December 12, 2015
Youth respect good-faith efforts at COP but aren’t relying on politicos to save their planet. They intend to do it themselves.
PARIS—Thousands of young people have descended on Paris during the COP 21 talks. Most lack credentials to bypass the intense security at Le Bourget so they remain outside the citadel. Happily so.
In fact, most are barely tracking the goings on during the negotiations. They have congregated mainly in three spots, a done-over youth hostel and sports bar, in a sprawling cultural center in an ethnic neighborhood (once a massive funeral home) and in a ultra high-tech digital theatre retrofit in a massive 1862 edifice.
Only Paris could roll out such a trifecta of venues for the disaffected.
There were a few things most of the youth movements had in common.
Although they are the “ Anti-COP” crowd, and opposed to each of their home countries deficient role in what they saw as a hapless treaty negotiation, they took a quietly compassionate attitude toward their “elder statesman”.
Kind of as if to say, "mom and dad, what you are doing is well intentioned if a bit quaint. I secretly wish you well, but I will be damned if I rely on you to save the planet for me."
In one form or another they adopt the Makers Movement philosophy.
They contend that individuals, in loose collectives, can, without spending much money, create solutions to climate change by sharing ideas and inventing easy on the earth devices like self cleaning showers or bicycle powered portable solar. Make, Share, Give, Learn, Tool Up, Play, Participate, Support, and Change, that sort of thing.
I came to Paris to interview world experts on climate change policy as it relates to indigenous peoples, oceans, international public health and reconnect with people I have partnered with.
I first produced films on deforestation and traditional environmental knowledge more than twenty years ago.
Talking to young people, I have a teen of my own, was not high on my agenda. But, even knowing they are headed for hard times, they are big hearted enough not to blame us, the older generation.
They believe, quietly, that they are smart and savvy and our best chance.
Each of the venues promoted multiple creative spaces with a Makers ethos declaring the right to experiment and fail, to copy and modify, to play and share and to carve out fresh approaches to communicating climate change.
Despite the numbers, security was lax or non-existent.
There were delegations to COP 21 by indigenous peoples, experts on carbon storage and rising seas in the Mediterranean, but the young people evinced more interest in each other.
In lively demonstrations, the more hardened radical youth shimmied up trees to hang banners, served great spreads of vegan concoctions with great bread, and generally looked street hardened.
But they were talking to each other, solving problems, global and logistical, and not a one appeared to be flipping through Facebook on their phones, they were interacting with each other.
The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski [at] EHN.org
Photo Credit: Jonathan Schwartz
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