Today I had the unique opportunity to do two great things. First, I met with Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor, along with the other Education Ambassadors I have traveled to Paris with for COP21. We went to the U.S. Embassy to sit at a table with him and express the concerns that our students have about climate change. Each of the ambassadors took a turn, expressing the concerns of their students, and asking that he take into consideration all of our hopes and fears for the future. During this time, one of my colleagues became overwhelmed with emotion over the dire straights that we face as humans. While speaking to the science adviser to the President, the thought of the devastation facing our fellow man if we don’t stop global warming before it reaches 1.5 degrees C – never mind 2 degrees – caused this large, army reserve man to choke up. It affected us all, this emotion that he shared.
The concern for our fellow man, the fear for his two small children – not for just a warmer world, but the instability and insecurity that they would face – this is something that we all share, but rarely voice. It is this open wound that we try to put a band-aid on, but it continues to fester, becoming redder and redder with each passing COP, each passing missed opportunity to act. I am here at the COP21 conference listening to all of these voices pleading with us, and with other developed nations, to look at me, see my future, help us to change this path that we are on.
In the midst of this, I read in The Washington Post that Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma has declared that nothing of value will come of these talks and we shouldn’t be wasting our time. Really sir? Did you not just experience some of the worst flooding your state has ever seen recently? Have you not seen your lands dry up to dust? But, I digress; to call this man ignorant would be silly of me. He had to have some intelligence to get to where he is today. Perhaps he needs a different place to meet for an agreement to be reached. We cannot keep throwing stones at the wall of denial. It hasn’t worked, and it isn’t likely to work. We need a new approach to get climate deniers to listen, maybe through religious leadership or an even greater groundswell in the grassroots movement.
The second part of my day was spent video-chatting with my students. This, for me, was a really great experience, and it put the sun back in my day seeing all the hope and all the resiliency that we have in our youth. I have tried many ways to impress upon my students the importance of climate change, and have found that simply standing at the front of the classroom doesn’t ignite the passion that I am hoping to inspire. This was my wall that I needed to stop throwing stones at. Bringing young people to our Adirondack Youth Climate Summit in New York and now bringing home this COP21 conference to my students through blogs and through video conferencing is my “work around;” my new approach. Experiencing the magnitude of the conference and sharing it with them is really the best thing that I have decided to do in my professional career. I will not be the voice of insanity. I will be the beacon of hope for my students, until they have a voice in the voting process. This is why we are at COP21.