Will Steger Foundation Expedition Copenhagen 2009

The Expedition Copenhagen team consists of Midwest youth who will travel to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 5-19, 2009. The expedition will be led in part by internationally renowned polar explorer Will Steger, and designed in collaboration with youth climate partners across the region.

Life After Copenhagen

Posted On Sunday, January 24, 2010 by Megan | | 0 comments

Upon arriving back in the United States, I was flooded with relief to be back on familiar territory. My trip to Copenhagen was undoubtedly a long one, but successful at that. Feelings were fixed upon the closing of the climate conference. An international treaty was not established but officials had enough sense to lay the groundwork for the next Conference of Parties (COP) in Mexico, 2011. I was relieved that the issue of climate change was finally being taken seriously but I felt that people weren't moving fast enough! Slow and steady seems to be the motto that officials around the world use; regardless of whether swift action was called for or not. A lesson to be learned for all those eager for change out there; progress takes time. In the meantime, until the issue of climate change is solved, I will continue to work fruitfully in my own backyard to ensure that the seeds of change begin to grow. Actively pursuing climate legislation, my home environmental group is revamping our efforts to engage students with the issues that face the Senate this spring. With the health care bill coming to a close, the Senate will now begin to vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES Bill). It is of the utmost importance that a climate bill is passed in order for the U.S. to participate in future COP negotiations. My own personal understand is this; our government will never agree to an internationally binding treaty unless we have passed climate legislation first in our homeland. This is why we must all join together and continue to pressure legislators to vote green. Throughout this semester I will be working directly with NDSU's student body government to coordinate events focused around climate legislation. I will also be giving talks and lectures to the local community on topics such as biofuel, oil-dependency and sustainability. I hope to continue working with grades K-12 in new partnership recently formed with university faculty as well as Repower America, the National Wildlife Federation and the Prairie Stewardship Network. This will be an active time for everyone!

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What now?

Posted On Tuesday, January 19, 2010 by Chalie | | 0 comments

It has been a month since Copenhagen, and since I have had some time to reflect and think of ways in which we need to move forward in order to get ready for COP16 in Mexico and to help mitigate and adapt to the problem of Climate Change. After all, if there is one thing that I have learned is that we have the power to drive change. International negotiations, although critical to drive a cohesive change and hold accountability from different parties, are not the only solution that we have. We need to continue moving forward and take action on an individual level in order to make an impact that in turn demands results from our government. I have come to summarize what I personally need to do in 3 main categories, hopefully you will find these ideas helpful and will use them to guide in making a change….

1. Track and reduce my carbon footprint. I know that I am not perfect and that there are always more things that I can do to reduce my carbon footprint. Also as an engineer, I know that step one to make any sort of reduction is to keep account of your carbon footprint. It is easy and there are many small things you can do to reduce your emissions. Lead by example and make sure that others see the benefits of your actions, they might choose to join. Here is a link to a calculator that I have used. http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html

2. Educate! Since being back from Copenhagen I have encountered many people that are not necessarily involved in the climate movement. I have met several people who are still skeptics or that just don’t have enough information in order to care. This is why education is key, it opens opportunities for others to learn about the subject and decide if they want to make a difference. Education does not have to be formal, it could be over a cup of coffee, with family and friends or coworkers! Stay up to date with the news and the science and share your knowledge with others. Facts speak for themselves and they do cause people to see things in a different light. I always find this link helpful when looking for accurate data on climate change. http://www.ipcc.ch/

3. Let your representatives know. If there was one message that I heard through Copenhagen from the different politicians and negotiators that were at the conference it was this… they all encouraged the youth to continue pressuring our politicians, let them know that we want a sustainable future and that we are the ones carrying the burden of the decisions made today. We need to understand that although we are a strong and impactful group, there are still many powerful people that for some reason or another choose to not believe in the facts and are putting pressure on government to not pass climate legislation or to not be capped by carbon emissions. We need to ensure that we have a louder voice, that we carry a message and that we ensure this message reaches the highest levels of government. We need to continue working hard and make sure that our message makes a difference.

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Local Stories Make Global Impacts

Posted On Monday, January 18, 2010 by Danielle | | 0 comments

In Grand Rapids the organization Local First has helped spur a movement in the city to think and buy local. The popular phrase, Think Globally, Act Locally has been an inspiration to citizens, students, and children alike and it has especially had a meaningful impact on me. This simple phrase is what has driven me to do the work that I do in my community, and it was only reinforced during the negotiations in Copenhagen.

Storytelling, one of the main ways that I connect with my community and with what’s happening around the world also proved to be very important. First, to make sense of the labyrinth that was the Bella Center I found it was best for me to choose one or two stories to follow and watch unfold until I could share it with others. For example, I decided to pay close attention to the actions of the U.S. Youth Delegation so that I could tell the media and our decision makers about what we were doing at the negotiations. With 500+ U.S. youth participating in the talks it’s easy to imagine the wealth of stories to share.

Secondly, telling the narrative of Expedition Copenhagen and highlighting the Midwest to everyone I met enabled me to make connections with people from around the world that had similar experiences. Listening to other stories demonstrated the broad implications of climate change and helped me generate new ideas for solutions based thinking. The simple act of sharing my story was the best way for me to act locally on a global scale.

What I already knew, but what was made even clearer during the negotiations was that our local stories connect us to people from around the world. We are all interconnected, and our stories are powerful enough to cross every barrier. There are billions of people around the world that have similar struggles and victories as you and me. Circumstances may be different, but we can usually find a place where our stories cross paths. In Copenhagen I heard and followed hundreds of these accounts and shared the story of the Midwest with everyone I met. Ultimately, we have to remember that all of these stories go back to our roots.

The work that I have been doing in Grand Rapids, and what each delegate on the Expedition Copenhagen team has been engaged in, is what made it critical that we took part in these talks. Global climate change is a huge issue to tackle with thousands of angles to look at. The only way to remain grounded and in touch with reality is to hear about the effects of climate change on communities by people from those communities. That is why thousands of civil society members registered to participate in these negotiations – they wanted, rather needed, to share their narrative to remind decision makers why they must take significant action on climate change now.

During the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, there were over two thousand registered NGO organizations. Since that time the number of civil society members participating in climate talks has increased significantly. Copenhagen was the largest convergence of people on the issue of climate change with over 45,000 registered people plus thousands more staying in the city to help organize outside events, marches and protests.

Reflected in this number is the amount of attention currently being paid to the climate crisis. Over 110 heads of state took part in these negotiations, and we are now closer than ever to signing an international treaty. Thus, it is easy to assume that the thousands of stories shared by these people are impossible for the decision makers to miss. Without these narratives we would not be this close to taking the bold action that is necessary because they are the driving force behind the positive changes taking place.

We cannot have a sustainable world without first starting in our homes, schools, cities and governments. After we start to strengthen our roots can we begin to grow the movement internationally. The fact that in Copenhagen we were on the cusp of signing an international legally binding treaty to stop global climate change demonstrates how important these local actions are to securing a safe and just future. The purpose that civil society and Expedition Copenhagen delegates served was to act as visible representations of the effects of and solutions to climate change.

The stories from my community keep me grounded, and they are the reason why I went to Copenhagen. The lessons I learned from the stories I heard and followed during the negotiations are why I came back more empowered, more inspired, and more ready to work locally and help transition our global society to be more just and sustainable. We have to focus local to impact global and we have to remember that we are not insignificant. What we do in our local communities is not insignificant. It’s the most important work that can be done.

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Beyond Copenhagen: The Trail Tale Continues

Posted On Monday, January 18, 2010 by Reed Aronow | | 0 comments

As the COP 15 Climate Summit came to a close in Copenhagen, my hopes for the future were tempered with a healthy dose of reality. The challenges ahead of us may not be easy, but we can still choose our better future. Some proclaim that Copenhagen was a success, some that it was a complete failure, but I think that it was a little of both. The three page “Copenhagen Accord” that we left with was not the culmination that we had hoped for, but it paves the trail for a future agreement, perhaps in Mexico City, where the 16th UN Conference of Parties will be held. As the conference began, there was a sense of hope permeating everything. “This is possible, Copenhagen will be the place where an effective, fair, and legally binding treaty will be wrought.” Before the conference, I had the opportunity to meet young people from across the world at the Conference of Youth. Throughout the summit we worked tirelessly to make sure that the negotiators listened to youth calls for a strong treaty. “How old will you be in 2050?” we called out on the Youth Day of Action. Climate change is not just a theory, but a legacy that we and our descendents will have to live with. The choices that we make in the next couple of years will influence our ability to lessen the impacts of climate changes and prepare ourselves. United States Youth Delegates met with legislators and with our country’s representatives at the conference. We gave EPA director Lisa Jackson and standing ovation for her work in the new EPA rule that designates C02 emissions an atmospheric pollutant. We attended meetings with high level officials from President Obama’s Cabinet, including Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. The question that we asked, and the question that I asked former Vice President Al Gore, was always preceded by the phrase, “I am here today with 500 youth from across the United States,” and then we would all wave. This showed our United States representatives that we had an organized presence at the conference, and a right to take part in the process that would determine our future. Even if it may be difficult to tell how our presence at the conference may have influenced the result, our actions and organizing sent shock waves back to the many people we were representing in the United States, which I would argue was even more important. Through video conference calls with classrooms and students back home in Minnesota and in Washington D.C., I had the opportunity to send news back home about the negotiations process in Copenhagen, and discuss what the ephemeral next step should be. The more that I think about my role at the climate summit, the more I think that many of the decisions made there were determined before it even began. The United States arrived with the climate bill still mired in the Senate, crippling our ability to fight for a strong agreement. On the other hand, thanks to the 350 Day of Action, the number “350,” representing the 350 parts per million of CO2 that is the safe cap in the atmosphere (right now we’re at 387) actually made it into the proposed treaty text. So what is the next step? What is the best, most effective thing that you or I or anyone living in the United States can do about climate change? Well, although Copenhagen was propped up as the be-all-end-all-or-else-we-all-die-and-the-world-ends event, it doesn’t “be all” because it is only one step in a process that needs to take many forms, and it doesn’t “end all” but instead offers the opportunity for countries to go back home and come back in a year to create a real treaty together. Yes, that’s right “accord” is code for “let’s come back and figure it out later.” Not ideal, but here in the United States it gives us the opportunity to come back home and work for the passage of a strong CJAPA Senate Climate Bill. Then, we can have the framework for clean energy climate solutions here in the United States, and we can have an ambitious argument that we can bring to the next COP for a fair and legally binding treaty next December in Mexico City. Copenhagen was not an end, but a beginning, and I am excited to be back home and to be part of the solution. If you want to do something right now that will take only a minute, call your Senator and ask them to not let the Murkowski ammendment to become part of the final bill. This ammendment would strip away the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gasses and the coal industry, which could potentially lead to an increase in greenhouse gasses. Another thing that you can do is jump on your bike and take it for a ride. It's actually a lot easier to do in the wintertime than you'd expect. If you don't think that the roads are safe enough to bike on where you live, then do something about it. Did you know that the Minnesota legislature is considering a bill called the "Complete Streets" act that would integrate bike paths into street designs? You have the ability to influence the world around you: you just have to get off your duff and do it, and doesn't hurt if you can find some friends to take with you too.

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There and back again

Posted On Monday, January 18, 2010 by Jamie R., WI | | 0 comments

Many voices sounded in the streets across Copenhagen this past December, and they came together late in the evening on the 18th of December as COP15 came to a close.

On that night, I sat in a small Danish apartment with a few of my fellow delegates and listened to President Obama give his final words on the accord. For the first time in near two and a half weeks, the world seemed quiet. Shock, exhaustion, disappointment, confusion... his seemingly empty words hung in the air. All I could hear was the breathing of my comrades and his political statement. Not a statement of conviction, of passion, of progression, of change... a statement of politics.

I felt deceived, brokenhearted, emotional and worn out. What had we worked so hard for? What does this mean for us? For humanity? What does this mean? I felt blindsided by the auditory wrecking ball delivered by my President that thrust a gaping hole into my relentless hope for the impossible.

The world was quiet and still.

I took some time to talk with my friends and put this new reality to the back of my head. Just for a few hours, then I returned to the quiet. The quiet that had settled over Copenhagen and over the youth movement. For the first time in two weeks, I did not have 350 emails to check by the end of the day. The world slowed back down. My psyche reverted to the corner of my mind with the over-sized sofa and low-light lamp where I go to reflect when I don't know what to think. This is where I stayed for the next few days and my long travels home.

A few weeks later and back at home, a renewed passion has reignited in my heart. I have returned home to the thought and aspiration that initially inspired me to apply for Expedition Copenhagen: local, sustainable communities.

I met hundreds of young people and thousands of people of all ages from all over the world; each of their home communities has different ways to meet the same goal as communities all over the world: local and sustainable. We need to take care of each other here, at home. We can address this global issue of climate change through local solutions. The Midwest specifically has phenomenal opportunity to become a leader domestically and internationally through clean energy development.

2010 must be a year of action. We must continue to hold our leaders at the top to the promises they campaign on, but we cannot go to the top alone. Our action, as we know, needs to happen at all levels of government and in the home of our community members.

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SD Messages Arrive Safely to President Obama

Posted On Thursday, January 14, 2010 by Jamie | | 0 comments

To all those who wrote messages for the Copenhagen book, congratulations! A successful delivery of these Midwest messages, along with the messages of Kenyan youth and a joint cover letter, went to President Obama. To see the final book that these messages were placed in, and to hear comments from some of the youth that joined our WSF delegation in working on the letter and compiling the messages, click here.
Your messages are posted on the White House Blog! Look closely at the images from the above link--of the 6 that were scanned onto the post, at least 3 of them are ones that were written by youth in Sioux Falls! Those messages are being seen not only by the President and his staff but anyone who visits the White House Blog. Each of those notes made a BIG voice for the Midwest--and think of how easy they were to write!
The momentum doesn't end with this project--in fact, this is only the beginning. Every goal starts with little steps toward success, and there are many more little steps that need to be taken to achieve strong climate solutions before the next UN climate conference. United, inspiring voices of youth are needed to show our support for a healthy and sustainable future, for SD and the world. The compilation of messages that are being shared worldwide are just a small testament to the impact one voice can have. That voice can start with YOU.

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