Since I was a child, I have maintained an observer’s interest in environmental issues. I realized the need to become an active participant after attending PowerShift ‘09. It became starkly clear to me that climate change is going to be the most pressing issue that my generation—and all humanity—will ever face. PowerShift emphasized that December’s conference in Copenhagen will be a watershed moment and may determine the ultimate fate of our planet. I decided right then and there to devote myself to bringing about positive change for my generation, my country, and my planet.
I probably have a different background than many candidates. I have focused my studies on international affairs and human societies, particularly the Middle East, rather than on environment and climate. My knowledge of the Middle East gives me perspectives on issues facing the western United States such as desertification and water management. It has also given me key insights on conflicts that may arise due to dwindling resources and on effective (and not so effective) ways to manage such conflicts. Furthermore, I have an enhanced understanding of working across cultures in an international forum.
My experience also gave me the opportunity to assess the role and responsibility of developing and oil-rich nations in global climate change. I had the good fortune to study in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. An amazing country, it has a very mixed environmental record. To begin with, this oil-exporter indisputably has the planet’s largest per-capita carbon footprint. The notorious Palm Islands have led to the destruction of local coral reefs, and in a confused belief about “thinking green”, the desert nation has planted millions of trees and strawberry plants which create an unnecessary strain on water supplies and slowly erode the quality of the soil.
Yet this nation also realizes its role in global climate change. It has undertaken the construction of Masdar City, the world’s first carbon-neutral city, to be completed by 2012. (Understand, this initiative was taken by an oil-rich nation when it was still taboo to discuss Global Warming in the American mainstream media). The entire Arab Gulf region, interestingly, has taken initiatives in transitioning away from oil to more sustainable alternatives. Their optimism, innovation, and foresight have inspired me.
I wish to embrace their can-do spirit in order to better serve my country and planet. I intend to spend my life working internationally, to help resolve disputes arising from our changing world. Now seems like the perfect time to start my life’s goals; more importantly, now is the time to create solidarity amongst my generation. This is why it is absolutely imperative to have young people involved in the critical COP15 talks—our presence will remind our leaders of what is at stake, and we will begin to function as tomorrow’s leaders.