S.D. Is Part of Climate Change Solution
I was the South Dakota youth delegate with Expedition Copenhagen, a partnership between the Will Steger Foundation and Stonyfield Farm, to the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
WSF is a nonprofit organization committed to creating local and global environmental solutions through advocacy, education and outreach. Will Steger, an Arctic explorer and Minnesota native, led our delegation of 12 youths to Copenhagen to provide a voice for the Midwest at the international negotiations.
The two weeks gave me a great opportunity to work with youths around the world as well as discover the leading role of the Midwest in shaping the futures of people around the globe.
There was no rest for the weary in our delegation. Working almost round the clock, delegates tackled multiple responsibilities. We worked on drafting policy for submission to the U.N., attended plenary sessions to report on the negotiations, hosted news conferences and panel discussions, interviewed governmental leaders and non-governmental groups, and led educational presentations.
Through our work, we established international partnerships with our peers from around the world, including China, Canada, Kenya, Denmark, India, Latin America and more. Additionally, we filmed our observations, wrote blogs and used social media to share the stories from Copenhagen.
While our days were packed with a variety of activities from predawn to well into the night, our mission remained to present the Midwest voice to those in Copenhagen as well as the effects negotiations have on the Midwest.
Attending this conference provided the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of current economic and technological advancements, environmental impacts and social issues worldwide. I attended presentations from leading economists on the topic of changing technology and clean energy, and reports follow that in its current state, the U.S. is falling behind in the renewable technology market to European and Asian countries.
South Dakota can play its part in leading not only the nation but also the world in the steps it makes toward renewable energy resources. We are fortunate to be ranked fourth in the nation in wind potential, giving us a supreme advantage over many regions of the world and the ability to provide power halfway across the nation.
I also attended briefings with presidents of small island nations who literally are negotiating for land to establish new geographical regions for their countries. Hundreds of thousands of people will suffer death and displacement within my lifetime as their entire countries become submerged, and these citizens probably will be scattered throughout many countries.
I cannot imagine losing my home in South Dakota in addition to my cultural identity, but this is reality for our neighbors across the world. One youth delegate from Africa echoed the necessity in reaching a strong international treaty that would lessen environmental degradation worldwide and restore his home city of Nairobi, Kenya, with running water.
As the conference in Copenhagen came to its final day, the whole world was looking to the U.S. to negotiate a comprehensive climate agreement. Annex I countries were holding their motions to meet policy targets until the U.S. makes a binding commitment. In the meantime, developing countries held their breath, knowing their lives depended upon stringent mitigation and adaptation relief.
The Midwest is integral in passing and implementing the treaty in Copenhagen in addition to the domestic legislation on the Senate floor. The solutions to abundant pollution and environmental degradation rest upon the shoulders of countries most responsible for the problems, with the understanding that it is the responsibility of all nations to contribute to sustaining the world for generations to come.
Although leaders soon will gather again in Mexico City to finalize a binding agreement, all countries – especially the U.S. – must affirm their commitments to the protection of our global community.
Jamie Horter, 22, is a senior at Augustana and an intern for the Sioux Falls Green Project. My Voice guest columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photo of the author. Send columns to Argus Leader, Box 5034, Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5034, fax to 605-331-2294 or e-mail to letters@ argusleader.com.