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.
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.
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.
Posted On Monday, January 18, 2010 by Reed Aronow | | 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.
Posted On Thursday, January 14, 2010 by Jamie | | 0 comments