Crosspost from here.
Climate Change, The Elephant in the Room
The venue for this year’s summit
Some reflections on my initial frustrations with the UN process of tackling climate change.
This afternoon there was some sort of car crash in my brain. I’ve been rushing round this ridiculous venue at a rate of knots, meeting new people and learning new things faster than I can manage to write any of it down. As I was hurtling down the long road to climate justice this afternoon, I was going so fast that I didn’t notice the elephant in the room crossing the road. I collided with the realities of climate change head on, and billowing smoke started to gush from my ears.
Today at the UN Climate Talks it is Young and Future Generations Day, and a wide variety of events have been organized in celebration of what is surely, the reason that we are all here. Sitting through a talk from Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Talks, I found myself both empowered and angered. Christiana, the figurehead of this alien string of process admitted that her passion for tackling climate change is the future lives of young people. Hooray, I thought, maybe she is a human being and not the dinosaur that she has recently been depicted as. If the top dog can get sentimental about it, surely everyone else can? But at the same time, my brain was whirring away with questions and misunderstandings. ‘If she’s always been this passionate, why are we still in this mess? If she (or anyone powerful) really cares, why are we talking about the conversations that we might have in 2015? Why are young people still having to fight for the right to play a leading role in our own future?’
At the same time, I was flicking through twitter (because contrary to our parents’ belief, young people really can multi-task), and I learned the news that Hetty Bower, 108 year old campaigner for nuclear disarmament, passed away today. Here, I thought, was someone who dedicated ninety years to campaigning for what she believed in. Hetty was a suffragette. She marched against WW1, the war on Iraq, and against nuclear weapons. Earlier this year she was out in the rain marching for her local hospital to be kept open. Not only do I owe her my right to vote, but my right to stand up for what I believe in.. She was a determined campaigner from whom I take great inspiration, and learning of her passing during this ‘high level’ discussion really riled me. ‘Hetty had a powerful voice but there are still nukes in the dark depths of who knows where… Will today’s youth still be screaming the same messages when we’re old,wrinkly and speckled with sunspots?’
Rolling through my open tabs to Facebook (still listening to the conversation), I learned that my boss and his wife welcomed their first son, Charlie, to the world this morning. Bang. My speeding electric car lay crumpled under that vast and overwhelming elephant, and tears of frustration began to bounce among the keys of my laptop. As we were sat in this stale room effectively arguing about whether or not we might have waffly conversations about policy and papers, the children of tomorrow are being born. Today. So far I’ve spent over forty hours at this conference, and no part of this system has even touched upon the realities, nitty gritty and fragility of Charlie’s future. Policy meetings are merely driving us all round in circles that take us further and further away from anything that bears reality: mortality won’t wait for us to decide what we’re going to do.
‘We do not inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children.’
All the while, this much cited mantra was flitting around my brain. I’m not here in Warsaw because I like reading policy or because I thought it might lead to a job. I am an environmental campaigner because I can see this elephant in every room and it scares me. I am doing this because I want Charlie to grow up breathing clean air, living on an island not threatened by encroaching waters, and building a relationship with the plants and animals suggested in story books. I want him, and the brothers and sisters of his generation, to be assured of a safe, secure and positive future, which isn’t threatened by terrible decisions made before they were even born. I want them to be the agents of their own generation.
Lizzy Clark recently graduated from the University of Manchester in Social Anthropology and is now living in Chorlton, working in The Laundrette. She is currently attending the UN Climate Talks in Warsaw as a UK Youth Delegate, with the UK Youth Climate coalition. With rural roots in Devon, she enjoys exploring green areas and cooking hearty meals, as well as engaging young people in climate change conversations.