Young Energy in Copenhagen

CopWhat an honor it was to be invited to participate in Expedition Copenhagen of the Will Steger Foundation! In 10 days, often running 18 hours–even 21 on occasion–I had the chance of a lifetime to join the convergence of humanity that was Copenhagen. While the negotiators, the heads of state will get 90% of the press, for me the real story of Copenhagen was the coming together of youth, who built cross cultural networks, soberly asking the negotiators in a sea of orange T-shirts, “How Old Will YOU be in 2050?” Our team of youth delegates was a diverse and wicked-smart bunch who came from 7 states across the Midwest–MI, WI, MN, IA, IL, ND and SD.

I cannot generalize about them, because each of them has an amazing background and accomplished remarkable things while in Copenhagen, witnessing the first global conversation on the fate of the Earth.

My ten days were full of their energy and their joy, their exhaustion and even their sadness. They became unified with youth delegations from many of the 192 COP15 countries, bringing some chaotic ideas for how they’d impact the course of history, but some brilliant ones too. There were too many highlights to mention, but my job every day was to use my contacts, my experience, my knowledge of public policy, media and campaign strategy to help the Will Steger delegates make the most impact possible.

I resisted efforts to do other things that might have been useful, like going to dinners at the hotel where all the foundation grantmakers were staying, or sitting through the direct COP negotiations, or working my own Fresh Energy press and PR angles. I really spent the time trying to give these kids my all, because they came to give it all up for a successful agreement at Copenhagen.

Our day began at 6:30 sharp, with hot coffee and fried potatoes, all sitting in a cramped apartment after converging from four apartments within short walking distance. A facilitator chosen the night before ran a tight agenda, and if the conversation strayed, a timekeeper asked insistently if this item should get more time than alotted, or if the discussion could be held separately.

The meeting covered the day, obligations across the city, and opportunities from the official negotiations,  hundreds of side events and press conferences, and civic events and “actions” too numerous to count. The meeting was kept short, so that the delegates who were travelling to the Bella Center could hit the train or the bus by 7:15, beating the tie-up and long lines that began by 8. The security at the Center was tighter than an airport, with your photo ID dangling from your neck and your bar code was scanned as you entered and left.

It’s very hard to select just one example of what these young people experienced and what it meant, because in truth, I probably know about 20% of what they actually did every day. They were all in motion 18-21 hours every day.

One evening, Holly Jones, an impressive delegate who serves as chair ofthe executive committee of the Sierra Student Coalition was thinking out loud about her blog posting for that day.

Along with a small group of representatives of 500+ US youth in Copenhagen, she had been invited to a briefing by the lead US negotiators. Presumably, she learned that the final agreement would not be legal, binding, sand that whatever deal would come about, it could not guarantee that the worst consequences of a warming world would be avoided.

Her concern was that she did not want to break trust with Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing who offered the meeting on the condition that it was off record. What Holly wanted to blog about was the reaction of her peers—a deep sadness quickly displaced by a renewed determination to build public support for urgent action.

Her blog posting that night cannot help but move you.

[Reposted from Fresh Energy Blog]

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