Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What its like being Un Jeune Délégué

A young delegate...sounds important, right?? Sounds even more important in French (that’s the title if you didn’t catch on!). It sounded even MORE important when I was describing it back home!

“You’re going to Paris?? What! Why?!?”

“Ohhh, nothing really. I’m just a delegate for Moravian College at some meeting called the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP21.”

“What..? That’s awesome! I wish I got to do cool stuff like that!”

“Yeahhh, I know… I’m pretty great.”

Little do they know the only reason I got to go was because I was in the right class, with the right teachers, and I had a genuine interest in climate change.

But…at the actual conference its completely different. I’m still a delegate for Moravian College, but I’m also just an observer. Being an observer means that, well, I just observe. Don’t get me wrong, the presentations and speakers that I get to observe are absolutely fantastic! Its unfathomable that I get to witness live presentations from people like Al Gore or Vandana Shiva, let alone be in the same room!

But still, with so many very important people, less important people, the press, and the other more established observers, its hard not to feel a little insignificant. And being one of the young observers doesn’t make it any better. I mean, I’m not naïve, I knew that nobody at the conference really cared what I had to say or thought, but I still had a little bit of a brazen attitude where I personally wanted to have an impact at the conference and in the battle against climate change. I think a lot of young observers probably feel the same way. We keep getting told that it’s our generation that is going to fix the planet, that our generation will fix the changing climate, the poverty, the racism, the everything; and I genuinely think a lot of us would like too, but we just don’t know exactly where to start, or at least that’s how I felt.

Those are the types of thoughts I was having at day one, week two of the conference. As I finished up day two though, I realized something… I’m already at a starting point. I’m actually past the starting point, and so is every other young delegate here at the conference! Because the first step in solving any problem, is to first admit that there is one!

At COP21, we know there’s a problem and we are fully immersed in the decisions to fix that problem, even if we are just observing. I realized our jobs as young delegates is not to make speeches, or to even really be heard at the conference. Our job is to take what we learn at the conference home. To Share it with our friends and families so that they understand that there is a problem. To take that knowledge with us in our futures and do something with it. To go find our calling in life and implement our knowledge for a better tomorrow, and a better tomorrow after that, and even after that until we get to a point where we already know tomorrow is going to be pretty darn good for everyone.

So now that I’m really thinking about it, at COP21 we may just be young delegates and observers, and we may not be the solution today. But the days after the conference, when we go home and out into life, we are going to be the leaders, and we are going to be part of the solution. And with that thought…I gotta say it feels pretty damn awesome to be a young delegate at the United Nations COP21.

Photo Credit: Hilde Binford

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