Archive for November, 2010

It is still hard to believe that today was the first day of the COP; there is so much going on–there are side events, meetings, plenaries, and multiple spaces for negotiation activities.  Even more hard to believe is that this whole process is going to last for two weeks, on one hand that seems like so long for negotiations to continue, but on the other hand the pace everything was moving at today made it clear that two weeks is not very long at all.  After today, though, we were able to go to a welcoming celebration put on by the Mexican government.

I feel as if one of the things that is consistently being said by people who were at COP 15 in Copenhagen is that this year for the COP 16 the energy is really different.  It is like people are not expecting a lot to come from these negotiations.  Though a lively reception can’t totally change that, I think that it set a good mood for the negotiations.  If we are to solve climate change, then we need to walk a thin line between clenching our jaws and doing hard life changing and life saving work; but we also need to celebrate.  We are here and there is hope, even if there is a little hope there is still hope, and celebrating that hope is one of the most energizing and life injecting things we can do.

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As  some of you may know I am now in Cancun for the next round of UN climate talks, the COP 16, with SustainUs*.  I flew in on Saturday and today (at least today for me) was the last day of the 6th Conference of Youth (a meeting for youth before the COP).  Coming into this process one of the things that I was worried about was how I would adapt to the organizing style present for the COP process (the work that I do usually within my own region in the US is anything but UN like).

As soon as the day started, though, I could see that my worries had been misplaced.  The organizing that is done here, of course, operates under a few more constraints than I am used to operating within, and different levels of approval have to be received for different actions; but I feel as if the process the youth have set up truly allows for creativity in the ways which we choose to approach the conference.

That creativity is something I feel needs to be taken and embraced by the process as a whole within the UN, not just within youth delegations. During a meeting of the actions working group for YOUNGO (you can look over at my friend, and fellow delegate Carra’s blog for an brief explanation of YOUNGO) the fact that the creative process works, even within the constraints placed upon a UN conference, was apparent.  People were excited–coming up with ideas for how to put pressure on countries, developing ideas for collaboration, giving and receiving criticism; honestly the list could go on, but suffice to say that it was truly inspiring and empowering.

Despite this, one of the things I think is really sad about Cancun is that people aren’t coming to the conference expecting a lot to happen, and maybe that is the pragmatic way to look at the conference; but as youth our job is not to be pragmatic.  Even beyond our identity as youth, our calling is not to be realistic, but to demand that our future and our children’s futures are secure from the threats posed by climate change.

The rules governing the UN are, I am sure, in place because of a long and rich history, and they probably have many different nuances which are designed into the process for a certain reason; but we are at a point in history where creativity matters.  Climate change will not be solved by continuing the processes that got us here, this task demands creativity and fresh thought.

That is one of the reasons I am so excited to be part of this process.  I feel as if my generation has an unprecedented ability to shape traditions into something new, to inject them with new life, and to use the hybrids we produce to make something beautiful and full of hope.
* SustainUS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of young people advancing sustainable development and youth empowerment in the United States. Through proactive education, research, and advocacy at the policy-making and grassroots levels, we are building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

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I recently got back from the MJ Fall Summit in West Virginia on Kayford Mountain a couple of weeks ago and, as is usual at MJ events, I feel like a small bit of meaningful understanding has been added to my life.   I would have added this sooner, but I’ve been trying to figure out how to convey what happened; I decided I can’t really, so it’s going to be more of a narrative/stream of consciousness than anything else.

On Sunday I woke up at 8(ish) and the day was beautiful.  After grabbing breakfast I headed down Kayford to work some phones in case people got arrested that day, luckily no one did; and the actions they took were received very positively by the local media and many local residents.

The symbolism of the action–where people planted trees on a “reclaimed” mine site–is amazing; but, surprisingly to me, that symbolism was not the most important part of the weekend for me (you can read more about the action here: http://climategroundzero.net/2010/10/kayford-reclamation-after-release/).  While I was sitting outside my friend asked me what I was planning on doing when I graduate.  Jokingly (because that question still terrifies me) I responded with Oh I’m taking a few years off before Grad School to make something of myself. I was referring to taking time off to make money; but my friend helped to clarify things.

You mean make some money to go to Grad School, which is a fine thing to do & useful.  But we need to understand, what we’re doing here, this is making something of ourselves; our jobs, that is making money to help us make something of ourselves.

That really hit me.  For a while I have been struggling to define where I see my life going.  How do I balance the romanticized version of a young adult life that I feel so many in our generation have with the need to actually make something of myself?  Can I even find that balance?  Right now I don’t know about the balance, but I know I want to actually, and truly, make something of myself.

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