That’s what Al Gore said in his speech in Poznan last Friday.  I really needed to hear that, having reached a low point that very morning.  Friday was a day of extremes for me.  I got up extremely early to write an article which then didn’t get published.  Then I went to a press conference where I found out that the EU Climate and Energy Package had been announced and was looking very weak.  That was so frustrating and upsetting.  I’d not realised the emotional level at which I’d engaged with this deal, until I burst into tears in the atrium of the conference centre.  It’s just so arrogant, short-sighted and selfish for the EU not to step up and lead on sorting out climate change: we have an historical responsibility for most of the greenhouse gas emissions currently in the atmosphere, which are already having negative impacts on peoples’ lives today.  We also have the capacity to create an adaptation fund to help countries with fewer resources cope with the problems that they have not brought upon themselves.  We have the technology to help us switch to a low-carbon society.  We have a moral obligation to take action, yet we no longer seem to have the strong leadership that was so promising a year ago.

Then I filed into a huge plenary hall and listened to Al Gore’s visionary speech, which spoke the truth about the science and the need for action – so refreshing after the stifling UN negotiations.

Most excitingly, as everyone was leaving the hall, I was part of a huge group of young people who gathered together, unfurled some illicit banners that stated “Survival is not negotiable” and began to chant that phrase over and over.  We were quickly surrounded by a horde of people, aiming cameras at our faces.  One of us did an impassioned speech about the absurdity of wrangling over the survival of people and communities.  Our chanting filled the huge atrium and felt like it would send the roof up into the sky.

It didn’t last long – we had to break it up fairly quickly because it was not an approved action by the UNFCCC Secretariat.  It was a brief burst of passion that the conference so desperately needed.  It hasn’t affected this year’s outcome, but just you wait for next year.  Copenhagen in December 2009 is going to be huge.  That’s where the next global climate deal should be signed (the one they’ve been talking about since Kyoto) and it’s going to be a gathering of loads and loads of people to demand that our leaders safeguard our future.

i’m optimistic about that.  I’ve been inspired by all the young people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in Poznan.  Can’t wait to continue working with them over the next year, as part of a growing international movement.

survival-is-not-negotiable

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