Written by Ellie Johnston
SustainUS youth delegate
Senior at the University of North Carolina Asheville
I have almost been in Copenhagen for two weeks now and have been watching from the inside and outside of the Bella Center as the UN Climate Change Negotiations proceed. At this point the progress that is needed to have a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty has not occurred. The nations of the world are still stuck in a political gridlock and the transparency of this process for observers is becoming increasingly limited.
Right now I am sitting in the Bella Center, wearing a bright orange t-shirt that says, “How old will you be in 2050?” I am listening to the plenary session broadcasted on screens throughout with clusters of NGOs, young people, and party delegates crowded around.
Security guards walk around staring me in the eyes. Outside protester are tying to break-in, we are receiving fragmented reports about what is going on just beyond these walls of what has become a UN fortress. Somehow I have managed to find myself within it, in a surreal microcosm of the world. I am struggling with a mix of emotions in navigating what on one hand seems an incredible access to power, but on the other is the reality that the struggles that appear to be contained in this conference center are really much bigger and are found outside and back at home.
The pace of the negotiations is wrenching many of us here in the heart as our frustrations and fears about our futures and others are put on the line with the increased delays in action. The marches outside with thousands and the dozens of actions within the Bella Center are drawing the world’s gaze to Copenhagen and on climate change. It is incredible to me that my country or rather a few key decision makers are able to stall the process. Though really, that is only a simple analysis of the state of things right now. We are working with a process that is flawed (whether or not there is anything better—I do not know). I wrote yesterday on the SustainUS Blog about my inspiration from the amazing people I have met and the development of networks of people that are seeking solutions now. This seems to be the best we have at this point.
The science on climate change is no longer in debate and it is apparent here that we must think beyond our economic and political concerns and realize a moral call to action to address this issue. The images for me that most stand out from the past week are those from when I pass the incredible people who are undertaking the Climate Justice Fast, several of these individuals are now on day 42 without food. They have undertaken the fast because of their loss of what to do in the face of the inaction we see. I sympathize wholeheartedly at this point, and will join them tomorrow for a day of fasting with world leaders and citizens from around the world.
Other moving images from the past week include those from the march of 100,000 in the streets of Copenhagen on Saturday, where people of all ages stood in solidarity for climate action, this image was further solidified when I came back to the Bella Center and saw Bill McKibben of 350.org standing at a computer beaming with excitement as pictures from 350 vigils on that same day came streaming in from around the world. Government action is necessary on this issue but it will only come if the people demand it. Despite some progress recently, the United States still needs to take bolder action for our country’s prosperity and that of the entire planet. Let’s envision a future that is truly sustainable where clean renewable energy powers our lights and people see the impacts of their actions on everyone else worldwide and take action to foster healthy and long-term relations. Despite the daily frustrations on seeking a better way, I am reminded of the words of Kumi Naidoo from just over a week ago, “We can do this, we must do this, we will do this!”
Crossposted from Its Getting Hot in Here