By Pari Trivedi:
‘But first, let me take a selfie.’ You can’t have missed this song if you are a millennial. Selfie is the word that party anthems are made of these days. In 2013, it was named ‘the word of the year’ by the Oxford English Dictionary and Kim Kardashian has published a book just on selfies! Back home, PM Narendra Modi has made #SelfieWithDaughter a household name. But if you thought that the youth of today is just into taking selfies, you are wrong! The Canadian Youth Delegation (CYD) has condemned their Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau’s invitation to take a selfie with him instead of hearing the young people on issues related to climate change.
On the occasion of Young and Future Generation day (4th December), young campaigners from the Canadian Youth Delegation stood in front of onlookers and chanted ‘Youth want to be heard not just seen’ at the conference venue is Paris where the climate change meeting is happening at the moment. US President, Barack Obama, Prime Narendra Modi were among the 150 world leaders who attended the first day of the climate talks.
The Young and Future Generation day is celebrated every year by the United Nations to appreciate all the wonderful work done by young people on climate change. Like the CYD, thousands of young people from around the world have come to Paris this week with a hope that the climate talks will provide an agreement that is fair and just.
As a young person working on climate change, I am often asked if I am planting trees. But there is more to the youth climate movement than just planting trees. Young people are engaging with policy makers on a one-on-one basis at the UN meeting on Climate Change, popularly known called COP21 in Paris.
Typically, the halls of COP21 are filled with suited and booted signatories. But Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, a 15-year old indigenous environmental activist and a hip-hop artist from Canada is giving these people a run for their money with his waist long hair and words that compel you to feel inspired about nature and all things beautiful. He walks the corridors of COP21 stirring the sentiments of diplomats present here. Xiuhtezcatl says, “Never before have we seen an issue as unifying as climate change. This is about my survival, my future. Each and every one of us has the power to make decisions to change to world in the future. All eyes on us right now. The decisions we make today will affect generations to come. My generation has an opportunity to lead this movement. Let’s build a world we are proud to pass on to future generations.”
While music inspires Xiuhtezcatl, 26-year old Renee Karunungan from the Philippines has been writing relentlessly about the impact of climate change in her country. Through her writing, she has successfully established a working relationship with the Filipino negotiators who directly influence the climate decisions taken at the UN level. She writes for a variety of news publications on issues related to climate change and has managed to garner quite a fan following back home for her strong stand on human rights. Renee is in Paris for the two weeks to write about the negotiations that are taking places between all the countries to come out with a binding agreement on climate change.
And if you thought that young people cannot be negotiators, you are wrong again! Sana Bashir from Pakistan has broken the age and gender barriers by becoming a negotiator at a very young age. It is rare to see a negotiator below 30 years of age and that too a woman! Sana is playing an active role in bringing forward issues of developing countries and Pakistan’s role in safeguarding the environment.
Selfies are still a rage at the UN climate talks in Paris, but young people from all walks of life are doing all that they can to move the climate movement forward. What needs to be seen is if their voices are heard and given acknowledgement at the highest level of the climate talks because today’s youth is much more than having a photo-op with.