Every week in the climate, science, social justice, and environmental spaces is as diverse as Uproot’s membership. Field Notes are snapshots of the varied experiences that make our community so vibrant.
Name: Erin X. Wong
Pronouns: all pronouns
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Job description: I’m a freelance reporter covering supply chains and the environment, plus a 2023-2024 Uproot Environmental Justice Fellow!
Years of experience in your job: 2
Social media handles: Twitter @erinxy / Threads @erinxy_
One word to describe your week: (Life in) Plastic
A Week in the Life
This was a crazy week! And more eventful than most. Last month, I attended the UN plastics treaty talks at the UNESCO headquarters in central Paris.
Delegates from the environment ministries of 169 countries are here, and I spend most of the morning watching the opening plenary. By noon, I am off to side events on the role of trade policy and perspectives from the Global South.
At 5 p.m., dozens of NGO advocates gather outside for a peaceful action, protesting a lack of access to the venue. Conveners say there was a capacity issue. One Greenpeace Aotearoa activist tells me she flew 34 hours to be there, only to share a pass with five other people.
I join a packed room for an event hosted by the International Alliance of Waste Pickers, which represents workers who collect plastic, glass, and other recyclables for a living. The room falls silent when Johnson Doe, a waste picker from Ghana, picks up the mic and tells us how his group of dumpsite workers has had to move from landfill to landfill with no job security. Soledad Mella, a Chilean activist, describes the ingenuity of waste pickers in Latin America who are still fighting for recognition from their local governments. I’ve got multiple recorders on the desk, and I’m furiously taking notes.
Finally, discussions on plastic policy get moving! But this means media isn’t allowed into member state negotiations. I take advantage of the break to schedule coffee meetings with advocates and industry reps. I use the media breakroom to start mapping out stakeholders related to my fellowship project. The real highlight of today is interviewing Indumathi, an informal waste-picker-turned-entrepreneur who now runs a waste collection service in Bengaluru. It’s a gift to be here on the ground, where many global nonprofit teams have in-house translators for Spanish, French, and Hindi.
I start to feel the collective exhaustion. Because discussions were held up in procedural talks, they are running late into the night. Advocates have started feeling bullish about minimum positive outcomes, and they’re more keen to reflect on the wins of the week. I host a couple of longer interviews in the garden out back and start drafting a pitch at a café nearby. With only one more day to go, the venue is still abuzz with conversation at 10 p.m. at night. Eventually, I wander off to de-stress, catching the light show at the Eiffel Tower, ten minutes away.
Time to synthesize! In the morning, I finalize my pitch, and – fingers crossed – I send it off! I start organizing all of my notes into future stories and post up at the tables in the middle of the venue to say goodbye to new connections. The plastics treaty talks overlap with a number of cultural events at the UNESCO headquarters, so I listen in on a concert by the Congolese musician Afara Tsena on the patio.
Saturday and Sunday:
After a week of speed-walking between interviews and side events, I remember I’m in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I hike up the hill to see the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur du Montmartre, leave a lock for a loved one on the fence, and write postcards home. I visit the National Museum of Archives in the colorful neighborhood of Le Marais, where I indulge in numerous crepes.
From the Wild:
Hobby you keep thinking about but haven’t picked up yet?
Audiobook, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
Paperback all the way
Three most-used emojis?
😌 🐳 🥬
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