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Home » Discover Rackham » Supporting the COP21 Climate Talks from Ground Control in Ann Arbor

Last week we heard from Mayank Vikas who attended the COP 21 climate talks in Paris. But things were moving so fast at the conference that the attendees from the University of Michigan had a whole other team back in Ann Arbor to support them: Ground Control. Bonnie Applebeet, Rackham Communications' Grad Student Staff Assistant, asked Vitor Machado Lira about his experience as the Output Products Lead Coordinator for the COP 21 team:

Can you tell an anecdote about how you came to be interested in climate change or started to become involved with COP21?
My interest in Climate Change is rooted in my degree program here at the University of Michigan. I am a Master’s candidate at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and my work is focused on human behavior and decision making in regards to the environment. So, the COP 21 was a unique opportunity to have a look at a discussion of worldwide scale that impacts my field of study. The talks in France brought together important characters from all over the world to come up with a common ground on environmental action but the next steps are the hardest, and they will require strong will from multiple parties across the globe to come to fruition.

Can you describe what ground control is, then maybe give us a little first person “snapshot” of what it was like to be on the team?
In regards to what I did during the talks, I assisted the University of Michigan delegation that attended the negotiations as a member of their Ground Control team. Although physically distant, our group served as the bridge between the proceedings in Paris and the interested community in Ann Arbor. Ground Control, as a whole, coordinated strategies that would disseminate information effectively and quickly through six subgroups: delegation agenda, interview prep, output events, output products, media, and community connection. Each subgroup had a delegate in attendance to the talks as a liaison to the latest developments, and to make sure we were not missing a beat, we all maintained constant communication and record of what was being accomplished. It was extremely exciting to work with people from so many different programs at once. Our team had faculty and students from the School of Natural Resources and Environment, School of Information, Engineering and Atmospheric Sciences, to name a few.

What was it like to work with so many different people? Did you have any experience with social media beforehand? How was this assigned to you? What was the most difficult part of your specific job?
As we parceled the main tasks to be covered by Ground Control, I voiced my previous experience as a writer for the Our Common Future Under Climate Change conference in the Summer of 2015 and social media work for grad school projects, and I was approached by Lizz Ultee, one of the outstanding delegates involved, to be in charge of the output products team as lead coordinator. From there I shared some of my expertise developed alongside Michelle Kovacevic, the communications coordinator for the 2015 conference, and proposed the main tasks the output projects team would be in charge of. We created various platforms to spread awareness and knowledge during the COP through articles and blog posts (via Facebook, Twitter and our own webpage) and, in joint work with the U-M Energy Institute and the Graham Sustainability Institute, set up a symposium on the climate change talks with the delegates, faculty and the local community at the University on January 21.

To know more about COP 21 and Climate Blue, please follow their blog to read more about their upcoming event 'Good COP, Bad COP?' on January 21, 2016 at Room 2435, North Quad from 4:30 to 8:00pm along other events. At the symposium, Climate Blue will share their experiences and views from Paris, and also discuss some of the key issues under the Paris Deal with an esteemed panel of senior faculty members from the University of Michigan. For more on the Delegation and Ground Control follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest articles and reporting on the climate talks, and find the It’s Hot In Here episode available here.