From My Community to Yours: The Climate Impacts of COP18
While many families across the country settled in for dinner and the evening news, I heard the roar of a chainsaw and the clanging of a ladder as my family reassembled our front yard after Hurricane Leslie hit my island, Newfoundland while it sat quiet and vulnerable in the Atlantic Ocean. Instead of settling in for the latest in Newfoundland politics and a cup of tea, my father cut up the large beautiful maple, with the leaves still attached despite the high winds that cracked it at its base, that stood on my front lawn since I was a child. He would soon try to salvage the other smaller tree which had curled up beside its fallen comrade. My mother stood on a ladder, trying to reattach a vent that once resided on the front of our house, but was found on a neighbour’s lawn a few houses away. Many people in my community did similar repairs. Just hours before I had witnessed many missing traffic lights, a tractor trailer overturned, and scattered pieces of peoples’ homes, branches, and road signs littering the landscape.
My family and I, the privileged folk that we are, came out generally unscathed. Though my community was lost and damaged for a few days, what I experienced would definitely be classified as on the tamer side of extreme weather. Meanwhile, marginalized peoples live with circumstances ten times worse than what I experienced in a single day, while also dealing with historic and systemic problems that bear the same roots as the climate crisis: sexism, colonialism, sexual violence, racism, and classism. In many cases their ability to access basic public services, let alone the resources to organize for climate justice, are questionable.
Their struggle is enormous, undervalued, and unheard at COP18 amongst twisting policy, power plays of wealthy countries, and the strong influence of the fossil fuel industry. For those of us organizing here, it is incredibly refreshing to have their voices ringing in our ears loud and clear, while also having the ability to do tangible actions, like our #climatelegacy campaign. This ensures that they have their rightful place in the convoluted world of COP.
We need to remember that climate change is a particularly vile form of violence. It isn’t just ice quietly melting, or animals slinking into extinction. It is forceful, intrusive, and abusive. It is physical, devastating, and most importantly: created by us. So as we all work, probably much harder than the negotiators speaking on our behalf, we must stand tall against climate injustice. Let’s keep those affected alive in our hearts, and in our organizing. When we do that, the movement and initiatives like those happening amongst the youth here, will be unstoppable.
Meghan McCarthy is the coordinator for the Canadian Youth Delegation to the UN Climate Negotiations, COP18 in Doha, Qatar.