As we zoomed through the tide of scooters, cars, bicycles, and buses in our taxi I was overtaken with a sense of tranquility, today was the day. We were about to arrive at my first Conference of the Youth (COY) 12, which this year twas located in Marrakech, Morocco. It was a strange way to enter this space, there had been a heated email listserv debate leading up to this about how the COYs were organized regarding inclusion and feelings that the youth movement had been co-opted by outside influences.
Walking into registration it was visible the effect having these last minute venue changes and discussion had had on the organizational structure of COY. We got our badges and lunch tickets and were off. After finally finding our room we began our presentation for Care About Climate on climate communications. A spirited discussion emerged about how we engage non-environmentalists, and how to better shape our messaging to bring in new parties instead of just talking to people who already believe there is a problem. This was it, this was what I had come for. To exchange ideas with a global community and grow as an individual hoping to make progress towards climate issues.
These feelings were dampened as I received my lunch. A meat sandwich, prepackaged muffins, and Coke – all packaged in a massive brand new cardboard box! Is this all a show? Is climate change action something reserved for talks but not for implementation? I was lost, unsure where I fit in. Last minute room changes and a mismatched schedule led to nothing else productive the first day, it was time to start fresh tomorrow.
The second day was much like the first, again I was beginning to feel detached and unsure of the reason we were all here. That’s when Youness sat down next to me at lunch, looking equally disappointed at the massive box our meal has come in. We started talking about how we felt about the organization of COY, but this quickly gave way to a much greater discussion of ideas. Culture, identity, food, love, gender, religion we navigated these traditionally heated issues deftly as the conversation progressed forward. I learned about how the market culture was going away in Morocco, being replaced with a more European model of supermarkets. That he felt the identity of many Moroccans were at constant war internally as they attempted to reconcile Moroccan, Arab, and European values into their daily lives. Youness believes the climate change conversation in Morocco is not so much about bringing sustainable practices to Morocco as it is encouraging people to return to the ways they have always held up until the past few years as the country moves more towards a European model of consumption. This stuck me, as so often in the west we talk of BRINGING sustainability somewhere, when often times it is only the introduction of consumerism and other western creations that created the problems in the first place.
Throughout the rest of the COY I had several more genuine human connections with youths from around the world. My understanding of them and myself grew deeper each time. Ultimately it wasn’t the meetings, workshops, or panels at COY that pushed my development or thinking further, it was the people. And that’s the message to take away from the whole conference. We can’t rely on conferences or organizations to connect us and help us grow, it’s up to us to step out of our comfort zone and genuinely interface with another human being from a different walk of life- as often as possible. That is what will push us forward and that is exactly what we hope to do with the Climate Sign, to foster connections between all people in the climate movement and make these types of connections more common in our everyday lives.
Chair, Care About Climate
Delegate, Care About Climate UNFCCC COP22