Right eye (R); -0.25, Left eye (L); -0.3
Squinting apprehensively at the remarkably slow clock, I was convinced that time was the slowest it had ever been. My brittle teeth and quivering lips begged for an escape as I muttered, “breathe,” my subconscious pleaded for me to just answer the question until the entire classroom was submerged with a wave of laughter. Traumatizing.
I grew up listening to heroic tales about undoubtedly paving one’s career path from a young age.
Yet as a kid, I was never able to set an anchor on where I saw myself in the future, solely because no matter how hard I tried, words stubbornly lost their way to my lips. The mere act of asking the waiter for a spoon or the cashier for my extra change was a nightmare. The vision that I held of the future was fundamentally impaired. Essentially, I chose to struggle through my problems if the solution involved confrontation. Meanwhile, the whole world waited on the back of my hand to “just answer the question.”
R; -0.5, L; -0.65.
In the midst of a meltdown, I knew something had to be done. Garnering the little hope and faith that remained within me, I sought out my next step. The difficulties I encountered in trying to locate my purpose amongst a sea of others who appeared to have done so long ago catapulted my determination.
R; -0.7, L; -0.7.
The weeks progressed and my journey of self-discovery slowly began to grow. But, as I glanced at the gateway of school, a bustling hive where time seemed to speed up for everyone except me, I oddly felt a cold shiver sweeping down my spine. I was anxious. Still, I forced a firm upper lip and rushed to the board of societies completely overtaken by the dilemma of whether this will be my newfound revelation or another opportunity of embarrassment.
“Looking for an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Youth Delegate”
I didn’t identify myself as meeting the set criteria. Eye contact, clear tone, socially confident, the list went on. Yet, with a heightened pulse and a pounding heartbeat, I carefully wrote my name while hundreds of others hawk-eyed me intimidatingly.“You have been selected to serve as a council member at the IRENA Assembly.”
R; -1.5, L; -2.0.
I attended all the briefings, delegate meetings, and read all the obligatory materials that were said to provide “the appropriate level of required preparation.” Yet, nothing prepared me for the repetitive announcements about how “we will most likely not survive another decade on this earth.” Baffled with worry, I returned home and researched “what is a climate crisis?”
All I gathered from the plethora of resources I was presented with, was that we are dying.
I attended the second day of the conference, determined to ask one question, “What should I do?” Disappointingly, the first answer received was that I “was too young to understand such matters.”
Once again, the voice returned and repeated, “breathe,” and for the first time, I spoke up.
“It is simply not fair that we are privileged enough to be at such a high-end conference gathered with experts and policy makers that dare to speak on behalf of mine and many other vulnerable communities’ futures,” I said.
At that moment, I knew exactly where my future lay. I noticed how apparent the lack of empathy and compassion for others was, which created that barrier against resolving climate representation and awareness amongst underrepresented communities.
My community deserves to be represented. Marginalized voices deserve to be heard in the climate conversation.
Similar to my worsening eyesight, I realized how our current policy shapers’ vision of our future is completely impaired. Luckily for me, my vision of the future couldn’t be more vivid.
This vision pushed me to establish my own organization, EcoSpectrum, that focuses on a group that has never been considered or spoken about in climate discussions: youth on the spectrum of autism. Those on the spectrum are, without a doubt, one of the most impacted communities by climate change. This is why I decided to build a platform that aims to elevate their voices through accelerating the accessibility of climate and ocean literacy to youth on the spectrum, and youth with limited knowledge about climate change, because I believe that climate action should not be exclusive or limited to a particular community, but rather a global and an all-inclusive effort into actually making a difference, and pushing us all towards a much needed change.
Although I’m not a part of the community, I believe that you don’t have to be. Empathy is the core of the climate movement, and you can’t advocate for climate action, without being compassionate with those that suffer most from the lack of action by our policy makers in the climate crisis.
I no longer have the option to not “answer the question,” instead, I’ve become the voice pressuring those in the field to answer it too.
And we are still looking for an answer…
Dana is a Law and Politics student involved in youth participation and ecosystem preservation matters. She conducted research on the impact of youth on achieving the SDG’s and the extent to which gender correlates with waste production in MENA and presented her findings to Egypt’s National Renewable Energy Authority.
She’s a member of IRENA’s Youth Forum and was a youth delegate in the ninth and tenth assembly sessions. She’s Egypt’s contact point in the SDG7 constituency group, an outreach officer at the MENA Youth Network, and the youngest and only Arab member of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance Youth Policy Advisory Council serving as Secretary and Representative of Egypt.
Dana is passionate about members most affected by the lack of urgency in the climate crisis, and has thus founded EcoSpectrum, the first app in the world that aims to elevate the inclusivity of youth on the spectrum of autism in climate and ocean conservation discussions.
Dana is one of Climate Generation’s Window Into COP delegates for COP27. To learn more, we encourage you to meet the full delegation and subscribe to the Window Into COP digest. You can support our delegates at COP27 with a financial gift today!