Since I've arrived at COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, I've fluctuated between the dual emotions of empowerment and helplessness. I have felt more important than ever in the Bella Center, where the convention is taking place -- running into the President of the Maldives or directly targeting key negotiators to get them to see my point of view. But, I’ve also felt more helpless than ever watching the long and grueling process of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the ever-so-stubborn US stance on the issue.
I’m 17-years-old, and being a young person here has significantly impacted the way I've felt throughout the past week and a half. I’m not alone; there are over 2,000 international youth here, 500 from the US -- and for the time ever at an international climate conference, youth are being recognized as an official constituency called “YOUNGO.”
There have been many times I have felt YOUNGO's voice influence individual negotiators, the vast media coverage, and actions in the street. At the same time, it is frustrating to see youth shut out from many of this week’s negotiations. Throughout this second week, non-government organization delegates (including myself for the Sierra Student Coalition) are being taken out of the process by being restricted from access to the Bella Center. While I appreciate seeing more of the rest of the conference, I know that removing legitimate organizers from an important process to make room for the hundreds of staff that heads of state may bring is akin to taking power away from the people.
Sometimes it feels that no matter what we do here, no matter what anyone does anywhere, that the people in power will not listen. That no matter the bicycle critical mass happening in the streets of Copenhagen TODAY, or the 10,000 people that marched to the Bella Center in protest on the International Day of Climate Action on the 12th, the message is still not getting through to the people who decide.
A friend of mine here from Oregon told me that she was talking to an assistant of a negotiator about what makes the negotiators think or change their mind, and if anything we do can have an actual effect. Every time I see the face of another youth who I know is missing their finals or who got into countless arguments with their parents about attending these events, I remember what she told me the assistant said. He said that what we do is something that no one appreciates until it is gone.
Imagine this movement if there weren't crazy protests, if there weren't 2,000 youth walking around the Bella Center asking the aging delegates "How old will you be in 2050?", if there weren't people risking their lives for this movement. It would be dead. I know that if the negotiators had marched alongside me on the International Day of Climate Action, they would see not only other middle aged men, but rather people of every age, color, and language.
We are the passion and the heart behind everything that this rush for survival is, and no matter how powerless I may feel at times in the convolution of negotiations, or how helpless I may feel when no one listens, I know that we are the silent roar that these negotiators have yet to hear.