Last Monday, Joe Kruse joined us at YEA! MN as a guest facilitator. We began the evening with a conversation about the things that make up the environmental movement to us. Ideas ranged from people like John Muir and Rachel Carson, to actions like companies going green and individuals lessening our footprint on the environment. After a while, we switched gears and talked about things that we saw as missing pieces in the the environmental movement. One of the big things that we talked about was the disproportionate impacts of environmental issues. A lot of times, those that are contributing the least to the issue are the ones feeling the greatest burden of its impacts. We continued to talk about environmental justice, and how these disproportionate impacts most often affect low income areas, communities of color, indigenous peoples, women and youth and how many times these voices are not as often heard or missing completely in the environmental movement.
As we continued, we tied together everything that we had previously talked about with stories. Facts and statistics are valuable in educating people, but can often leave the listener feeling disconnected. Stories engage people with real world situations and lead to more genuine connection and learning. We went on to discuss the power of telling our own Climate Story and connected it to all the ideas we had just discussed about the environmental movement. We took a few moments to reflect and then began sharing our stories.
My story went something like this: I have had a lifelong love of the outdoors which has lead me to the issues surrounding the environment and climate change. The past few years through school, I have been given some amazing opportunities to follow this passion. This past November, I had the opportunity to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was held in Paris, France.
At this conference, the world wanted to make an agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions and prevent further warming of the climate. I was a high school student attending panel events, press conferences, negotiations, and other sessions along with country officials, world leaders and representatives of environmental organizations. At the conference, I attended many events that were specifically about these missing pieces that we had talked about, like events on climate and women, developing countries and indigenous people. Looking back, I remember that there were tons of people at all of these events, who were curious and supportive of these issues.
On a global scale it was impossible to incorporate all of these environmental justice issues into a single agreement. To come to any sort of global agreement, some of these missing pieces had to remain missing. However, the complexities and importance of these issues still remain and should not be ignored. One of the things that I have been able to take away from this experience it that regardless of what the world agrees on, we should be taking action in our own communities, continuing to fight environmental injustices in any ways that we can.