Heating up in Durban: A Call to Action
On Wednesday, in a flurry of media, security guards, and applause, myself and 5 other members of the Canadian Youth Delegation, upon turning our backs on the Environment Minister of Canada, were promptly removed from plenary at COP17 here in Durban, South Africa. Our accreditation was revoked, even though our action was silent, non-violent and simple. Our only goal was to send a very clear message to our Environment Minister: we are turning our back on Canada, just as Canada has turned its back on us by negotiating on behalf of the tar sands, rather than its people. Just last night, as the world was preparing to head into the final day of the negotiations, Canada announced the approval of the Joslyn North strip mine, a 9 billion dollar tar sands project which will certainly bring us even closer to a climatic tipping point. NASA scientist James Hansen has said that the expansion of the tar sands means “game over” for the climate. This, among many many other things, is what makes Canada’s climate policy a violent and destructive force here at COP.
The attention we’ve received since our action has been incredible: international coverage, an explosion on social media outlets, hope filled voices sending heartfelt congratulations and thanks. My motivations for doing this action comes from many years of outrage, sadness, confusion, and disappointment surrounding Canada’s inaction on climate change, subsequently causing the suffering of thousands of people.
Just hours ago, hundreds of youth from around the world occupied the halls outside of plenary, calling for fair, ambitious, and legally binding action on climate change. Their voices were sweeping into the narrow ears of our negotiators, mounting the pressure for real change to happen.
The positive reactions to our action, and the action that happened earlier today, are not enough. One effective action organized by a small group of people is not enough. Sharing the news of the occupation outside of plenary is not enough. The actions of the Canadian Youth Delegation over the last two weeks have not been brave; they have been necessary. The future that we’ve imagined our whole life has been stolen from us. What else can we do, but stand up? This is the time to move beyond ego, fear, and depression. If we don’t actively fight against injustice, than we are complacent in it. We are all dedicated to building a climate movement that is strong, creative, and inclusive. But we are not enough. We need you. We need your friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances. We need collective action. I only hope that the world is listening.