COP21 Green-washed Logo is a Tonne of Hot Air

Literally. Does this logo just released by the UNFCCC remind you of anything? Something that is touted as green but in reality is leading to Tonnes of methane emissions and ruining air, water, and human health around the world? 

“Natural” Gas company and project logos, perhaps? You know- that ones that make this dangerous and dirty form of energy look like it’s a clean energy source? That’s what I thought, too.

 

And of course the color scheme looks like a more infamously green-washed icon: 

 

I personally prefer more honest logos… like this one:

More on Green-washing in a bit. Just let these images sink in for a bit.

Advertisements

We Said We’d Be Back #volveremos

But are we really? We have been so limited that I wonder if we really are here. The first three days of the conference can be described in a few words:

Inaction, Redundancy, and Frustration.

And yet…

Here we are. Civil Society, the people supposed to be represented by our negotiators, fighting to be heard. While the opening sessions of the conference have been extremely lackluster, we know that there is much to be explored behind closed doors. This is my third United Nations Climate Change Negotiations, also called the Conference of Parties (COP) and this is the first time that I have been denied access to smaller text negotiations out right the first week of the conference. The norm, though not much better, is that since the close-editing of text is done in smaller rooms is that members of negotiating parties are allowed to go into the rooms first and then civil society is allowed to filter in as space is available. In the past two years, this has led to many hours of sitting on the floor outside of meetings rooms with other members of civil society talking, scheming, dreaming of just being on the other side of the walls we’re leaning on and taking the mic to tell the room what they need to do. This year- we are downright turned away and sometimes even told to leave rooms that we are waiting in.

IMG_0878

All of the action happens in B,C,D,E… and civil society is over in G.. by the exit…

To my understanding, constituencies have been radically restructured by the Secretariat (the governing body of the UNFCCC) over the past few years. This change is to the point where unless you have a good relationship with them or you don’t ruffle their feathers, you will not be granted the privilege to have your assigned 2 minutes to speak in negotiations (called interventions) or to do an action (which must be sanctioned and all messages on banners and signs approved or you will be ejected from the conference).

This is a space where our voices, as the constituents of our representatives, are supposed to be heard. Instead, we are put into boxes (our meeting spaces) that are out of the way (near the exit, I might add). There needs to be a way to change how we operate in the space.

So- if nothing is happening then why are we here? Well, we have to be is the simple answer. If we do not go the conference then we will not know what is actually happening. We all know how the media slants what is happening in the world and by having civil society on the ground then we are able to counter those narratives. The main reason, in my opinion, that I keep coming back is that this is the only place we currently have to talk about global agreements to address climate change.   

IMG_0879

But, just because it is the only space we haven’t doesn’t mean that it’s functional (which has been made very apparent the lack of progress since 1992). We are increasingly focusing our time on how we need to change the way we work within the conference space instead of how to make change in the world. The way things work in this space it is essentially the same thing, though. If we don’t iron out how to get things done in the COP, then we cannot bring our voices to the international level.

We, as civil society, need to stop being formed into mini-negotiators who are so worried about pleasing the secretariat. We need to unite and do more like the civil society walk out in Warsaw. Nothing has gotten better since then and yet we’re still sitting here watching the negotiations unfold without our consent.

We need to follow through with #volveremos.  #estamosaqui needs to resound through all of the meeting rooms. 

IMG_0910

New Experiences: International Anti-Oppression

IMG_6448

To be completely transparent: I’ve been writing, re-writing this post since I led the workshop last Friday. I find Anti-oppression to be difficult to write about and agonize over every single word trying to make it the best possible. I’ve decided it’s just time for me to be human- I can’t be prefect, so I hope that y’all understand that I did my best and I hope my desire for solidarity, justice, and understanding comes through in this post. 

After attending COP18 in Doha last year, I was left feeling like I hadn’t properly shared one of my passions, Anti-Oppression (AO) work, with the other youth that I interacted. The reason why I am so inspired to work utilizing AO is that I believe that in order to make any sort of change we must all have the ability to be heard, to act, and to make the differences that we are called to. Climate change is a particularly large problem. It interacts with every part of our lives and, as such, means that we must remember that everyone is affected by climate change, but some more so than others. In this workshop, we discussed the role that privilege and oppression take within the environmental work that we do at home and then further discussed how these concepts are seen at the COP. Even though we had youth from nine different countries, we agreed that there were vast inequalities in terms of resource distribution between countries, the sharing of leadership roles by men and women, minority groups’ communities being used as grounds for energy extraction and production sites, and also the dynamics that come into play when we consider who is able to participate in this process.

_MG_1342

By exploring these two concepts, we started a dialogue about how to make the International Youth Climate Movement (IYCM) a more inclusive and thoughtful group of activists. I really wanted to emphasize that tokenization (a common and unfortunate trend in environmental work) of others should be avoided at all costs not only in our media work, but in our personal interactions. In addition, I felt it important to discuss how by saying “if only more people from the global south were here” and “why don’t more people speak up” is a tokenizing experience in itself. In order to have the strongest, most justice-oriented movement as possible we must first change the systems of oppression within our structures and create more open spaces for more voices and experiences to be heard. Why would those whose voices are only asked for when people need a spokesperson for one’s identity (or assumed identity) and not accepted as a necessary participant in all conversations?

_MG_1343

This was the point of the training: to open a dialogue about privilege and power dynamics and to emphasize that we should not wonder why people are not in spaces, but actively work to change the way people with more privilege take up space. Seeing that impacted communities are regularly tokenized, our workshop was to explain a) what tokenizing is b) how people can recognize and check their own privilege and c) discuss simple ways to make space.

_MG_1491

One individual rightly asked why our workshop was targeted towards folks from Western countries and whose primary language (or are comfortable using) English and did not have marginalized peoples in the space to direct the conversation and say what their needs are. I personally think that it is not the job of a person facing discrimination or oppression to constantly give answers or lead these conversations. Why should someone be constantly confronting the various levels of oppression in their life and having every conversation revolve around it? Another fear- when talking about these systems, isn’t it helpful to remove those with privilege from the opportunity to tokenize someone by asking them for their opinion as a spokesperson for their identity or to attempt being validated as not being [insert word here]-ist?

_MG_1338

These are my own opinions, experiences, and approach. I realize that there are many other valid ways of going about anti-oppression within and outside of the U.S. . If anyone has experience with AO at an International level and has an ideas or would like to collaborate, please let me know. (sidenote: Power Shift CEE/COY 9 was primarily composed of people from the “Global North” is this contextualizes the conversation about tokenization)

We ended with this quote: “The question is not just about what unearned privileges we have been walking around with but also about what it would take to change the systems that gave us these privileges in the first place. We must move beyond acknowledgement and guilt, panels and conferences, and start living, working, organizing, consuming, and loving differently.”

I firmly believe that it’s important for us to create an equitable, just, and powerful climate change movement. We need to take all of our experiences and knowledge to inform the changes that we’re making to get the best results. So the intention of the workshop was to open a discussion to discover how we can actively amplify the needs of those most impacted by being good allies that give space for others to speak and act, rather than us doing it in their place.

To see the handout from this workshop click here.

Workshop photos by the wonderful David Tong (thanks!)