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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » You’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time.

You’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time.

By Dani Thompson

During the last two weeks at the conference, I have become increasingly involved as a member of YOUNGO here in Durban. In case you are new to this blog, YOUNGO stands for “Youth Non-Government Organization” and you can learn more about it from my previous blog post linked here. Getting to know youth from around the world who share the same passions and ambitions as myself was an experience I will not soon forget. However, aside from the surface level friendships and social interactions, the dysfunction of  YOUNGO as a collective group and their inability to create unified and mass youth action at the COP has been undeniably apparent. This is not necessarily a personal opinion, but one which has been a point of discussion and debate among the majority of the youth involved in YOUNGO. However, just as the UNFCCC delegations seem to have miraculously come together at the 11th hour, so has the youth.

Yesterday, at the daily morning meeting of YOUNGOs, we decided on a clear message which we would spread through the halls of the conference: “You’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time.” This was one of the first messages we were able to agree on as a whole, and it got everyone excited and energized for the final push we were going to make in support/demand of global agreements at the COP. Later in the morning, a new friend of mine from SustainUS, Abigail Borah, was removed from the conference for speaking out for a more urgent and ambitious climate treaty. Read entire article, U.S. Youth Ejected from Climate Talks While Calling For Necessary Climate Progress, for more information, a video, and pictures of what happened. Abigail also wrote the script for the video created by U.S. youth (which Maggie Rees, Sam Parker, Esther Babson, and I are in!!!) calling for action from U.S. congress and the Obama Administration for climate action. Watch the video below…

In the afternoon, YOUNGOs flooded the conference area wearing “I heart KP” t-shirts. They wandered around aimlessly, acting as though they were looking for something and asking people, “I’ve lost my future, have you seen it??”.

Today is the last day of the conference, and the last day for the youth to have their voices and opinions heard. From 10:00-11:30 AM there was an “intervention” plenary session in which representatives from NGOs and civil society are allowed to take the podium and address the national delegates. This “last plea” of sorts is limited to two minutes. Speakers represented diverse groups, including researchers, business/industry, women, island states, and of course, youth. Our elected representative, Anjali Appadurai, was to deliver a speech regarding the urgency of the negotiations and the demand from youth to be heard and more adequately represented at the COP.

However, at the YOUNGO meeting this morning, it was decided that her speech would not be enough. After Anjali’s two minutes were up , myself and other youth would stand and deliver a final message via “human microphone” as proof of our unified voice. After all, we were loud enough as our own microphone, even if they would no longer allow us to use theirs. If you don’t know what a human microphone is, check out the video of our action here, which received a standing ovation and some encouraging comments from the chairman of the intervention session…this video only contains the last half of Anjali’s speech, but I will post the final draft of what she said (as emailed out to YOUNGO members) below this post.

Being a part of this action was probably the most meaningful experience I have had so far here in Durban. I will never forget what it was like to stand with all of my new friends and aquaintances which I have gotten to know over the last few weeks and deliver a powerful message to the very people who can turn that message into an action.

More actions are planned for the rest of the day (Top secret! Will report later…) but still, I have very little hope that a global agreement will come out of COP17. Small victories may be made, but we are running out of time for a major agreement to be made which will change our current course of environmental catastrophe.

Below is a copy of Anjali’s full speech, I will update on the rest of the day’s actions as they come!

I speak for more than half the world’s population.

We are the silent majority. You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table.

What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money?

You have been negotiating all of my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.

But you’ve heard this all before.

We’re in Africa, home to communities on the frontline of climate change. The world’s poorest countries need funding for adaptation NOW. The Horn of Africa, and those nearby in KwaMashu needed it yesterday.

But as 2012 dawns, our Green Climate Fund remains empty.

The IEA tells us that we have 5 years until the window to avoid irreversible climate change closes.

The science tells us that we have 5 years, MAXIMUM. You’re saying: give us 10.

The most stark betrayal of your generation’s responsibility to ours is that you call this AMBITION.

Where is the courage in this room? Now is not the time for incremental action. In the long-run, these will be seen as the defining moments of an era in which narrow self-interest prevailed over science, reason, and common compassion.

There is real ambition in this room but it’s been dismissed as radical, deemed not “politically possible”.

Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation and to condemn millions to death by climate change.

What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach.

2011 was the year in which the silent majority found their voice, the year when the bottom shook the top, the year when the radical became reality.

Common but differentiated and historical responsibility are NOT up for debate. Respect the foundational principles of this Convention. Respect the integral values of humanity. Respect the future of your descendants.

Mandela said “it always seems impossible, until it’s done”.

So, distinguished delegates and governments around the world – get it done.

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10 Responses to "You’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time."

  1. Esther Babson says:

    I didn’t get to hear the speech but I am so happy you posted it Dani! That is such a powerful and moving speech. Hopefully as the day continues negotiators will keep her words in mind!

  2. Sherry says:

    Amazing speech Anjali! True and profound spoken with courage and dignity! YES!!!

  3. Alex says:

    The motto “you’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time” speaks to the ignorance amongst people about the issue of reality v. convenience. This motto is telling the people that we must act now before the consequences become greater. The video speaks to the postponed problem of climate change. There is no more time to wait, to wait for change because change is clearly not happening. Vulnerable communities need help immediately. The blog and video speak to the urgency of the “now.” President Obama promised “change” to the country and has not fulfilled his promise. America has “run out of excuses” and needs to begin acting, there is no time like the present to change. We need to act now, to help not only our country but for the betterment of the globe as well.

  4. Caitlin says:

    “Common but differentiated and historical responsibility are NOT up for debate. Respect the foundational principles of this Convention. Respect the integral values of humanity. Respect the future of your descendants.”

    I thought Anjali and YOUNGOs use of respect is very much an ethical value that is not being highlighted enough throughout these continual conventions, which lead to very little policy initiatives. We must all unite together and remember that we must respect our Earth. We are not looking at the consequences of our actions and the effects it’s having on other societies besides our own. We truly are “running out of time” before that damage cannot be undone. All of us, as mankind, have been taught to respect ourselves and each other, but why cannot we respect our Earth. It’s our generation and future that have been bestowed this problem and we are willing to conquer it. Why can’t the politicians put away their differences and listen to the ones climate change will affect the most? We must respect the integral values of humanity, stop making excuses, and bring forth change.

  5. Marc Baumann says:

    I think the title “you’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time” is very fitting for the actual situation that we are in. People do not truly understand the situation we face as a world community. We are literally out of time. We must act now in a responsible manner that can correct or at least mitigate the damage that has already been done. Everyone that is in a position of power or can implement policy to mitigate global climate change comes up with excuse after excuse to delay the inevitable. The time is now, time to act.

  6. Mara Donaldson says:

    Yes, there is a sense of urgency in the idea that we are “running out of time.” It reminds me of one of the myth of climate change that Hulme talks about in chapt 10–the myth of the apocalypse.

  7. Lauren Rhodes says:

    I completely agree that global climate change is a significant problem and that it is a threat to future generations. The science behind the concern is sound and we’ve already started to see the effects. I think that the efforts of you and others like yourself are admirable and very well intentioned. That being said, I think it is rather idealistic to propose that climate change can be mitigated by any sort of international agreement. The fact is that any sort of agreement made at this level is loosely binding at best. I think people tend to underestimate the complexity of politics whether it be at the local, federal, or international level. I firmly believe that a top down policy driven tactic is not the best way to approach this issue.

  8. Jaime says:

    This sounds like an amazing experience. I think that this motto ‘You’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time.’ speaks to how the world views climate change. Obviously there have been some small victories made by small organizations. But on the global scale, we haven’t even made a dent in what really needs to happen to change the world. The fact that this youth group was able to agree upon this somewhat shocking motto is exactly what needs to happen, it’s the mindset that we all need to be in. Without this mindset, nothing will ever change because everyone will try and push the problems onto others. Anjali’s speech I think was awesome and I wish I could have been there to see it.

  9. Connor Shields says:

    I was aware that a few Dickinson students had went to the COP17 in Durban but I was unsure of what was being done there. After reading this blog by Dani and watching the YOUNGO speech I now see what sets Dickinson students apart from those in other institutions. It is inspiring to see our students speak out about climate change and actually act rather then complain. I especially liked how the group made sure that a time limit wasn’t going to limit their message. This blog and the others have left me hopeful of how students are being active participants in climate change litigation.

    1. Kelly McIntyre says:

      I think that this sounds like a phenominal learning and growing experience to be a part of! One thing that really struck my attention was in the beginning of the post where you said,”the dysfunction of the YOUNGOs as a collective group and the inability to create unified and mass youth action has been undeniably apparent” yet, when it came down to the last minute to decide on the message you wanted to spread the group came together to formulate the phrase, “You’ve run out of excuses. We’re running out of time.” I think that it is even an accomplishment to get a group of that size completely unified and excited. I feel that this kind of reflects the title of this post in that you guys came together when you were running out of time and made an impact, yet those in politics are not acting in that same necessary way, even when they are far beyond that last minute decision making point.

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