At COP24, unless your hotel is close by, everyone is required to take a UN bus to the conference site.
Yesterday, I sat on the bus bubbling with eagerness as I was going to attend the conference of a lifetime. As I took the aisle seat and put my headphones in, I barely even noticed the middle-aged man who sat in the window seat beside me. When most people think about an eventful or memorable place, they almost certainly would not picture a bus. As we all know, buses are not exactly appealing or comfortable. The design and atmosphere is the same in almost every bus: rows and rows of brown seats, a thin black aisle down the middle of the bus, and hundreds of hazy windows.
Fifteen minutes had passed and I remained absorbed in my own world, bored and anxious to get off of the bus, trying to push away all the thoughts, worries, and obligations that were weighing me down. However, after putting my iPad into my backpack under my seat, the middle-aged business man asked me a question, “Do I know you?”
Little did I know that this question would spark one of the most remarkable conversations I have ever had.
I remembered this man because the day before he had asked me for directions to one of the Pavilions. After recognizing one another, I was amazed that a complete stranger would be so genuinely interested in getting to know me. By simply conversing with him, I finally felt like I got “a voice” at the table. Instead of politely nodding his head mindlessly when I mentioned I wanted to go into law, he told me that he himself was a lawyer, representing a small island nation at this conference. His life story of representing famous scientists, fighting for indigenous people, and lobbying against the U.S. government had me completely in awe.
The man I had been sitting next to was the person I truly aspire to be.
While there are those with me at this conference who are born networkers, for many of us (especially for youth), live events can be a challenge. Breaking out of our comfort zones and talking to people is just the type of action we need to break out of our old ways of thinking that have limited our actions in solving climate change.
People are more often influenced by friends than by experts, so make sure to talk about climate change with people from all walks of life. Tell your stories — about changes you’ve seen where you live, how climate change has affected you, and the changes you’re making to truly lessen your impact.