Step Up or Step Down

Yesterday morning, as I stood on a stage dressed as a giant bird and sweated my way through a press conference, I asked myself, not for the first time, exactly what it is that I’m doing at the United Nations.  Between the frantic organizing, daily podcasts and 18 hour days that have become the norm since arriving, I haven’t had all that much time to challenge myself on why I came all the way to Cancun in the first place. And then, glancing down at the beautiful feathers that made up my costume, I remembered.  I am here representing young people from across Canada.  I am here to deliver their messages of hope to our leaders, pieces of cloth that illustrate the kind of Canada they want to be living in.  A Canada with windmills and solar panels and walkable neighbourhoods and light rail and clean air and a reputation as a leader on climate change.This is not the kind of Canada that our democratically elected government has been advocating for at these negotiations, and I am ashamed.  I am ashamed that I live in a country whose government is so short sighted that they are unable to see past the next election cycle, that lacks the bravery and integrity and spirit of cooperation to step up to the plate and say “We will take meaningful action on climate, because it is the right thing to do.  We will lead on the international scene, because hundreds of thousands of lives depend on us”.  As I write this blog, youth from around the world are standing on the steps of Moon Palace counting the 21,000 people that the World Health Organization projects will die this year because of climate change induced impacts in their communities.  21,000 people.  That is the cost of inaction.

Yet, despite my deep disillusionment with our current government’s inaction on climate change, I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because I have stood draped in our youth’s hopes and dreams and desire for another Canada, and I share their belief that this Canada is possible.  We can do better.  We have to do better, and one day, when I tell my children about how long we dragged our feet, and the human cost of our inaction, their faces will reflect the same horror and disbelief that my parents saw on mine when I first learned about apartheid, and the genocide in Rwanda, and the holocaust, and all of the other times that we have known the consequences of our inaction and still done nothing for far too long.

Step up, Canada.  You have no excuse, and the role you are playing here is nothing less than criminal.

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