I woke up this morning and felt that I was going to throw up. It was 5 a.m. Morocco time, and I had just seen the news of Donald Trump’s victory. I am a youth delegate from the United States at COP22, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and our entire mission here has changed. In reaction to Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, hundreds of U.S. and global youth gathered on Wednesday Nov. 9 in the center of the U.N. conference space to mourn Trump’s win and speak truth about what Trump means for global climate justice. Defying U.N. restrictions on protesting individual politicians, youth directly denounced Trump and laid out the challenge for people’s movements to rise up and take the climate crisis into their own hands. Organized by U.S. youth organization SustainUS, hundreds held a people’s assembly for grief and outrage to be spoken.
The U.S. plays a critical role in global climate action. As the world’s largest historic emitter, the U.S. has a moral responsibility to take extremely ambitious action on climate change. We held up a “People’s Presidential To-Do List,” edited to reflect the unexpected win. Items on the list included “Break Free from Fossil Fuels,” “Respect Indigenous Sovereignty,” “Zero by 2050,” and “No Corporate Trade Deals.” Youth spoke to the leadership offered by indigenous peoples struggling for sovereignty and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota as an example of the action that is needed.
While I am heartbroken, I believe in the power of our local movements to create systemic change when we link together. I believe in the water protectors at Standing Rock and their power to protect their land and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have more confidence in my friends across Colorado organizing to end extraction of natural gas to protect my future than I do with our new president. I believe in the hearts and visions of youth, who dream of a world free from systemic injustice, free from fossil fuels, and full of cooperation, respect and beauty. Our movement is not only fighting to stabilize the climate but also to transform our economy and culture away from a paradigm of industrial growth — where the end goal is profit — to a regenerative, life-sustaining society whose goal is the welfare of all people and ecosystems.
On Wednesday, we mixed holding space for heartbreak with calling in our vision. Outside by the flags, youth spoke about regenerative solutions. We are only as powerful as the vision we hold. While there is a lot of work to do in fighting the destruction that might be coming, we also need to put forward a vision of regenerating landscapes and communities that have already been harmed. Youth and indigenous peoples globally are already engaged in enacting a just and stable future, regardless of who is in the halls of power.
Daniel Jubelirer is a COP22 Youth Delegate with SustainUS, and a student at Naropa University studying Peace Studies. He works at the intersection of resistance and creation in social change movements, and also collaborates locally with Earth Guardians.