns and frustrations this past week with the opportunity to make salmon lanterns for Salmon Is Life, a grassroots art project which created hundreds of lanterns shaped and painted like salmon that were sent to Paris to participate in the peaceful demonstrations and rallies to be held alongside the climate talks (to the extent possible after French authorities canceled the massive organized demonstrations that were planned due to fears following the horrible attacks in Paris a few weeks ago — I’d go further down that rabbit hole of the connections between terrorism and climate change, but I’m depressed enough so right now I’m just not going to) .
Denise Hendrikson, an amazing community artist from Seattle (you can read more about her actions here), and Deb D’Angelo, a local environmental activist, hosted a day-long workshop in my community to make these beautiful salmon lanterns. Denise’s creations start with a wax outline on silk that is then hand-painted and sewn into a wind-sock that is lit from inside and carries in the breeze. The lanterns are absolutely delightful, and I felt honored and privileged to participate in making a few of the hundreds of lanterns that have been sent to Paris this week.
I am so thankful that I got an opportunity to do something creative and beautiful to contribute to the environmental community at the Paris talks. The salmon, with its long, complex journey that crosses ecosystems to find its way back to creation and completion of its story, could not be a better symbol for this difficult path we face. I am so excited that our salmon lanterns will travel across the ocean to bring messages of hope for progress.