It is Sunday at approximately 4:15 pm, I waddle back to the bus, my eyes filled with sleep but my brain pounding with excitement. I just emerged from a basement classroom at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where, squished among a hundred and seventy other student activists, I had been helping to draft a declaration calling on international leadership to stop powering our world with dirty energy.
In the lead up to this year’s Conference of the Parties which is taking place in Cancun, Mexico over the coming weeks, members of Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) came together from schools all across New England for the express purpose of building the climate movement and preparing a declaration which will be delivered to policymakers across New England and the US, particularly those representing the US climate team in Cancun.
The Student Conference of the Parties was organized by SJSF, and held in partnership with the Wesleyan Pricing Carbon Conference, a national assembly of politicians, industry insiders, scientists, and organizers, to discuss the potential of carbon pricing as a bold and effective policy measure to address global climate change. We had the privilege of hearing from some of the most influential decision-makers and activists in the field, including 350.org founder Bill McKibben and NASA climatologist James Hansen.
Over the weekend, members of SJSF put together our “Declaration for Clean Energy,” demanding action from policymakers on all levels of United States government to pass meaningful comprehensive legislation entirely eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the next twenty years. We are simultaneously challenging global leaders to agree to a legally binding treaty that will return our global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to less than 350 parts per million, to stop burning coal by 2030, and to stop burning fossil fuels by 2040, and we are taking these demands straight to Cancun. In our five page declaration, we are demanding serious action from our leaders and in the meantime committing to doing all in our power to advance our goals “as long as we have life in our bodies, and call upon every human being with a heart to join us in this most important and urgent endeavor.”
As I sink into a window seat and dig into my bag of captain crunch, ready to relax on the three hour ride back to Boson, I can’t help but feel incredibly proud to be surrounded by so many serious and dedicated individuals. As Bill Mckibben put it in his keynote address two nights previous, it is time for us to come together, stop our squabbling, and fight like hell. Though effective and binding agreements on climate change seem unlikely to appear in the coming weeks, the students of New England are at least making sure our voices are heard loud and clear; We are here, we are growing, we are serious, and we are willing to sacrifice our time and comforts to fight for a just and stable future.
“As a generation of youth who have come of age in a world where [climate change] is beyond dispute, it astounds and terrifies us that our political and corporate leaders have looked such present and looming tragedies in the face and neglected – nay – refused to act. We do not understand society’s hesitation to mobilize and attack these threats. Thus, we are here to declare that no effort must be spared in ensuring the integrity of our future” (Declaration for Clean Energy).
Students for A Just and Stable Future is a New England wide network of student activists who coordinate campaigns for bold solutions to the climate crisis. For more information about SJSF, visit www.justandstable.org; for the pricing carbon conference, visit www.pricingcarbon.org. View the Declaration for Clean Energy here