Earlier this year I found myself on facebook just as a UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC) post advertised for young people to join their delegation to the Paris climate summit. I had this immediate gut feeling that this was for me. It was the spark of an earlier, dormant fascination and passion, and I couldn’t pass it by.
Monkeys, whales, elephants… I’ve always loved wildlife, starting with our pet turtles ‘Cutie’ and ‘Mouldy’ (I was only 6!). When I was 17 I was lucky enough to volunteer in Tenerife, doing pilot whale research and public awareness-raising with the Atlantic Whale Foundation. By the time I left school, it made sense that climate change was an overriding issue to deal with when it came to protecting the environment and the incredible biodiversity we have on this planet. It seemed to be the world’s greatest, most urgent challenge.
My story, then, really began in 2009. A defining moment for me was UKYCC’s Powershift conference that October. Those four days were fun, inspiring and empowering. I still vividly remember the public narrative training and our flash dance in front of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament! I was excited to be part of something that had so much momentum, hope and value (nothing’s changed in that respect). [Skip to 1:15 to get straight to it!]
In the run-up to and during the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen that December (COP15), I took part in various days of action. Then COP15 failed to clinch the deal we needed, and disillusionment settled on me. At university I felt disconnected from the climate movement, though I was active in People and Planet (a UK student campaigning network). Finding out about the devastating Canadian Tar Sands industry (through a Tar Sands-Free campaign), it became clear that human beings and their rights are undeniably at the heart of climate change. People’s lives and basic well-being are at stake.
For years now, I’ve worked on and off at a catering events company where I’m a part-time barista/bar manager. Having graduated, I went back to making coffee and serving customers on a more regular basis. I’d had little to do with climate change or campaigning for a few years, but being part of the delegation has reminded me who I am and what I’m capable of. When I’m at work, it feels like I’m a million miles away from the climate movement and the UN climate talks. Then, you might wonder, why should I be involved? It is exactly because of that disconnect. We need to make the links between seemingly different issues and people. From baristas to bankers, booksellers and builders, everyone is and will be affected by climate change. This is my life and my planet and home. So I see it as my right, my responsibility and my privilege to get active and share what I’m doing with others.