In looking back at the amazing, intense, gratifying, and busy week that I spent with the Climate Generation Education Ambassadors in Paris, there are two main realizations that I hope to hold onto forever: the power of personal stories and the power of example.
The power of personal stories works two ways: bringing eye-witness stories to the ears of others, and listening to first-person stories that others share with me. In Paris, I heard the stories of those who are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change, which threatens their very survival, and I was also the bearer of personalized stories and messages from my students to President Obama’s senior science advisor, John Holdren. Through Dr. Holdren, my student’s stories reached the president. In both instances, attaching a real face to the story made its impact greater. When we can interact at the “people to people” level, we connect with their story in a more meaningful way. The story ignites thoughts and feelings.
A second point that has stuck with me is the power of example. I was continually inspired by stories of those who are engaging personally in the goal of reducing global warming with a personal commitment to action. Seeing their example spurred me on to find the action that fit me – an action that was enough of a challenge, but that was a reasonable goal for me. This was riding my bike to work for all of the fall months until COP21. Making that personal commitment public held me accountable and helped me to accomplish my goal. When we see everyday people like ourselves making their convictions become climate actions, we know that we too can find a piece of our lives to commit to the challenge of lowering carbon emissions and keeping the climate justice movement alive after COP21.
So, as our group of Education Ambassadors had our final meeting, we did not yet know what the outcome would be of the accord, but we knew that each of us would find a way to continue to promote awareness and action around climate change. The power of one seems small, but collect a few drops of water and you have a swallow. Collect more drops of water, you have a glassful. Collect even more and you have a bucketful, a puddle, a rivulet, a stream, a river, and finally an ocean!
So, that is my take-away: the power of stories and example, awareness and action. I know that I will continue my bike commuting in the manner that works for me – I now have my own example to live up to! I also know that I will add items little by little to my list of actions, and hold myself accountable on the road to renewable energy. Having witnessed the energy and momentum of COP21, I know that I will keep telling my personalized accounts of the conference to raise awareness. Imagine what our world can look like down the road!
We will travel this road together, so let the next leg of the journey begin.