After landing Saturday night back home from Glasgow, I spent this week presenting back to groups about COP26- giving the run down on outcomes, sharing the reactions from the media, activists, governments, etc. As the week has worn on I’ve realized that while my brain has been able to process and share what happened, the rest of my body is still in recovery. I haven’t really been able to articulate, or share what I was thinking or feeling or what the hardest parts were for me. So here we go.
COP26 was intense. Nothing was simple. Daily COVID testing meant you worried every day whether or not you could leave your room. Interacting with huge crowds of people after two years of COVID working from home was overwhelming. Interpreting multiple schedules of plenaries, presentations, press conferences, etc. and whether they would be open for observing or prioritizing getting there early to get a seat before the room was closed was complex. Finding the locations of opportunities outside the COP itself such as the New York Times Climate Hub or People’s Climate Summit was a feat of navigation.
COP26 was emotionally draining. I carried a sense of guilt and responsibility throughout the conference because I was privileged to have the resources, vaccination, and badge to be there when many of the people who are being most impacted were not. I carried the joy and weight of seeing the world through the eyes of our delegates who represented youth, communities experiencing frontline impacts, and Indigenous communities. They feel disenfranchised, unheard, traumatized, and tokenized.
COP26 was a rallying point. I had the joy of connecting with and hugging and debriefing with colleagues from around the country I have not seen for two years or have never met in person. They are passionate, they are committed and their energy fed me and inspire me to keep moving forward.
COP26 was a moment of realization. Our leaders are not courageous enough to do what needs to be done. It couldn’t be more apparent that we need civil society to come together as one voice and be so loud and disruptive that our leaders have no choice but to be brave. I saw civil society unify in amazing ways through the 150,000 person march that included scientists, youth, socialists, labor unions, Indigenous leaders and everyone else. I saw this in the final People’s Plenary where the breadth of constituency groups from Gender to Youth to Agriculture to Indigenous all came together to share the People’s Climate Decision and then walked out of the COP to join those outside the conference with one voice to demand climate justice. As we walked we held a long red rope- a powerful and literal representation of holding the line.
COP26 activated me as an individual. In this work, we often talk about individual action and it being important, but not really as important as collective action. What I realized these last two weeks, was that although this was true- we must as individuals make a deliberate and active decision to join the collective. I believe this speaks to our work at Climate Generation as “activators” as being more critical than ever. We know what needs to get done. We know that a just, equitable future for all is possible. What we need now is a mass of individuals activated to join the collective and shout at the top of their voices.