The way things stand right now, the negotiations are teetering between total collapse and a greenwash photo-op, according to the briefing I received by a Friends of the Earth member who addressed us here at the Fresh Air Center.  NGOs have now been totally blocked from entering the Bella Center, even with a secondary badge. 

Like I said, I’m not inside the Bella Center today.  I might have been, if the civil disobedience that was being planned had turned out. 

The US youth delegation was planning on sitting in on the US Delegation Office and declaring itself to be the new negotiating team, then announcing the correct mitigations targets needed to prevent the climate system from imploding (since the US is the world leader, no one will commit without the US committing first).  We would have dressed in our most professional clothes and refused to leave until security guided us out.  It would have been peaceful and functioned as one last hurrah before we are shut out entirely tomorrow.

This idea came from an international youth idea to take over the US Delegation Office, but this would have looked really bad on their part in the international media; their message would have easily been lost.  Therefore, we decided we needed an American core, with the support of all international youth–who would accompany us, not be subject to getting kicked out or arrested.

I would totally have supported this and been willing to sit in the line of fire.  When my future is so callously tossed aside in the interests of petty things, risking arrest and being permanently kicked out of the UN (even if one day I do want to be a diplomat) seems pretty unimportant to me.

But–our action was hijacked.  It was twisted from its original statement to become an action in which international youth sit down in the US Center and make a list of demands.  The US Center is not the same thing as the US Delegation Office.  The Center is an informational section right next to the EU Center, and is generally open to the public; it is used for presentations; the diplomats don’t hang out there.  All symbolic meaning was effectively lost by doing this.  Moreover, the US youth delegates no longer would no longer have been doing the taking over.  International youth had protested that they should have a role–which they should, but to include them in the takeover would have conveyed the image of rowdy anti-Americanism.  Great messaging, guys.

Then, the message was further lost by trying to combine the protest against the US with a protest against Canada.  For those who are unaware, Canada has a terrible record regarding climate change action.  I can see that, and see that it needs to be addressed–but let’s not forget that they, too, are hiding behind the US as an excuse not to act.  The US needed to be the target here.

I don’t pretend to be an red-necked uber-patriot, but what really set me against this was when the folks who had been hammering out the details–neither of whom were American–declared the US negotiating team to be “incompetent” and called the US Center the “Propaganda Center” multiple times.  (It’s sort of true, but come on–every piece of literature you will receive in the Bella Center is some form of propaganda.)  Saying it once would have been funny.  Saying it multiple times–especially by a non-American–was really offensive to me as a US national.

That was incredibly insensitive–about 1/3 of those in the meeting were Americans.  Furthermore, the US negotiating team hardly qualifies as incompetent–they simply can’t negotiate beyond what the government allows.  We’re briefed on respecting the nationalities of others when we come to these events–maybe other countries should learn to do the same. 

I also noted that almost no one from the global south (who will most keenly feel the effects of climate change) was represented in this potential action, and I got the feeling that this was turning into some sort of “arrogant European*” radical anti-American action.  The discussion was so badly split on this issue that I took the opportunity to leave.  I don’t know whether it will ever materialize, but I for one will not be a part of it.

I’m not sure why I just spent 700 words telling you this, but it sheds light on what it’s like to work at a COP as a youth delegate.  With all of our energy and idealism, we too stood on the brink between total collapse and a greenwash photo-op.  High pressure didn’t matter; politics got in the way of what was necessary.  The End.

*I don’t think Europeans are arrogant, by the way, but since they wanted to call spades for what they are, then so will I.

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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. 

 

I just got back from a show of support for AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States.  We, the Youth, stand with them on most issues regarding climate change–their survival as low-lying islands is at stake, and so is ours.  Survival is not negotiable. 

We stood there for about an hour holding placards saying “Survival is Not Negotiable”, “We Stand With AOSIS”, and “350” and surrounded their ambassadors as they gave a media appearance.  I threw out my left shoulder doing this.

Also, if you would like to stand up for me and my co-delegates, please click here.  You will find CO2sequence’s message to CEOs saying that I (and the people I came to Copenhagen with) are not Hitler Youth.  We can really use your support on this issue.

The flu (H1N1?) has hit our delegation and is wreaking havoc on our hostel today.  I’m already sick with a cold (I hope that’s what it is, and that it’s not going to develop into something worse), and we still have another 10 days to get through.  This might very easily suck, particularly if one of us dies.  The city of Cincinnati would not vaccinate me before I left and the nurse insisted that “you have the same chance as anyone else” of catching H1N1–more lies spawned from the failure that we call the American health care system.

Check back on my previous entries.  I’m adding photos to them.

Power Shift is the reason I’m going to Copenhagen next month.  It terrified me–I learned for the first time, without any partisanship or fact-bending, the real truth behind climate change, the risks involved, and just what was at stake.

Power Shift inspired me.  There was such tremendous positive energy radiating from the 12 000 young people in attendence.  Having attended weekend conferences with my peer group before, this was not what I was expecting.  It wasn’t a matter of me being pleasantly surprised; it was a matter of me rethinking everything I thought I knew about us, the American youth.  It was brilliant, and I want to continue to be a part of this.  I want to share it with the whole world.

Power Shift is what led me to Copenhagen.  The topic came up in nearly everyone’s speech, presentation, and workshop.  I knew I needed to be there–I felt destiny calling, and that’s why I jumped at the chance to apply to SustainUS’s COP15 delegation.

Now, I’m gearing up to give presentations of my own about Copenhagen at Power Shift Ohio!  That’s what I’ll be devoting my energies to this weekend, and of course I’ll keep you all informed!  Wish us all luck; we’re headed up to Oberlin this Friday at One.  My sister is coming, and I’m glad. 

After that, it’s a matter of pressuring the Senators, Obama, and the media.  And fundraising, too of course.  I invite you to check out the two entries below, click the links provided, and help our cause if you have not yet done so!!

 
You know who I am.

I’m one of the young people who cares about the state of affairs in this world. I’m one of my nation’s concerned citizens.

In recent years, I have come to recognize the formidable challenges we face in global climate change–as a country and a planet. I love my home, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to it. Ever. Not on my watch. And I’m going to do something about it.

I am one of twenty-five delegates chosen to represent the SustainUS youth movement, which will attend the COP15 climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark this December. We hope to influence our leaders to come to a bold, binding, and equitable solution. We feel that our presence will remind our leaders of just what is at stake: the future, including the lives of their children.

Before I begin, there is one thing about me you must know: I am embarrassingly honest.  So let me tell you the truth about how I got involved in this.

Initially, I wasn’t too sure who SustainUS was and what the organization represented–but I hope you can one-up me by visiting their site here.   In brief, SustainUS is a youth network working to promote sustainable development, both in the US and abroad.  We are prestigious enough to be accredited to the UN.

When they called to tell me I had been chosen as a delegate, I literally wept tears of joy.  Imagine, little old me; I who have never run a campaign in my life and have no formal education in environmental issues.  And to this day, I’m still not sure why I was selected. But I am thrilled to be here. I am honored to represent my country and generation. And I am profoundly grateful to have part in this historic event, and to be able to write about it to the world.

Now.  I will do my best to keep this blog updated, share more information, and answer any questions you might have.  Thank you!!