United in the Commitment to Change

After almost two weeks in Marrakech at COP22, by the end of last week I found myself sitting back in the classroom and back in my daily routine. I already miss the early morning dashes through the winding streets of the medina to the venue. Now, back on my bike in the Netherlands, I’ve been processing what happened at these latest international climate talks, and how we move forward.

cop22-johanna-flashmobinsquareSaving the world is a daunting task. We cannot do it alone, but our actions can reverberate across our neighborhoods, cities, states, and borders. If nothing else, COP22 reminded me of that. Not only because of the coming together of so many people from different backgrounds, but also because of the reaction and outpouring of love from people outside U.S. borders after the election.

This struggle has been long (much longer than my lifetime), tiring, and frustrating. But in Marrakech, there was a strong sense of determination. The stakes are rising, which has led to even greater recognition that our respective struggles are shared. Gender and racial equity, education, migration, and stopping climate change are intrinsically linked, and must be fought for together. There will be diversity in how we are affected by, and have the agency to change, the world that we find ourselves in. But we can be united in the commitment to change.

We can see examples of this differing but cohesive commitment within our own delegation. At the same time that I was working to ensure that Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) was discussed in the negotiations, Siiri was advocating for effective adaptation measures. Although we focused our time on different components of the negotiations at COP22, we both were pushing for climate action.

On Saturday, back at home, I biked through the rain to a rally on the Museumplein for Fossil Free Amsterdam. We sang songs composed by our “Klimaatkoor” (translation: climate choir) and huddled close to keep warm. After spending two weeks in an international negotiation setting, this coming together of neighbors to fight for their city was a reminder: climate action is not – and cannot be – confined to UN negotiations. We need to work both within and beyond our borders to reinforce our actions’ positive reverberations all year long.

In sum: we are defined by our geography, by our talents, by our passions, by our circumstances. We have more reason than ever to let our differences divide us. But instead, let’s make our differences strengthen this movement.

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