I am one of the 17 University of Minnesota delegation members that have ventured their way to the sunny beachsides of Mexico to observe the 16th gathering of the Conference of Parties, the United Nations Climate Change Conference
. We are a non-governmental organization (NGO) group of students with a broad range of courses of study including environmental policy, environmental science, sustainability, conservation biology, engineering, political science and sociology. Our destination: Cancun. Our mission: education and patience.
Of course we each carry a personal agenda — to obtain experience in a global conference, broaden my horizons of global environmental policy, build my resume, network, observe, listen and learn. As delegate Peter Schmitt says, "I am an excited environmental sponge."
However, a fundamental question comes to mind: what are we really doing here? As global climate change is imminent and immediate action is required, how are we helping to create the solutions needed to solve our environmental crises?
Delegate Andy Pearson says that our delegation is preparing for a harvest. "We are preparing for a future career, or the winter that is to come. We need to be patient and prepare now, to be the most effective later. In this way gathering information is an action."
In obtaining a global perspective of a global crisis, we will one day be able to contribute to a global climate solution.
However, other youth delegations have a different agenda. The New Zealand youth delegation visited our hotel for dinner tonight. Other than the accent, the greatest difference between our two delegations resides within the mission. Their delegation has a sense of advocacy and immediate movement.
For example, the New Zealand delegation plans to incorporate tree-stalking in their COP-16 schedule. "We are going to dress people up like trees to follow around our officials," said co-delegation leader, Kirk Serpes. "We need to put pressure on our government, holding them accountable for the loopholes they are introducing into our forestry policies," he said.
"My school has taken a backburner. I feel like I need to contribute myself to this now," said co-delegate leader Chelsea Robinson.
However different our missions may be at this conference, we found we are deeply connected in our dependence of today's policy's and decisions. We realize that what occurs at this conference in the next two weeks will impact us for the rest of our lives.
At 10:00 p.m. we sat with the Kiwis in a circle in the sand, stars overhead. We laughed, hugged and compared cultural similarities and differences. We spoke of reformation of social structure, technological turnaround, gender equity, poverty, ecological appreciation, inspiration, environmental suicide and desperation. In a final departing action, we created a symbol of our future in the sand: a giant COP-16 written in footprints on the beach of the Beachscape Villa hotel.
Keep reading this week for updates on the University of Minnesota Delegation events, actions and happenings at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).