Thursday, November 19, 2009

COP15 and Beyond- The Climate Movement Fights On!

After working tirelessly to push federal politicians to be accountable to the will of the people through Powershift regional summits, 350.org’s day of action, local events and direct actions, you’d think exhaustion would be setting in on the ranks of the US youth climate movement. Especially after the demoralizing blow that was delivered last weekend with the Obama administration’s official declaration that there will be no binding agreement at COP15. On the contrary, these young visionaries are just getting started!

With the chips stacked against meaningful action by the Senate and our administration, there is something contagiously spreading from campus to campus and community to community. Something political movements of the past that faced less dismal realities have lacked- unwavering hope. Not the kind of hope a charismatic politician espouses during campaign season to generate warm fuzzy feelings, or the kind that surges in the dark hours of prayer for a divine force to alter your circumstances.

This hope is wedded to action and commitment. A hope that if we push hard enough, continue to innovate, and remain fiercely inclusive and creative we will succeed. A hope that stands guard against the disenchanting forces of political compromise, or the covert attacks of apathy that arise when tangible progress cannot be seen. This is the hope that continues to inspire young people in communities across the country, even as the Senate bill crawls forward and President Obama refuses to commit to attending the most important international negotiations of our lifetime. This hope is inspiring the action of young organizers across the nation as they finish one last push by coordinating Clean Energy Forums in the run-up to Copenhagen.

“The students I work with everyday are not discouraged by the Senate’s snail pace or weakening attempts, and they still believe that they can persuade the president they elected to take a position of leadership on the international stage,” said Alicia Eimer, National Organizer at Focus the Nation (FTN). “Failure is not an option for these young folks,” Trell Thomas, another National Organizer at FTN added. “If the Senator doesn’t show up, well so be it. They are still going to build systems of political accountability in their community. And we’ll bring the forum to them.” The exact systems of accountability that will make our federal politicians regret failing our generation in this moment of supreme opportunity.

Each young organizer is adjusting the conversation and model to fit their community and to generate buy in from local citizens. “Our forum wasn’t a typical “green” discussion,” said Mitchell Dumond, lead organizer of a Michigan Clean Energy Forum that occurred last week. “Instead our panel engaged our community and the staffer from Senator Stabenow’s office on how the transition from a fossil fuel based economy to a clean energy based economy would make us safer while putting the people of Michigan back to work after these rough last years. That’s what the Michigan public cares about and now we’re just connecting the dots.”

The tactic was the same in Arkansas even though the story was different. Lead organizer Ryan Beaird and his team facilitated the conversation, with a panel of academics and sustainable business leaders, in a way that emphasized the ecological and economic benefits of wind energy growth in Arkansas, and how strong federal legislation would accelerate that growth.

The campaign rolled on last Saturday with a large event in Tallahassee, Florida, and soon moves on across the country: Akron, Ohio, 11/20; Philadelphia, Pa., 11/21; Tempe, Ariz., 11/21; Charlotte, N.C., 11/21; New Orleans, La., 12/01; Williamsburg, Va., 12/5; Reno, Nev., 12/6.

Come January 1st, we won’t have a strong international agreement and we may not have leadership by the White House. The Senate bill may well have died at the feet of obstructionist republicans and coal-loving democrats, but we will still have one beacon of light to guide us: that unwavering hope of the youth movement. The hope that will build more Powershift summits, 350 day of actions, forums and town hall campaigns along with new and more urgent actions and tactics. A hope that will not die until the last ice cap melts and the last climate refugee is forced from their home. If you feel this same hope, then now is the time for you to get involved in our historic movement. Start by attending a Clean Energy Forum near you, get involved with the team of organizers, and get plugged in to all the national organizations guiding our progress. Every new face that enters our movement represents another vital set of hands to carry our nation into the clean energy future!

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