COP23

Amalen the Artivist

Amalen built a massive puppet of the Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death & New Life for the Climate March. The Goddess demonstrated a strong woman beating back the greedy capitalist destroying the world.

Amalen built a massive puppet of the Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death & New Life for the Climate March. The Goddess demonstrated a strong woman beating back the greedy capitalist destroying the world.

Sticking out a paint-covered hand, Amalen reaches over to greet a new arrival at the Rhizome Collective “It’s Dry!” he assures them, with a warm smile. Easy going and friendly, Amalen spent much of his time at COY and COP23 practicing “art-ivism”, as he calls it: the practice of using art as a medium for activism work. Amalen not only made his own banners, capes, puppets, posters, and prints, but he helped others to do so as well. He was one of three people leading the ArtSpace at this year’s conference. Along with Danny & Kevin, they set up a space where youth could gather and provided resources for their creative expression with the goal of launching actions and campaigns, protests and calls for support during the two weeks of UN negotiations on climate change.

Amalen is from Malaysia, and has spent nearly a decade dedicated to environmental justice, indigenous rights, and capacity-building. Long before I even knew what that word meant, Amalen was leading training sessions on how to communicate your message, organize volunteers, and influence policy in creative & effective ways. He even spent time leading corporate trainings commercially. I had the pleasure of getting to know Amalen over the past year. He participated in Care About Climate’s Online Youth Exchange, where we gathered in online webinars to discuss some of the very same issues that he trained people on. We met in person in July in China during the CYCAN International Youth Summit on Energy & Climate Change. 

Climate Sign from Great Wall of China with OYE and IYSECC participants

Climate Sign from Great Wall of China with OYE and IYSECC participants

When we went to visit Amalen in the Rhizome ArtSpace during Week 1 of COP, he gave us a quick tour, then put us to work on making a banner for our action: asking negotiators to step up their Nationally Determined Contributions to close the emissions gap to protect the lives and livelihoods of future generations. “Start with a quick background on your fabric, it makes the words stand out really well and draws attention towards the center! There are paints and rollers over in that bin. Just remember, personal responsibility is sexy, so please clean up after yourself!” We got to work painting as he scurried off to help another group. There were at least four actions planned for Thursday, and more on Friday- each requiring a team working alongside each other in the Rhizome.

Amalen is also the coordinator for the Actions Working Group among the youth in COP this year, and used his

organizational skills to create an easy-to-use form to register an action with UN security (under the UNFCCC Secretariat) and a spreadsheet of all the actions that were planned so that we could support each other’s events and draw a crowd. Amalen is a fantastic leader, in that he knows when to step back and let others shine, while supporting in the background. He is a critical thinker, creative and mentor. Back home, he serves as Chief Executive Farmer at Tu:Gu with his friend Kelvin, another youth delegate at COP23. They started their aeroponics farm less than 6 months ago with all recycled and repurposed materials. 

Amalen wears his No Coal No Oil No Gas cape at a second Climate March in Bonn

Amalen wears his No Coal No Oil No Gas cape at a second Climate March in Bonn

A “typical” day at COP for him looks like this:

7:00 Wake up

8:15 Leave for Bonn Zone

9:00 YOUNGO daily meeting

10:00 Actions working group meeting

11:00 Zip over to Bula Zone to catch some negotiations

12:00 Bike back into the center of Bonn to open the ArtSpace

12:00 Send emails about that day’s actions

14:00 Make some fabric prints

16:00 Take inventory of supplies and pick up more

18:00 ArtSpace fills with youth, community members, and other Art-tivists

22:00 ArtSpace closes, some people stay late to finish

23:00 Start cleaning up and hang the last of the banners to dry

00:00 Arrive back at the hostel, start working on press releases, and check emails

3:00 Climb in bed

This is just a taste of what Amalen does, as there is so much more that he was going each day that I missed. While COP is over now, If you’re in Bonn, be sure to go visit the Rhizome Collective at  Dorotheenstrabe 99, Bonn. And check out some of the powerful actions Amalen has done in the past in this trailer to the film, Voices Not Heard: The Climate Fight of Malaysian Youth, by Director Scott Brown. 

If you’re interested in seeing or screening the film with your school or organization, please contact Scott Brown at scottbrown@u.northwestern.edu

From left, the Author, UNFCCC Focal point on Education & Youth, and Amalen flash the Climate Sign after moderating the opening ceremony of COY13

From left, the Author, UNFCCC Focal point on Education & Youth, and Amalen flash the Climate Sign after moderating the opening ceremony of COY13

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

Talanoa Dialogue at COP23

Last Year at COP22 in Marrakech, much of the media conversation was distracted by the US election results, and the instability of what would become of the Paris Agreement without the US’s commitment. Would it fall the way of the Kyoto Protocol? Would the economics work in its favor, as they did in the case of the Montreal Protocol? Countries weren’t sure, but they knew that inaction was too risky. They signed the Marrakech Action Protocol, indicating that they were all “Still In” regardless of what other countries decided. The decision was a powerful statement of unity for the environmental community worldwide, and a fierce posture against the new administration’s foreign policy stance. This effort was paired with a decision to include more non-state actors. Where states fail to act or where they are limited in their reach, their capacities can be expanded by including civil society in the implementation, tracking and policy making. This decision let to the organization of a Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.

The facilitative dialogue was called to address three questions:

              Where Are We?                            Where do we need to be?                             How do we get there?

These three questions were to be answered through a conversation between the stakeholders and the 196 nations that are part of the Paris Agreement.

Stakeholders have long been fighting for a voice in the decision making of international climate change agreements, and this dialogue was especially important to youth.  Within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there are nine recognized constituency groups (a network of organizations that share a common purpose). They are: Business & Industry, Research & Investigation, Youth, Environmental, Local Government & Municipal Authorities, Indigenous Peoples, Farmers, Women & Gender, and Trade Unions. Each constituency has one or more policy position that they would like to see pushed through during the negotiations. Each of these constituency groups would now have a stronger voice through the Facilitative Dialogue.

photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

During Week One, Fiji Prime Minister and COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosaheld an Open Dialogue between party actors and constituency groups. This was the first time for many constituency groups to have a seat at the table with equal footing and an equal voice in the conversation. Statements made by constituencies were given freely, not limited or timed as they typically are. The Fiji presidency compared the dialogue to a process called talanoa, a storytelling style used in the Pacific that emphasizes participation, inclusion and transparency, on a basis of trust and empathy.

photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

Parties engaged as well, responding to concerns of different constituency groups. The UK mentioned locking business leaders in a room until they figured out how to transition to a green economy, while Mexico joked that their businesses went into the room willingly. Uganda talked about a national climate change forum they held with non-party stakeholders to engage youth and community organizations in climate change adaptation.

Youth asked for greater focus on climate empowerment, with financial and institutional support for their programs so that they can take action in their home countries. We also asked for climate empowerment, capacity building, and climate change education to be included in countries’ national climate action plans, especially for mitigation.

photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

photo courtesy of IISD Reporting Services.

Moving into next year, there will be an online platform where we can contribute to the dialogue to try and answer some of these questions of where we’re at, where we’re going, and how to get there. The purpose of this dialogue is to create solutions, to drive innovation, and propose realistic means through which we limit global average temperature rise to 1.5⁰C.  Next year will be the big year to get these solutions together so that countries can start putting them in place worldwide before the 2023 Global Stocktake, when a count will be done of each country’s present and reduced emissions, carbon sinks, and mitigation efforts.

Youth around the world are already acting on the ground to create synergy for emissions reductions. Plant-for-the-PlanetClimate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, and CliMates are just a couple examples of organizations that bring thousands of youth together for reforestation, less invasive farming, and campaign building. For capacity-building, Youth Climate Lab, China Youth Climate Action Network and Care About Climate have created tools for youth worldwide to connect on online platforms to discuss the issues, solutions, and strategies for youth activists to be most effective in their work to address climate change locally, regionally or nationally. In terms of policy action, on an international level, we have working groups within YOUNGO that address many policy issues such as

Adaptation, Women & Gender, Capacity-Building, Oceans, etc. These work to consolidate our policy positions into a specific request of policy-makers.

Kava- a traditional Pacific drink

Kava- a traditional Pacific drink

Over the next year, the UNFCCC will be continuing the Talanoa Dialogue at intersessionals in May and at COP24 in Poland. We look forward to drinking kava and having many more talanoa sessions! In the meantime, we’ll be continuing with our capacity building work year-round and working to make it as inclusive and transparent as possible. As Mr. Bainimarama said, “We are all in the same canoe“, we must work together to find & implement solutions.

 

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!

Talanoa Mada ~ Youth Stand for Climate Action

 November 8, 2017  CareClimate

For the past three days, over 1000 students, youth and young professionals converged in a high school in the outskirts of Bonn to define policy goals for COP, share strategies, and brainstorm ideas for how to combat climate change. The Thirteenth Conference of Youth, or COY13, was a place for youth to come together to prepare for the UN climate change conference (COP23) and another year of environmental activism around the world.

Participants raise the Climate Sign during the Opening Ceremony. Photo courtesy of COP13 PR team.

There were over 300 program contributions, consisting of workshops, presentations, and panel discussions. There was also an art space active throughout all three days, where the participants could make banners and signs for the Climate March, as well as other actions directed at building momentum and pushing negotiators towards stronger action.

One session that I felt was really helpful was called “Combatting Isolationism in the Environmental Movement. The session recognized the number of environmentalists killed annually: a sobering 100 activists, or two a week, worldwide. It also addressed the issue of disconnected activists, who work outside the framework of a formal organization. For them, it can be extremely difficult, and even dangerous to do their work. Without resources, recognition, or support, they are most likely to burn out or be discouraged.

Photo courtesy of COY13

At the end of the session, we talked about how we all must work together. We are all working towards the same goal, of stronger commitments to greenhouse gas emission reduction, reforestation, reduction of plastic and food waste, and access to climate change education, mitigation resources, and adaptation strategies for people all around the world, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or wealth.

This communal theme ran through all of COY, and positive energy flowed through all the participants as we engaged in the conference theme of Talanoa Mada, which essentially means “Let’s talk” in Fijian. It connotes a participatory dialogue about how to combat issues that affect the entire community. As we move into the first week of COP23, the participatory dialogue will be a focus of the Fijian Presidency. Lagi Seru, a Fijian delegate and COY13 team member, describes Talanoa Mada:

Lagi Seru from Fiji. Photo courtesy of COY13

Talanoa is an everyday part of Fijian life. Creating a harmonizing environment for all, it brings together people to give thoughts and share opinions without the fear of retribution. People can freely voice their concerns, no finger pointing, and take the time to offer practical solutions at this space.”

Throughout COY13, special care was taken to support diversity, inclusion, well-being and equity, so that everyone felt that their voice were heard and valued. So many solutions were shared through case studies, brainstorming sessions, and workshops over the three day conference, and the participants left on Saturday encouraged, motivated and united for climate action, whether in their local communities, on their school/university campuses, and during COP23.

With youth from 114 countries worldwide, there was a great diversity within the venue. Everywhere you went, there was a burst of languages, laughter, and bright colors- from the clothing, flags, and signs born by the participants. Despite, or more accurately, because of the great diversity, there was a sort of synergy. Together, with so many different ideas, perspectives and experiences, we are able to overcome any roadblocks and obstacles we faced. Policy papers were written on behalf of the working groups, new partnerships were formed between overseas organizations, and those going into the COP23 negotiations were carefully prepared for strategic engagementduring the conference. COY13 was an incredible model of collaboration and participation. Whether it was through their food waste diversion programs, or morning yoga sessions, it gave us all the energy & focused determination that we needed to move into the tough negotiations of these next two weeks.

Vikaka & Danke to the entire COY13 organizing team!

COY13 Stands in Solidarity for climate action using the Climate Sign, with Fiji PM & COP23 President Frank Bainamamara, Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Mayor Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, & UNFCCC Focal Point on Education & Youth Adriana Valenzuela.

By Sarah Voska

Sarah Voska is a delegate to the UN climate change conference, COP23, and the director of the Online Youth Exchange. She studies Sustainable Management at University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Use the #ClimateSign to join the fight against climate change. Contact us at careaboutclimate@gmail.com with any questions!