At times, momentum can feel like a rare thing, kind of an endangered species. As an organizer and youth worker, I’ve learned that it’s typical for hours of emails, meetings, and phone calls to result in smaller-than-desired attendance and engagement. Sometimes our rallies, marches, lobby days, or conferences consist of a few dedicated young advocates, and not the revolutionary multitudes that we had initially hoped for.
But on Saturday December 1st at the University of Minnesota, this was not the case. Thanks to the momentum built by 350.org’s dynamic presentation on campus the night before and by the beautifully executed organizing efforts of MN350, MN Youth Environmental Network (MNYEN), and YEA! MN, a program of the Will Steger Foundation, the Climate Math that Works conference was full of energized high-school and college students from around the state, elders, and other community members.
The idea for the conference was direct and simple. We sought to encourage action around 350.org and Bill McKibben’s new campaign, which primarily focuses on divestment from fossil fuel corporations. The conference was meant to empower people to create climate change solutions in their lives, schools, or workplaces and to confront the institutions of which they are a part on the issue of divestment away from fossil fuel corporations.
The day was full of talented speakers and constructive workshops. The first activity of the day was a two-hour youth gathering where young people got together to network with one another and share projects and ideas. Next, Sam Grant from Embody Deep Democracy gave an inspiring talk about his organizing experience and work on divestment from apartheid South Africa, and the power of connectivity. Workshop topics in the afternoon ranged from in-depth discussions on campus fossil fuel divestment, to planning around the burgeoning and exciting Minneapolis Energy Options campaign, which seeks to empower localized energy options.
YEA! MN, the high school environmental leadership program of which I coordinate through the Will Steger Foundation, conducted a student led workshop and discussion about various school sustainability projects and obstacles that organizers have come across in their work. YEA! MN youth did a phenomenal job!
Reflecting back on the energy and spirit of the day, I am filled with a deep sense of joy and security. While people were eating lunch together, I remember feeling the sense of a new social and environmental reality; advocates gathered together to usher in the start of a different way of thinking about ourselves and our planet. Through my job, I am lucky enough to interact with youth and committed advocates on a daily basis. I am happy to play a small part of the beginning of a much larger movement. Now, I can feel the momentum. I can feel the pulse of change.
Bill McKibben and the Do the Math Tour were in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota on Friday November 30th where they spoke to a sold out crowd of over 1200 people.
Today marks the completion of the first week of COP18 as well as the conclusion of my participation here in Doha. Unfortunately the reality of life as a college student demands that I return to Smith College to finish my semester! I’d sincerely love to stay and contribute to youth involvement at COP18 for a second week. However I know that I am leaving this conference with very capable and passionate people to fill my absence.
Today is Youth and Future Generations Day at COP18! I began my day by heading to the YOUNGO office to help fellow youth make posters for an event later that day. After I contributed my fair share of poster-making creativity (or what little I have!) I headed over to one of the large plenary halls for an “Intergenerational Inquiry” with the UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, and the current Ambassador from Grenada Dessima Williams. These three panelists, proponents of youth climate activism especially within the context of the UNFCCC, weighed in on the challenge youth will be facing for the next decades and how we can take action now to mobilize support and create a global movement. In particular, Christiana Figueres stressed the importance of utilizing social media, the most powerful communication tool, to create a revolution. “Climate change may be the most complex issue humanity has ever faced”, Christiana remarked, thus it is imperative that we communicate the urgency to act in a manner that is easily comprehensible.
Although my day began with a Finance working group meeting, I spent majority of my time interviewing youth members of AYCM (the Arab Youth Climate Movement). Initially encountering AYCM at the Conference of Youth, I have become increasingly impressed at the organization of this youth network as well as the energy and passion they have dedicated to climate activism. I am still in the process of conducting interviews, and I will eventually compile them into a synthesized profile. Stay tuned for this profile, as I will post it in a couple of days!
After I had finished conducting my interviews I attended “Fossil of the Day”, an action that CAN (the Climate Action Network) performs every evening at each COP. The “Fossil of the Day” award is a “prestigious” honor given to the top three countries that have been the least cooperative in the negotiations of the past day. Canada was awarded the first place and New Zealand the second place. And of course, the US wasn’t forgotten! In fact it won third place – partly due to the fact that President Obama just signed a bill exempting US airlines from the European aviation carbon-trading plan. All in all the action drew in quite a significant crowd and succeeded in highlighting the lack of climate leadership displayed by these three leading countries.
After “Fossil of the Day”, our delegation Skyped with two classes from SES who were eager to learn about our experiences at COP18. I could tell that the ASD and SES students had already gained substantial experience and knowledge of climate change and the UN process just within the first three days of the conference. I look forward to seeing what the rest of the conference brings for our delegation!
You can view our full profile at the Charities Review Council.