This blog has been posted on behalf of Leehi Yona, who is a youth delegate at the Rio+20 Earth Summit with the Groupe d’Économie Solidaire du Québec.
I find myself at Rio de Janeiro this week, losing hope with each passing day. From the Canadian government’s passing of the C-38 Omnibus bill prior to my departure, to its lack of leadership for its participation in the failed Rio text, I ask myself what exactly my role here in Rio is: is it to be a voice for youth? Is it to hold our governmental representatives accountable? Is it to act politely and take pictures, and tell my friends and family back home that I was a “UN delegate”?
I have always dreamed of being able to attend a United Nations conference in order to advocate the crucial importance of taking concrete actions against climate change. Now that I am here, however, I feel as though I am screaming at the top of my lungs – but, contrary to what I so innocently initially believed, no one is listening. Well, of course, civil society is listening; together we are all crying out against social and climate injustice. But are our leaders really and truly listening to us?
If they were truly listening, I wouldn’t, like so many other Canadians, be losing faith in our system of governance. If they were truly listening, the demands of the thousands of us who marched in the streets of Rio today, demands from the right to water and food, to clean, renewable energy, to protected oceans and fisheries, would be heard.
If they were truly listening, we would have a document in our hands that would assure a bright and better future, rather than a text dubbed as an “epic fail” by environmental groups and NGOs.
I find myself here in Rio, trying to understand what I am witnessing: an utterly blatant disregard for future generations. I have this to ask of world leaders: if your own children were sitting at the negotiating table with you, would you still make the same decisions? A generation from now, will you tell your grandchildren that you knew that climate change was happening, and that you did every single possible thing in your power to make a change, or will you owe them more apologies than you can ever live to make?
I am here because I want our leaders to know that we, as the next immediate generation, must be heard. The scientific community has made it clear that there are certain actions we must take if we want to avoid their catastrophic predictions – wait, if? Do we even have the choice?
We must make radical changes to the way we think, the way we consume, and the way we see our economy. We must not forget that while there is always an economic crisis to tend to, there is an even more alarming crisis officials too often overlook: our global environmental crisis.
Youth make up more than half of the world’s population, yet once again we are pushed to the sidelines. We are doing our part, empowering peers and local communities to be better global citizens. I ask, what are our leaders doing in return? Are they truly concerned about our future? Or, are they more concerned about their image? I would certainly demand no less than the former from my elected representatives.
Rio+20 is one of the many warning signs we have been given since the inception of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is yet another alarming and urgent chance we have to take action and, for once, do something about these issues! I do not want negotiators to leave this city on Friday leaving things the way they are. It is not the future I want, nor is it the future anybody wants.
Besides, this conference shouldn’t even be about the future we want. It should be about the future we need, and the future we deserve.