Risking Arrest to Break Our Oil Addiction

Boy has it been an exciting 36 hours! Last night I arrived at the Tar Sands Action Training around 5 pm to find a church full of concerned citizens from literally every walk of life. It was so incredible to meet and connect with people who had journeyed here from Kentucky, Canada, California and Vermont (just to name a few!), ranged in age from 17 to 80, and for the majority of whom the Tar Sands Action would be their first arrest. Much of the training was spent getting to know those with whom we would soon share an inexplicable bond of collective action, and that in and of itself was by far more inspiring than I had anticipated. Beyond logistics and legal questions, the training provided a forum for leader Bill McKibben to motivate us for the coming day and Keith, a member of an Albertan First Nation tribe being directly affected by the Canadian Tar Sands, to move us with his story. Keith spoke of rapidly increasing rates of respiratory disease and rare cancers in his community, along with visible sores on the bodies of moose his family would regularly hunt for food – all because of the Tar Sands oil extraction. That was quite enough tugging at our heartstrings to convince us that this action, and our own arrests were worthwhile; for the climate, for future generations, and for the many Albertans already feeling negative impacts.

When the morning came, I was more than ready to take action. We were advised to bring as little property as possible to move the arresting process along, so unfortunately I had to leave my camera at home. I did manage to snap a picture of us at the beginning of the action, which I’ve attached for you all to check out. We lined up in Lafayette park and walked solemnly, but with strength in two long lines to our sit-in formation infront of the White House. There we stood dignified, holding banners boldly displaying our message: Stop the Tar Sands Keystone Oil Pipeline. On my right a 28 year old rambunctious male dancer/DJ from Philadelphia, on my left a 50 something year old woman from Salem, MA who had proudly developed a contingency of locals in her hometown who were following her trip to the Tar Sands Action. All three of us preparing to be arrested for the first time in our lives, none of us expecting it to be our last. We stood together in solidarity with 137 others who calmly accepted arrest for the charge: Failure to Obey Lawful Order, all the while singing peace songs and chanting about the importance of Obama vetoing the pipline.

Each of us 137 calmly accepted arrest, one at a time having our hands secured behind our back with thick plastic zip tie-type devices (no handcuffs, unfortunately!), fully patted down by an officer, mugshot photos taken, and ushered into 12 person paddy wagons (which were quite hot and confining). Separated 6 and 6 by a wall within the wagon, I sat with my fellow fugitives laughing and supporting each other’s discomforts and curiosities. We were bused off to Anacostia Jail just outside of the city and were subsequently held in these wagons for around 2 hours before being processed in the jail and released with $100 citations in a relatively timely manner. Upon our release we were greeted by a crew of cheering supporters amply stocked with water and granola bars and proceeded to hang out and share stories – finally beginning to recognize a tacit understanding about our shared experience and statement.

Throughout this action, one thing continued to pop up as a pattern: that for the majority of protesters the Tar Sands Action was their first experience risking arrest (a very big step in the world of environmental action). Not only did this reality even further reinforce our collective arrest experience as an issue, a day, and a group of people whom will always share this unique introductory experience, but I think it also says a great deal about the weight of this issue and its timing at such an important moment in history. Clearly the destruction of the Tar Sands combined with our country’s blatant ability to stop a pipeline which would severely worsen the situation had enough gravity and urgency to mobilize over 800 law-abiding citizens to put their bodies on the line to make an impact. Right now, the United States is at a crucial point of no return: either jump on the renewable energy band wagon with Europe and other progressively-thinking regions or drag our feet and keep trying to squeak out that last drop of oil with complete disregard for our climate and environment.

Given it’s key point in time, the Keystone XL Pipeline is absolutely the make-or-break decision for President Obama on behalf of the United States’ environmental future, and the Tar Sands Action is creating history as the largest display of civil disobedience in the history of our country’s environmental movement. I feel indescribably proud to have fully exercised my passion for the environment and my democratic rights today alongside 136 beautifully powerful citizens. Together we will create the change we want to see in this world, and each and every one of us must play a part. Thanks to all who have followed and supported this action and now is truly the time that your call into the White House or your petition signature can help make history by stopping this destructive pipeline and oil extraction process. Please be encouraged to contact me with further questions or thoughts and visit http://www.tarsandsaction.org for more information.


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Taking a stand against the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

I write to you all from a bus to Washington D.C. where I am eagerly headed to join hundreds of other citizens in protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline, an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. Tomorrow when I journey to sit in at the White House with more than a hundred of my fellow activists, I will risk being arrested as a display of my commitment to holding President Obama accountable to breaking our country’s addiction to oil.

This strategic two week sit-in at the White House known as the Tar Sands Action is a collaborative effort by environmentalists, indigenous leaders, scientists, and concerned citizens, urging President Obama to oppose the permit to build a massive oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast known as the Keystone XL Pipeline. This pipeline will cut across our country and harvest crude oil from the Tar Sands in Alberta, a particularly environmentally-degrading method of oil extraction that emits twice as many greenhouse gasses and will open important land and aquifers to the danger of oil spills.

So far over 650 people have been arrested for this cause, with hundreds more, including myself, preparing to put ourselves on the line as a statement that our nation’s dependency on fossil fuels, causing the slow and steady destruction of our planet, has gone on long enough. I believe whole-heartedly in the power of large-scale non-violent civil disobedience in achieving environmental change, and with continued support and strength I am confident that we will make an impact on President Obama’s decision.

The president has the power and responsibility to veto this proposed pipeline and tomorrow I will proudly stand (or in reality, sit!) for the thousands in support of this veto and call upon President Obama to take action.

You are all very important people to me and I am excited to be able to share this experience with all of you through updates over the next two days. It is my hope that you will glean from them how important this issue is to so many different people and feel compelled to support this protest by taking action yourself – signing a petition, calling the White House, spreading the media coverage through your social media outlets, or all 3!

Thanks again for reading, caring, and acting – as always I would love to hear from you! Stay tuned for more updates.


Join 10,000 others in signing a petition to President Obama

Call the White House: 202-456-1111 and tell President Obama to stand with us and oppose the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. (Then, report your call

Email/Facebook/Tweet away about the Tar Sands Action’s national media coverage

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Youth Climate Action at Powershift 2011 and Beyond

Surrounded by thousands of youth decked out in green construction hats, I made eye contact with an employee on the umpteenth floor of BP’s Washington DC office. I held my “Make Polluters Pay” sign high and shouted for climate and energy justice, feeling the power of the youth climate movement lifting me up. It was this moment, among many others during our march from the White House and the US Chamber of Commerce to the headquarters of BP and GenOn, that I was overcome by that familiar sense of empowerment that comes from uniting with other passionate youth activists, all of whom would seemingly do anything to achieve serious environmental change.

As a student at Connecticut College and budding activist myself, I always treasure the moments when members of our movement come together to share experiences and goals for the future. Some of the most inspiring moments in my life have been at conferences like Powershift 2011, the youth conference which culminated in the march I just described, where I have been motivated by the dedication of my peers to push beyond the familiar status of participant and rise up as a leader in the youth climate movement.

For the past few months, I worked tirelessly to organize a group of 60 students from my college to attend Powershift 2011; many of whom were freshman and sophomores eagerly awaiting an opportunity to get more involved in the youth climate movement. We journeyed to Washington D.C. and joined over 10,000 youth from across the country and world and were thrown into organizing trainings, panel discussions, film screenings, and state break-out sessions all focused around informing us about the causes and effects of climate change and empowering us to take action on the national scale as well as in our local communities. Together we harnessed every available moment to connect with our fellow youth activists about perceptions of the present and future of our movement and brainstorm new innovative ways to hit the ground running with meaningful action to hold our government, high power corporations, and polluting energy companies accountable for helping to create the sustainable and just world that we all want to live in.

Having participated in Powershift 2011, and attended the COP-16 UN Climate Change Negotiations this past December as a youth delegate, I found myself constantly running into familiar faces at Powershift 2011. I was elated to have three full days to share project ideas and personal developments in the world of climate activism, but I found myself equally if not more exhilarated to see the younger Connecticut College students who had accompanied me, immersing themselves in eye-opening panel discussions about subjects like corporate influence in politics and contributing to challenging discussions about the role of radical activism within our movement.

Throughout the weekend, noteworthy speakers like Bill McKibben, Van Jones and Lisa Jackson acknowledged the power and potential that the youth climate movement has, but challenged us to utilize that momentum to fight harder than we ever have before. On Saturday night, Tim DeChristopher of Peaceful Uprising delivered a powerful keynote in which he questioned us all, “What level of injustice is it going to take for the goals of our movement to be more important than us graduating on time?” This motivated a huge population of youth, including almost a third of our group from Connecticut College, to change their plans and stay for Monday’s march and day of action.

As youth we are unique stakeholders in the issue of climate change. Across the world we are starting to experience some of the devastating impacts and causes of this problem, from sea level rise to mountain top removal coal mining. We will be the ones inheriting the impacts of climate change and soon it will be solely our generation’s responsibility to pick up the pieces that have been left for us by our leaders and our consumer-based society.

While our challenge is high stakes, if I have learned anything from my own experiences organizing for climate justice and uniting with my fellow youth activists at massive gatherings like Powershift 2011, I have learned that we as the youth climate movement have the energy, ideas, dedication, and courage to stand up to the corporations taking advantage of the earth’s resources and our leaders who remain stagnant despite the urgent climate crisis we are in.

At Powershift 2011, 10,000 youth raised our collective fist and demanded change through marches, lobbying and sit-ins, but our action will not stop there. Being home from the conference for little more than a week, I have already seen my fellow students gather petition signatures against BP’s transgressions, engage in a national day of action against KFC’s environmentally degrading packaging policy, and start the foundation for organizing a statewide march for the environment – and that’s just within seven days! Imagine what we will accomplish in one year, let alone the next decade.

No wait, don’t imagine – become a part of the movement!

Join an IMatter march on May 8th
See what the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign is up to in your area
Learn more about summer climate initiatives through Energy Action Coalition

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Farewell Thoughts of Reflection on COP-16

The COP-16 United Nations Climate Change Negotiations came to a close yesterday, meaning the signing of the Cancun Agreements, the completion of a grand finale youth action and my own return to chilly Boston, MA. It feels impossible to imagine that two bustling weeks have gone by encompassing a great deal of international negotiating and international capacity building – depending on your position within the negotiations.

As a youth member of civil society at COP-16 a great deal of what I gained from the experience was the opportunity to work so closely with incredibly inspiring youth from around the globe – all of whom were united around trying to save our planet from climate crises. With each youth that I met, I was almost immediately overcome by an inexplicable bond that we shared, purely from a joint passion and sense of dedication without avail. This is a feeling that I can honestly say I have rarely experienced, and never to such a magnitude. An magnificent sense of empowerment has swelled up within me over the past two weeks, and upon my return to the United States, has stayed a constant feeling within my chest, reviving each and every time I think about climate change or youth mobilization (topics which now fill my mind on a regular basis).

This sense of unity and collaboration amongst persons from nations across the world manifested itself amongst the party delegates and negotiators in interesting ways. On the one hand, the COP-16 negotiations have been commended by many as noticeably more transparent and inclusive of all countries, especially when it comes to actually writing and developing the texts to be negotiated. This sense of inclusion, especially of global south countries (which include least developed and some developing countries) has been an issue of contention throughout the years of COPs and especially at COP-15 in Copenhagen. This push for transparency came largely from the Mexican government and UN secretariat Christiana Figueres; as an example of this, a three minute long standing ovation occurred during the final official plenary negotiating session praising the Ms. Figueres’ efforts in this vein during COP-16.

However, the Cancun Agreements which came out of COP-16 and were signed by all nations except Bolivia (who called them too lax), reflect substantially less progression around creating an equitable, zero-emissions future for our planet. Positive settlements agreed upon in this document include a formal recognition of the need to increase emission reductions from deforestation, a promotion of low-carbon technology transfer to global south countries and the establishment of a $100 billion green fund to assist global south countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change. However on the less promising side, the document also incorporated the strengthening of weak emissions reduction targets set by nations at COP-15 (which if not improved are expected to result in a global temperature rise of 3.2 degrees C), steps to formalize the REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation) program – strongly opposed by the majority of indigenous and forest communities as well as youth and environmental organizations, and a statement for the world to strive towards capping global temperature rise at 2 degrees C (to give a frame of reference, scientists state that any temperature increase above 1.5 degrees C will result in massively catastrophic climate change impacts around the globe).

Having observed the highly bureaucratic COP-16 negotiating process, the decreasing emphasis on encouraging participation by civil society constituencies, and the somewhat lackluster Cancun agreements which have left behind the necessary urgency for strong climate action, it is clear to me that we have a long way to go before the battle against climate change can be seen as efficient and effective. The key messages which I have taken away from this experience are the need for strong climate legislation in the United States in order to improve our country’s involvement in the COP process, the importance of climate action led by non-governmental organizations outside of the United Nations process, and the promise of the international youth movement in promoting unified progress on climate change.

And at that I will sign off. I want to thank each and every person who has taken the time to read my blog and follow the extremely interesting and important events at COP-16. It is my hope that my thoughts and experiences have helped you to gain some valuable insight into this negotiating process. As always, I cannot stress enough how willing and interested I am in speaking with anyone further about COP-16 and my experience there; Feel free to email me at any point at carrabeth@gmail.com.

Until COP-17 in Durban, South Africa – I bid you farewell!

For the forests, climate, and youth movement,
Carra Cheslin

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An Obstacle to Youth Participation at COP-16

Dear all,
Let me start off by just highlighting once again how privileged I feel for being able to come to the COP-16 climate change negotiations and how amazing of a learning and movement-building experience it has been for me. I believe that up until this point, my past blog entries have highlighted this genuine sentiment, and thus I feel comfortable sharing an unfortunate reality that has begun to permeate the youth voice here in Cancun over the past several days.

I would like to re-state the international youth status as an official constituency at the UNFCCC Conferences of Parties. This position was enacted to ascertain the youth presence and participation in these negotiations and has thus been a critical accomplishment for the youth climate movement. The primary avenues set up for such participation include youth interventions in plenary negotiating sessions and secretariat-approved direct action demonstrations (what many of you have probably noticed that I have been focusing a lot of me time and effort on). Ever since the youth became an official constituency at these conferences, these two methods of making our voices heard have been prevalent – now I fear that the latter venue is being slowly but surely revoked.

A lesson which has been repeatedly instilled in me during my time at COP-16 is that both formal platform statements and informal direct actions are both critically important in getting the youth voice out there; equally important is the fact that there are different youth whose skill sets and opinions as to how to effectively create change and that both strategies are needed to create an all encompassing youth movement to fight climate change. Speaking as someone who is highly involved in the youth demonstrations here at COP, I would just like to quickly explain what I feel to be the importance of these demonstrations (also known here at COP as “actions”).
The youth are known here at the UN for being able to admit the harsh realities of our climate crisis and speak out about them in a way that many negotiating parties do not feel able to. Additionally, youth provide a moral voice at these negotiations and carry an important weight in that the impacts of what comes out of the COPs will directly affect us the most, as the youngest generation to be dealing with climate change. These are critical factors which must be shown visually and with strength in order to be considered by negotiators; some of the most effective and visual ways of pulling on their moral heartstrings have been through actions.

I explain all of this as a pre-cursor to telling you that through security measures more stringent than at any previous COP, the youth voice has been stifled a great deal here in Cancun. This has been seen in a few different ways including the great distance between the NGO/Side events building, Cancunmesse, and the primary negotiating building, Moon Palace as well as the extremely limiting number and size of spaces within which youth are permitted to perform approved actions. These two factors presented substantial challenges to those of us working on planning and carrying out actions, especially during the first week. However no challenges have been so great than what has gone on during this second week of negotiating at COP-16.

Over the last several days, the YOUNGO actions working group planned a unified youth campaigns and a number of actions, including a die-in highlighting climate related deaths over the past year and a flag line-up commending countries who support no more than a 1.5 degree C global temperature rise and getting it into the negotiating text. Each of these actions were specifically designed to fit the secretariat approval guidelines and submitted to the UN earlier than the necessary deadline. Not only were each of these actions denied approval, but each was changed and then finally disapproved at the very last minute, meaning that the 30 or 40 of us working on preparing these actions were getting new and conflicting information on an hourly basis. Simultaneously their disapproval was supported by ridiculous explanations including that we could not do anything to disrupt the goings on outside of the conference center or draw attention to ourselves and that we couldn’t do anything which might upset negotiators or incorporate negative imagery.

Not only has this caused us actions-focused youth to feel disempowered and frustrated, but for many of us this is a sign that Mexican Security, and thus the UNFCCC (who has the power to challenge and speak out against Mexican Security’s recommendations), is consciously trying to limit youth participation in this manner. It is heart-wrenching to spend so much energy on preparing an action that a group of youth from all over the world believe whole-heartedly in, only to have it completely shut down. With only one and a half full days left in the negotiations, I feel troubled and disappointed that much of the voice that we have been trying to share as youth in this process has been silenced.

With that being said, myself and other youth are trying our hardest to stay positive and continue to work our hardest to get the youth platform out there until the last possible moment. While it is tempting to want to disengage from the UNFCCC process, we are continuing to do our best to work within the system and mobilize what abilities we do have to make an impact and get our voices heard. As a start, we have one approved action coming up this afternoon and potentially two more scheduled for tomorrow. I am excited to go out with a bang and look forward to sharing photos and commentary from the last few days at these negotiations.

Thanks so much for taking the time to share this experience with me and become more aware of some of the less spoken about realities of COP-16. As always I can be reached at carrabeth@gmail.com with any thoughts or questions.

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COP-16 Week 1 Policy Round-Up

Greetings again! It is the second week and things have been extremely busy here in Cancun – sorry it has taken me so long to write again! My fellow actions-oriented delegate and I realized that in light of our substantial work on campaigns and actions here at COP-16 we have sort of neglected updating our respective blog readers on what is actually going on in the policy world here. Thus we bring you the Week 1 policy priorities and updates from COP-16! It is sort of long, so please forgive us; but we think it’s really important for you all to know what is going on here beyond the world of youth mobilization. Enjoy!

While obtaining a binding climate change treaty does not seem to be in the cards for COP-16 in Cancun – based on the need to establish a strong foundation within which to create such a treaty and rebuild trust amongst the negotiating parties after a failure situation at COP-15 in Cancun – there are still a number of important issues being discussed this past week and definitely room for policy progress.

United States Position
The United States continues to have an “all-or-nothing” approach similar to the attitude which they have propagated since they chose not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol at COP-3. Guardian UK explains that the deal the US is pushing for “couples the core issues for the developing world – agreement on climate finance, technology, and deforestation – with U.S. demands for emissions actions from emerging economies and a system of accounting for those cuts.” This position has remained troublesome for advancing negotiations at COP-16, and many feel that besides just calling upon the transparency of climate change mitigation actions by other countries, the United States should be willing to increase the transparency of its own actions and be more open to compromise.

China, who has been positioned by the US as their primary excuse for a lack of action and progress at COPs over the years, has become a leader in clean energy technology, and therefore, “China is in a stronger negotiating position now than they were in Copenhagen because the perception is the U.S. doesn’t have its domestic act together,” said Alden Meyer, head of policy in Washington at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Chinese public believes they are doing a lot more on the ground than the U.S., and they don’t think China should have to make any concessions.” One exciting youth effort to highlight is the collaboration of US and Chinese youth on experience sharing, policy discussion workshops, and combined actions to emphasize the importance of compromise to their respective governments.

Kyoto Protocol
So, to start off, the Kyoto Protocol has proven instrumental in framing discussion around reduction of emissions. The protocol was signed at COP 3 with the signatures of, currently, 121 countries. The agreement sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European Union regarding greenhouse gas emission reductions from 2008-2012. Because it is legally binding it has been really instrumental in holding countries accountable for their roles in climate change. However, the Kyoto Protocol has come under serious attack here at COP 16. Japan stated on the 3rd day of the conference that it would not inscribe targets under the Kyoto Protocol in any case. The fact that this statement was made creates serious doubt if there can be a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. Since Japan made that statement, Kyoto has become a huge rallying cry for civil society here. The fact that there needs to be a second commitment period, which means a time where countries would reaffirm their commitment to meet specific targets; is very present in the minds of people who are truly concerned for future generations.

Here at COP-16 there is an increasing sentiment that funding for climate change adaptation should balance out with the amount of funding currently allocated for climate change mitigation – adaptation currently receives scarcely 10% of the overall climate finance portfolio. Additionally, allocation of funds to least developed and most vulnerable countries is a critically important issue requiring a specific framework for financial distribution that considers both climate change vulnerability and poverty/development needs. Recently, committees working on climate change adaptation have made a number of significant draft decisions to be put forward for adoption in the final plenary negotiating session of the conference. These draft decisions include continued, strengthened support to developing countries efforts in adaptation and mitigation and specifically address increasing concrete technology transfer projects to assist these countries in their adaptation schemes.

The program being negotiated at COP-16 to end deforestation is known as REDD (Reduced Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation). A good REDD deal would benefit biodiversity, people, and the climate. A bad deal would allow corporations to use claims of forest protection to hide their refusal to cut their emissions to safe levels. Additionally, there is discussion about focusing on the drivers of deforestation as opposed to the current strategy of just conserving specific areas of forest.

Currently, a rule governing emissions from deforestation is now being negotiated which would allow rich nations to increase logging without accounting for the greenhouse gases that result, in effect hiding emissions increases. This is extremely problematic for preserving the world’s critical forest ecosystems and thus there has been a great deal of activism from youth and environmental groups urging negotiators to remove this loophole in the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) negotiating text.

Discussions around the establishment of a global climate fund are in the works at COP-16, fueled because finance has become a really important issue in all areas of policy discussion. Many of the proposals cannot work unless funding is actively addressed. For example, LULUCF (a sector designed to examine land use as it relates to forestry) has many financing loopholes which youth specifically are attempting to highlight in order to bring justice to those affected by LULUCF policies. It is clear, though, that raising $100 billion or more for funding is entirely possible. This reality is bringing a lot of hope to financing policy. The Chair released a text with recommendations in certain key areas. One area which seems very promising is the section prepared on finance. The way in which she has prepared this document makes everything very easy to understand and lays a strong foundation to build on.

Article 6
This article addresses climate change education and awareness among youth around the world. This article serves as the main conduit for implementing training and educational programs on climate change. On Friday the article was passed by the Subsidiary Body for Implementation and several sections of the final text were taken directly from YOUNGO submissions. Now all we need is for the full COP to approve it – this is a great victory for youth and the constituency!

Looking forward
After a slow first week in Cancun, government ministers from all over the world began arriving in Mexico this past weekend to inject some urgency into the stagnant climate change talks. The big weekend development came from the host country. Mexico published a draft negotiating text that would require countries to try to prevent global warming of more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. While this is a step forward from the weak, non-binding climate change targets set in the Copenhagen Accord at COP-15 (which if enacted would allow for an eventual temperature rise of up to 5-6 degrees Celsius), a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius will still put many island states under water after the associated amount sea level rise.

Scientists are now stating that 1.5 degrees Celsius is the safety limit that we should be fighting to get in the negotiating text. In fact 110 countries, including many with populations most vulnerable to climate change impacts, have already stated their support for the 1.5 degree Celsius target. This important subject has warranted the YOUNGO international youth constituency to create their official campaign for week 2 around working to get 1.5 degrees Celsius in the negotiating text.

References: League of Conservation Voters ‘Act Green’ blog, SustainUS blog, TckTckTck blog, Reuters article, “Logging Loophole Under Attack at Cancun Climate Talks”, Climate Action Network meeting notes, ECO daily publication by the Non-Governmental Environmental Groups.

Note: This blog is cross-posted on: Alex’s Blog, and the SustainUS Blog

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Youth Mobilization on Young and Future Generations Day!

I would like to start off by wishing everyone a happy Young and Future Generations Day! Today is a UN-designated day each year devoted to the recognition of youth participation and stake-holdership in the COP Climate Change Negotiations. Over the past few days I have been working around the clock with a group of amazingly energetic and dedicated youth in the YOUNGO Actions working group on this special and poignant day.
YOUNGO, the official UN constituency of international youth delegations, has facilitated my introduction into the world of international youth climate change mobilization since I have been at COP-16. YOUNGO is an amazing organization of talented youth from across the world whose focus is on capacity building for the youth climate movement and increasing the influence that youth have at the international climate change negotiations. To strengthen our impact, YOUNGO is broken up into working groups each focusing on a different aspect of UN climate change policy, campaigns and actions, and building relationships with media.

Despite my inexperience with the COP process and negotiations at the start of COP-16, I was wholeheartedly welcomed into this constituency and immediately began forming connections with other youth climate activists. Given my personal interest in environmental activism, I was immediately interested in being a part of the YOUNGO Actions working group which supports youth platforms on policy issues with creative demonstrations in public areas of the conference center aiming to influence negotiators. I participated in brainstorming sessions with the group at the Conference of Youth over this past weekend, and on Monday was asked to facilitate the group by the previous facilitator who had not obtained accreditation to COP-16 until the second week.

While I was of course excited that she felt that I was a good candidate for this position, I was initially somewhat intimidated given my lack of significant experience doing actions in the COP setting. However I chose to take on the challenge and began facilitating the group of about 30 youth climate activists from all over the world. Now having been acting as facilitator for 3-4 days (which feels like a few weeks given the amount of time and effort that has gone into planning actions for Young and Future Generations Day), I have come to feel extremely capable of the task. Several times, members of the working group who I admired for their involvement and creative ideas have approached me after meetings actually commending my facilitation skills and my organization of everything needing to be planned and implemented. The first time this happened I was shocked and totally in awe that the way in which I was leading the group was notable and even impressive to the same people for which I felt the same respect. This not only made me elated to continue on in this role, but showed me that I had truly pushed myself and risen to a challenge that I wasn’t aware I was capable of. To me, this in and of itself was a huge personal accomplishment and evidence of the skills and experiences I am gaining at COP-16.

Additionally, I can never fail to mention the incredible young individuals with whom I have the privilege to collaborate with and support on a daily basis here at the conference. Getting to work so closely with youth who have different skill sets and experiences but an equally strong motivation to put their all into affecting global climate change has been an incredible and unique learning opportunity. Many of us have become so close in such a short amount of time that I am delighted at the prospect of spending another week and a half with all of them and strengthening our connections that much more.

At this point I must begin preparing hardcore for the busy day of actions, press conferences, and never ending coordination that is involved in facilitating and participating in the YOUNGO Actions working group for Young and Future Generations Day. The adrenaline is kicking in and I am getting pumped up for the potential impact that youth can have by making our voices heard loud and clear on this very day.

Can’t wait to tell you all about how the day goes, and I encourage you to take a moment to ask a youth that you know a little bit about what world issues they are concerned about, and youth: I hope that you will consider taking a moment today to make your own voice heard about whatever something that you feel passionate about.

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