As we know, last week was a CRUCIAL time for international climate negotiations. Whit reported last Monday from New York at the UN forum titled, “The Future in our Hands: Addressing the Leadership Challenge of Climate Change” where delegates heard from youth leader, Catherine Guathier, during the opening session. Young people like Catherine and Whit were there, but where was the President of the United States?
The President ignored the invitation to the UN and strategically hosted a meeting of the world’s “Major Emitters” of greenhouse gases Thursday of the same week. This meeting, intended to derail the process of current international negotiations, was in direct response to the meeting at the UN and denied the urgency of setting mandatory targets for reductions in emissions.
Luckily, young people were not only at the UN last Monday challenging Presidents and Prime Ministers of over 150 countries to show true leadership on this issue; Young people were also confronting George Bush at his own meeting Thursday morning at the U.S. State Department.
Early that morning, I woke from my sleep with an excitement I couldn’t shake. I franticly dressed, stuffed $5 for breakfast and my license into my pocket, and burst out the front door. I’d come to D.C. to participate in the first act of non-violent civil disobedience this country has ever seen for federal action on global warming. As I walked to the Metro, I knew that some time later that day, I would be put under arrest and taken to a D.C. jail for an indefinite amount of time. I’d never been arrested before, but it was a step I was ready to take. George Bush was ignoring and furthermore trying to derail the most important discussion we could possibly be having. I couldn’t sit back and allow for it to be successful.
I joined 70 other demonstrators at the National Mall and we walked confidently from there to the State Department, only a block away. Holding signs that read, “BUSH: WRONG WAY ON GLOBAL WARMING,” we crossed C St. and continued up the driveway. Security officers looked baffled by our presence. They rushed nervously trying to situate themselves between the force of our numbers and the delegates that were entering the meeting. They were too late. We began chanting and our voices echoed through the open doors. We stood together in front of the building for almost two hours before we were warned to leave before risking arrest. We remained there and refused to move. Forty-nine of us were arrested. The delegates were hearing us and we were being heard around the world as U.S. citizens who were speaking out against our country’s inaction on global warming. Together, we embodied power.
We have the unique opportunity to use our bodies as vessels for change. If we are genuine and strategic, acts of non-violence and civil disobedience have the power to change our nation. We have been strong and present voices on our campuses and in our communities. Now is the time for action in our nation’s capitol. Now is the time for us to be the shift.