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Grabbing the Scissors

June 4, 2009

Wow. What an opportunity to not only observe UN negotiations, but to spend time with the youth who are trying to influence an international climate change treaty. Taylor and I have been staying at Haus Venusburg with dozens of students from around the world, who keep arriving by the day. One of the leaders of the beast is Anna Keenan, an Australian with an unmatched passion for addressing climate change. She is usually wearing a red hat, and always doing something important. She has led rallies at various conferences, (many of which are photographed here), and keeps up everyone’s morale between sessions. Anna is inspiring.

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There are other leaders like Anna here too. Last night at Haus Venusburg there was an organizational meeting, a delicious barbeque, and a poster making session for the upcoming rally. I met Jeremy, a college student who is currently responsible for booking Bill Mckibben’s speaking schedule for 350.org. I ate bratwurst with three Swedish students, who were dissapointed that the Swedish delegates had told them that Sweden was not willing to take a lead in the EU over climate change issues. And I talked with Andrea, an Italian who speaks four languages and has eaten uncooked sausages “more than once.” In all, I have met young climate activists from Germany, Australia, Slovenia, Brazil, Norway, Holland, Sweden, Italy, Canada, England, Lebanon, Guinea, India, Greece, New Zealand, and various parts of the U.S. in the last two days.

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After the poster-making session, Taylor and I went to bed, thinking our night was over. But at 1:00 am we were woken by a fiery student from Vermont, who “invited” us to pass out fliers in the Bonn town square about Saturday’s Climate Action day. At the Climate Action Day, 1,000 people will (hopefully) gather to form a human phrase, “Yes You Can,” to be taken as aerial shot as a message to President Obama. Although we slept through our initial flier time (we were woken up to a “wake up you lazy fools” by the Vermont student), we made it for the 4:00 session.

It was here that we met one of my favorite people, Alpha. He grew up in Guinea, but just graduated from a university in Germany. He was coordinating today’s event, and supplied us with a “tck tck tck” t-shirt and an area to go pass out the fliers.

To put it simply, Taylor and I both were pretty awkward. Some people reacted to us giving them fliers like we were asking them for a kidney transplant, although they may have been reacting to our robotic greeting of “Klimaactionstag” (Climate Action Day). Alpha, on the other hand, was outgoing towards everyone, striking up a conversation in German with every stranger he passed. One fruit vendor yelled out to him in an irritated voice, “What are you selling?”, to which Alpha responded, “Climate!”  He gave him a flier and invited him to the event. Some people can peddle anything.

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I hope that Saturday’s event is a success. Moreover, I hope that the political message of “Yes you can” is taken to heart by President Obama and Congress. After seeing hundreds of people who are dedicating their lives to reducing C02 emissions in their countries, and learning more about the drastic effects of climate change on small island countries in the not so distance future, the importance of decisions made in the next year is starting to sink in.Many countries here are waiting to see how the U.S. will lead, and a lot of the American position will depend on the cap and trade system passed by Congress. If Waxman-Markey is compromised down to an ineffective system with more holes than the wool blanket my dog chewed, it’s not going to cut it. And what “not cutting it” means will not be seen by those holding the scissors, a message enforced by the 1,000 “How old will you be in 2050?” t-shirts that went on sale here today. Fortunately, I am meeting people here everyday who won’t be satisfied with a small snip. Let’s hope they can be heard.

-Anthony

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