Youth Find Common Vision at Copenhagen
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” –Hopi Elders.
"Beneath the surface of a failed conference, there has emerged a common vision amongst youth, which inspires me to continue doing this work," writes Marcia Lee, a 2009 Caux Scholar from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who attended he conference on climate change.
From amongst people of color communities, I was reminded that perhaps we are asking the wrong questions and that systemic issues are not solved in a day.
My purpose for coming to Copenhagen as part of an Initiatives of Change team was to develop more concrete relationships for IofC with the delegates and NGOs that were at the Bella Center. I was also working to build a stronger sense of trust with the negotiations and to learn how international negotiations and politics work (and don’t work).
In addition, I was working with an NGO from the U.S. called The League of Young Voters Education Fund. The organization empowers young people nationwide to participate in the democratic process – with a focus on non-college youth and youth from low-income communities and communities of color.
I spent most of my time talking with people. I felt that the question that would most help to build trust is to ask what broke people’s hearts and how we could work together to bring healing to the things that bring the most suffering. Most of the conversations had a similar vein of the need to address climate change because it is a matter of survival. There was a strong sense that if we did not act now, we were reaching a tipping point where it would be too late.
In conjunction with talking with people, I also did some work with YOUNGO, the youth constituency at the conference. Youth from all over the world came together with one agenda: survival of the future and for the most vulnerable. It was inspiring that even as the various countries were having a difficult time coming to an agreement, youth, from all parts of the world were able to come together, take a stance, and work on one common goal.
However, even as we worked to influence the results, there was an ever-present feeling of distrust and hidden agendas amongst the negotiators and countries. There were many secret meetings where certain countries were not invited. NGOs and civil society were removed from the proceedings. Even the head of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) said that everything was about politics and that science no longer mattered. These actions only reinforced distrust and divisions.
Therefore, the only hope that we have is in each other and this may, in fact, be exactly what we need. When I was working outside of the Bella Center, I found that people worked together a lot more and there was a higher degree of trust between communities and countries. In the end, politicians are also human. If we can meet each other at a human level and live with the needs of others in our actions, then perhaps we will be able to do something before it is too late.
Through this experience, I was re-convicted on the importance of individual transformation and the power of collective change. On one level, the questions of climate change and carbon emission can be addressed by politicians and governments. On another level, we have to address it within ourselves and change our own consumption patterns. To this end, I dedicate myself to become mostly vegetarian because of the huge amounts of resources that are used to produce, transport, and dispose of meat.
The negotiations are not over. The negotiators will continue to work for another month to arrive to an initial decision and then continue to negotiate throughout the year. We must continue to push the negotiators towards a stronger agreement, reexamine the questions that we are asking, and become the solutions we want to see in the world.