Youth have a special place at the UN COP talks.  We have had a presence since the UNFCCC was developed in Rio in 1992, but the International Youth movement has only taken off since the Bali Talks in 2007 (COP13).  In this short amount of time, we have gained recognition as a stakeholder in the process, and have gained constituency status. (It means we are accredited NGO observers and are assigned UN photo IDs like this one: 

Most hilarious accreditation badge EVER.

 

 We are called YOUNGOs (for YOUth NGOs).  There are over 1000 of us in attendance this December, and we have a special role within the COP.  Yvo de Boer, the Secretariat, has called us the moral voice of the UN.  Our presence there reminds our lawmakers of the future that is at stake.  

As such, we try to be as visible as possible.  We hold small demonstrations within the walls of the Bella Center (with the Secretariat’s approval).  We bring energy and color to the conference, and apparently a lot of people really love us for it. 

Here are some of the things we do: 

Today, Indigenous people, the Canadian youth, and American youth collaborated to pull of a protest of Tar Sands.  We did this in a hallway.  It was similar to the earlier event with AOSIS. 

Organic Apple cart guy

 

Here are some other pictures: 

This guy literally rides around the Bella Center selling apples for a dollar or so.  Even I can afford that!  Although now that I think about that, that’s an obscene amount for just one apple… 

This guy was dressed up as a polar bear and getting his photo taken.  Polar bears are to the natural world what the Maldives are to nations: a poster child for the effects of Global Climate Change.  Both are in danger. 

And this is the Fossil of the Day award, put on by Climate Action Network (CAN).  Every day CAN finds 3 countries who have done something to obstruct the negotiations process and assigns them first, second, and third prize.  So far this year, Canada is winning.  And not only is this fun and creative, but it also is a way of informing people of the outcomes and drawbacks of the day’s negotiations. 

 

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Just as I was not privileged to be called a “Hitler Youth” by Lord Monckton last night, so was I not able to stand out in sub-freezing temperatures this morning in my bathing suit telling our policymakers not to Leave Us Out in the Cold.

Maybe you’d like to read about those of us who did.  It was published in the Guardian (!).

  • Article in the Guardian
  • The Copenhagen Insider’s take on it.  This is a newspaper dedicated to COP15.
  • We put it on our YouTube channel:

We rock!!  Ok, well these guys rock, I don’t rock–I sit inside the warm Bella Center all day and eat food.

I hope you have heard it in the news by now, what happened at the Americans For Prosperity “Hot Air” press conference last night.  It’s been all over the blogosphere, twitter, and traditional media outlets.  It was kind of important.

In short, we crashed it.  We OWNED it.  SustainUS developed the plan and executed it with about 20-30 other American youth taking part.  Basically, we caught wind of an climate change deniers’ conference being put on in the region.  Our grassroots committee organized a brief action around it, and we went undercover to the talks, dressed as the respectable adults we are.  Watch the video to find out what happened…IT WAS ON LIVE, TELECAST TELEVISION!!!

After the action, apparently there were only about 5 people left in the room.  I did not personally take part because I was pretty sure my pink hair would raise a red flag.  But I watched the results.  Oh how I watched the results.

Interested in more?  Here are some more resources:

  • Hilarious article by Americans For Prosperity.  We flew all the way over just to disrupt their conference, yes.
  • Newspaper article (based on our press release)
  • The Huffington Post’s article about Americans For Prosperity’s background
  • It’s Getting Hot in Here’s blog about our action!
  • Rachael’s notes on the event (also on It’s Getting Hot in Here)
  • On the blog Climate Progress: another look

The word is now that this footage might get sent to Glenn Beck–always an honor if that person uses you as a bad example.  I’m not sure I want my 15 minutes of fame to be Glenn Beck making fun of me and everything I stand for, though, so maybe just as well I didn’t stop in.

The fallout remains to be seen.  Calling someone “Hitler Youth”, especially a racially and ethnically diverse group, seems both desparate and highly inappropriate, however.  *GOLDEN*.

Something I’m supposed to do (and if you look through my blog, you can see that I have done some of this already) is to attract media attention.  One of these methods is to write Letters to the Editor.  I’ve done this several times in the past.  They never get published in the paper, but I do write them.  The most recent one I wrote was to the Cincinnati Enquirer, and they posted it on their online message board (this is not the same thing as having it published in the paper).  This is what I put:

  • I am a UC graduate who will be attending the United Nations’ climate talks in Copenhagen in just a few days as a member of the non-profit SustainUS. As part of SustainUS’ team of 30, I will act as a youth delegate, reminding our policymakers that their actions (or inactions) will have consequences for future generations.
  • I maintain that the Copenhagen climate talks will be of historical importance. Climate change is real; it is dangerous, and it is high time we did something about it as a planet. I urge the public to be cognizant of this issue, and to pressure their lawmakers into action for the sake of the next generation.

At http://cincinnati.com/blogs/letters/2009/11/26/copenhagen-climate-talks-will-be-of-historical-importance/#pluckcomments

That’s kind of inoffensive stuff, right?  Well, right off the bat, three angry people wrote in.  I’ve worked in customer service, and I’m not really sensitive about rude people, right?  But I do wonder what makes these guys tick.  Why all the hate?  And what do these people do with their lives, just sit around on message boards and defame everyone who disagrees with their ideology?  What kind of a life is that to live?

I mean, I’m just a cute and ineffective little young person who wants her policymakers to do the right thing.  I said as much.  People could say, “I support your ambition to make the world a better place” or “I think it’s good for young folks to get involved on big international issues” or even, “You’re a good citizen, going to all this trouble to represent your country”.  Instead, though, so many people just zero in on the phrase “climate change” and then think they have you all figured out.  Imagine that!  Someone who’s never met me in their life and has only read 114 of my electronic words knows all about me, my education level, my political affiliation, my background, and my values.

Due to an inside joke, my mom always reads my entries and thinks I’m pretending to be Michael Jackson because of my false positivity and my generalized statements of affirmation for kids and the younger generation.  No ma’am.  But tonight that’s really true–somewhere in all the hype surrounding Mr. Jackson’s death, I heard him say in an interview, “Don’t judge me unless you’ve talked to me one-on-one.”  That’s it exactly!

The thing I dread most about my line of work is people making assumptions, judging me, and assigning me a label based on their perception of a single thing I say.  I’m a non-controversial person.  I’m not assertive.  I’m a milquetoast, you even might say–I don’t like to put people off or argue with them; I think it’s preferable to build bridges rather than walls.  I’d rather figure things out and solve problems rather than antagonize people.  I guess that’s why I’m working in DIPLOMACY.  That is not to say I don’t have my beliefs and convictions, because I do, or that I won’t stand up for them, because I will.  But that IS to say that I understand that life is multifaceted, with lots of grey areas–and I don’t like to shove my agenda in everyone’s face.

Not everyone thinks like this, though, and they would rather label you as something insulting because you care about the environment (or in Michael Jackson’s case, children) and how it pertains to your personal survival and well being.  Rudeness and meanness doesn’t offend me (judging me does), but it’s something I will never understand.  Where does it come from?  Is it fun, seeing things in black and white all the time?  Do people derive pleasure from electronic name-calling?  Is it satisfying to shove your anger and contempt down the throat of someone who may never actually read your words?  And why did I just waste half an hour trying to figure this out?

The world may never know.

So, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

I’ll name mine:

I’m thankful that I have a warm apartment and access to food; I’m thankful for delicious things like avocados, quinoa, and cheese; I’m thankful for being able to be a part of SustainUS’s mission to Copenhagen; I’m thankful for my friends, family, and community who have helped me raise $1476.48 towards the trip; I’m thankful for the NewsRecord, CityBeat, and Community Press for helping me get out my story; I’m thankful for the 203 petition signatures I have gathered thus far; and I’m thankful for the people at EarthSave, where I spent my Thanksgiving.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year.  I’ve been stressed out a lot about money and fundraising, about unemployment, about my Senators, about the future (both near and long-term), about medical bills and collection agencies.  When I stop to think, I realize that I am right where I need to be.

I spent my Thanksgiving in Clifton’s Methodist-Baptist church, just down the street from my house.  There was an Earthsave potluck there (read about the organization here), and all the dishes were vegan.  It was some really healthy stuff!  There were a lot of older people, and also a lot of college students…plus one lonely little girl about four years of age.  Some animal rights activists came in and talked about what it really means to be an animal rights activist. 

I also met Mary Ann, who is really cool and who is an inspiration to our community!  She works for justice and works as an artist, and her most recent painting is a vision of a better future.  Come check it out here; I want you to consider buying a copy.  She gave me a handmade card for free, so the least I can do is pass her name along.  It’s art for a better world!

A lot of stuff I am thankful for, but especially the people who try to make a better world.

I told you I needed money, right?  And that I was aggressively going to fundraise this upcoming week, remember?  Well, that’s exactly what I did over the weekend.

For the non-Cincinnatians out there, we have this really awesome thing called Findlay Market, which is part farmer’s market and part community center.  They let you set up fundraisers if you are part of a non-profit (which I am because of SustainUS).  And I did.

With no offence intended towards the good folk at Findlay Market, it really wasn’t an experience worth repeating.  First you have to show up before 8 am, or else risk missing out because it’s first-come, first-serve.  You’re pretty much required to stay there till 6pm.  And that’s not a criticism–believe me, that’s the good part!

I put up large signs explaining what I was doing and asked people for contributions as they came over to my booth (which happened to be my mom’s old card table with a keffiyah covering some of the ravages of time).  I don’t really have anything to sell, so I mixed up some old henna for tattoos, and also offered to write folks names in Arabic on pretty paper.  And you would not believe how openly derisive some people were about this!  I’M JUST A KID OKAY?  I’M SHOWING INITIATIVE BY ATTENDING A U.N. CONFERENCE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY AND FINDING A METHOD TO RAISE THE MONEY TO GET THERE.  That’s exactly why this country’s in trouble: too many people have taken to mocking the American spirit of multiculturalism and entrepreneurialism!

Findlay Market is not located in some quiet countryside locale.  It’s right in the middle of the city, in Over-the-Rhine (kind of a rough neighborhood formerly known for its gang violence).  You meet a lot of interesting people.  One woman was pushing along a fake baby in a stroller and insisted on signing my petition in gibberish.  Another woman refused to support me, apparently because I hadn’t devoted my life to stopping abortions.  If only she had understood that I was trying to help stop humans from aborting THE EARTH (I was very insulted).  One man actually molested me (Oh my GOD!  I’m not even going to discuss the incident here).

On both days, I left at 3:15, unable to drag the day out another 3 hours.  For my efforts, I made a combined total of $42.68. 

Well, I’m starting to make it sound like Hell.  Which it maybe was, but what made it tolerable was the children.  The kids always notice the pretty things you are selling.  They always come over and say, Ooh, how neat!  They are proud of their reading abilities, and actually read the signs I put up.  I didn’t have to tell any of them, “No, I’m not FROM Copenhagen; I’m travelling there” (which I DID have to tell the adults).  Kids don’t proselytize, nor do they molest.  The only problem is that, unfortunately, they are nearly always accompanied by one or more adults who don’t generally notice or care what their kids are interested in (the ones who do probably spoke to me this weekend and are reading this blog!).

This is the best part: at one point, three kids came over and contributed a dollar because they really wanted to help out–and I tell you, that dollar is to me worth as much as the other forty two combined.  When I watch the dumb crap  that people do to each other (like the antics I put up with this weekend, for instance, or privileged frat boys who come to Copenhagen for an all-expenses paid party session while I’m out busting my @$$ to get the funds to go in the first place!), I have to ask myself if humanity’s existence on this earth is even worth saving.  Then three kids give me a dollar, and I know it’s worth it. 

It’s funny how such small symbolic gestures can have such a profound impact on our lives, beliefs, and motivations.

Thanks to all who voted for the Agents of Change Delegation at the Brighter Planet project fund!  We did in fact win with a total of  2370 votes!

We are receiving a $5000 grant, or $200 per delegate.  Given my own difficulties in fundraising, this really made my day!

You can read what Brighter Planet has to say about  it here:

Grant for SustainUS Youth Delegates!