By Munira Berhe
October 26, 2021
Munira Berhe is representing the Outrider Foundation at the 16th International Climate Conference of Youth in Glasgow, Scotland. How did her climate advocacy start and what does she hope to learn in Scotland?
My name is Munira Berhe and I am an art student at The New School in New York City. In addition to climate change advocacy, I am passionate about music, architecture, literature, and the visual arts. In the future, I would like to create my own art that changes the lives of people across the globe and that future may not possible because the climate emergency is a threat to global security, health, and humanity. This is my drive for attending the Conference of Youth (COY16) specifically to represent the hopes and dreams of younger generations and to achieve environmental justice for everyone.
As I prepare for my trip to Glasgow with Climate Generation, I’m reminded of the reason that I began to care about our changing climate. Although the climate and the environment were never on the top of my mind when I was growing up, a recent personal experience brought me closer to climate advocacy—the Sima drought. When the drought hit Somalia in 2016, my family suffered severe famine. Specifically, because of the lack of rainfall, my relatives were unable to feed their livestock and many of their animals died. In addition, due to the extreme conditions approximately 250,000 people lost their lives and many Somalis dealt with diseases like Cholera and Measles. Obviously, this was an extremely difficult time for Somalis in Somalia and around the world. As the climate emergencies worsens, we will see more tragic events like these, but, through my climate advocacy, I can help my community in Minnesota and my family in Somalia possibly avoid the scariest outcomes of climate change.
As future leaders, we have the power to change the minds of elected leaders to create a more livable world moving forward. In particular, the Green New Deal, in my mind, is a great place to start in overcoming the climate emergency. This legislation connects climate solutions to our economy, education, and racial inequality meaning that everyone will reap the benefits of a sustainable future for humanity. As soon as the Green New Deal was introduced, I spent the entire summer working on climate justice by attending climate-related actions, speaking with Members of Congress and learning how I could improve my own environmental sustainability.
I am excited to bring this personal history to COY16 so that I can connect with other young people around the world and share ideas on ways to reverse the alarming trends of the climate crisis. It is exciting to learn how others started their climate advocacy journeys as well as to attend the collaborative workshops, art spaces, and plenary sessions. These will foster conversations and networking opportunities with young leaders of different cultures and nationalities but who are still facing uncertain futures because of the climate emergency. Through the discussions I will be able to refine my own advocacy journey and possibly inspire my artistic work.
In addition to my own ambitions, I will be carrying the climate-related struggles of my friends and family to Scotland. This is a heavy burden, but I am up to the profound challenge so that my friends in Florida do not have to suffer from extreme hurricanes, my grandparents in East Africa do not experience severe droughts, and my cousins in California do not have to evacuate their homes due to wildfires. Much is at stake at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) following the COY16 and it feels good to participate in the youth policy document that will be presented to the international delegates of COP26.
The world should not be living in fear of the next climate disaster driven by corporate greed. And with temperatures rising each year, the global climate challenge is only getting worse. It must be addressed through ambitious policies, and our government must be willing to make rapid change. Rather than the power of the fossil fuel industry dictating the future of the planet it should be the powerful voice of the next generation that determines an environmentally sustainable and just future for all of humanity. At COY16, I will seek to convince policymakers to put a safe and secure planet over the profits of billionaires and big business.