This is a guest post contributed by Zach Kitamura, an inspiring Pacific University freshman I’ve had the honor of working with this year. I wholeheartedly agree with Zach that we must channel the frustration and disillusionment of this moment into action makes our movement even more effective. As a start (and only a start!) please consider contacting the White House at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and letting the Obama administration know what you think of the “deal” in Copenhagen.
In the past two weeks, world leaders were presented an incredible opportunity to draft a crucial climate deal that would curb the effects of CO2 and greenhouse gases on the environment. Millions of people around the world voiced their support for a treaty, with people from countries in the Pacific such as Fiji and Vanuatu even pleading to see their countries saved from disappearing in the face of rising sea levels. But, despite their cries and overwhelming scientific evidence that says we need change now, world leaders could not come together and draft a treaty good enough to fulfill what we need to have significant change.
Sadly, I’m not surprised by this outcome. Despite words from heads of state and other foreign ministers saying they would provide needed support—pledges from Europe, China, and the U.S.—no one actually stepped up and led the conference. These “leaders” just fit the classic mold of a politician: all words and no actions.
Unfortunately, the biggest disappointment has come from none other than President Obama. Despite such capabilities of being a leader, Obama just didn’t show what it takes to be a force for change. He has perhaps the toughest job in the world, no doubt about that, and faces vocal opposition from skeptics and the like; but Obama promised to be a leader for change and, well, he’s broken his promise.
Instead of bringing all countries together—rich and poor—he met with only a few countries, came up with a shoddy deal, and promptly left, calling it “meaningful.” This could be the biggest satirical catch phrase since “mission accomplished.” Not only were the actions and words of Obama a failure to provide necessary goals for stopping climate change, it was a callous rejection of democratic values, leaving most countries in the dark and out of the negotiations.
I think this exemplifies the fact that we can’t just trust the few people in power to do the job—there’s just too much political inertia too create any real change. But this is no time to say oh well or hang our heads; this is only incentive for us to fight harder. We are facing truly monumental tasks, not only to halt climate change, but also to change the way we go about our lives. This is our generation’s struggle, and it is for all generations yet to come.
So what shall we do? Our votes don’t seem to be enough anymore. What we must do is really take a stand for change. We must build support and extend our networks so that more people become involved and caring about the task at hand. Most people don’t know what is at stake or are skeptical of the imminence of climate change’s threat. So, we must show them “what’s up” and get people involved, because we are all in this together.
Let’s be the ones to decide what we need, let us be the ones in power. History has shown that when the people stand up together to make things right, the people will ultimately be victorious; from the Civil Rights movement to the Cochabamba Water Wars, where citizens from the Bolivian city of Cochabamba protested for months against the privatization of their water supply, ultimately winning and gaining control of their water back. Speaking of the protests, leader Oscar Olivera had this to say about demonstrating:
“I believe we live in a world of fear. People are afraid of everything; they’re afraid of the dark, they’re afraid of losing their jobs, afraid to speak, afraid to give their opinion, afraid to act. I think that it’s important for us to lose our fear. We’re going to lose that fear once we have the capacity to be united, to be organized; once we regain the confidence in ourselves and in other people, then we can open our hearts to those feelings of solidarity of brotherhood to all, thinking that globalization is uniting everyone. We all have the same problems, but we all have the same dreams; it’s important to lose the fear.”
What do we have to lose from coming together and fighting for what we believe in? It is imperative that we bond together, bring in more people, and hit the streets to enact change.
When the Bolivian government finally relented after the months of protesting, people from the city gathered in the town’s center to celebrate their victory. And out of the cheers one cry stood out among the others, a phrase that gives me hope that things will be able to change for the better, one that truly speaks to the power of solidarity and the will of the people:
EL PUEBLO UNIDO JAMAS SERA VENCIDO!
THE PEOPLE UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED!