Tuesday, November 16, 2010

COP16: The Next Adventure

In less than two weeks, I will be on the ground in Cancun as a member of the SustainUS U.S. Youth Delegation to COP16 in Cancun, Mexico. I am excited, and ready to be working with youth from around the world to advocate for a fair and equitable international climate treaty.

Last year I was honored to have been a part of the Will Steger Foundation's Expedition Copenhagen, a United Nations delegation of 12 Midwest Youth led by polar explorer Will Steger. Through my work with the Expedition Team, I helped organize a 700 mile 350.org Climate Bike through rural Minnesota, learned how to mentor and speak effectively on the issue of climate change, and took part as a youth observer delegate in the COP15 United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.

As a team we worked together, asking tough questions in meetings high level U.S. officials such as U.S. Envoy to the U.N. on Climate Change, Jonathan Pershing and working with youth from around the world to organize events such as the Youth Climate Flash Dance and a rally against tar sands. The result of the conference negotiations, the Copenhagen Accord, was bittersweet. The Accord was an extremely weak compromise where countries could choose to write in whatever amount they elected to reduce their CO2 emissions by without any kind of legally binding protocols. Although this was a disappointment, the process was still moving forward when it could have fallen apart. I chose to not give up hope.

Resist Despair. This is a phrase that I emphasize in the speeches that I give at schools, religious institutions and events, and is one of the most important things that we must do if we are to confront the climate crisis. All too often it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what could happen if we do not confront the climate challenge head on, but it is not too late, and there is so much that is still possible. When I returned to the United States I made the decision to resist the despair that I felt over the results of COP15. I chose to keep going, organizing the Minnesota Clean Energy Forum, and speaking everywhere that I could about the subject of climate change.

In 10 days, I will be returning to the UNFCCC process as a SustainUS youth delegate. This time will be different, and I feel older and wiser from my experiences in Copenhagen. I will be working with youth from around the world and the SustainUS delegation to plan creative actions and campaigns, and will give you a blow by blow blog update from on the ground. One of the most important things that you can do to help out with our campaigns from back home is to become a COP15 Rapid Responder. If you sign up, we will call you only 3 or 4 times during the conference and will ask you to talk with U.S. Congresspeople and Department of State officials about specific aspects of the treaty that we are hoping to influence. Please consider becoming a rapid responder by following this link: https://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dDNOVEgwcktCREp1X0haVkVTdVQ1U3c6MQ

Peace and Happy Winter Bikin,


Monday, June 14, 2010

Less than 2 Days til Takeoff!

The gear is packed, the stops are set up, the bike is tuned, and I'm ready! Who knows what adventures and challenges lay ahead, it's exciting. I'm starting to get that pre-Expedition rush that comes when you realize that everything is falling into place, yes, this is really going to happen.

As important as something like this trek can be, it's important to remember that what's really going to change the world in the direction that we want to go isn't just policy, and big flashy campaigns; what's going to change the world is also about changing our habits.

That's why the Bike MN 350 trek team is challenging you to the Summer of 350 Biking. That's right, we're challenging you to bike 350 miles over the course of the summer. It's only a piece of the complicated puzzle, but I still have hope that we can put it back together again and non-motorized transit is a part of the solution.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Second Bike Minnesota 350 Trek Begins this Weds!

3 Days and Counting!

Hey friends,

After a long hiatus, the Tales From the Trail Blog is back! Last fall, I blogged about the bike adventures (and misadventures) I had while traveling around the state on the Bike Minnesota 350 clean energy trek. Then, I took you to Copenhagen, where you got a behind the scenes look at how policy (or sausage) is made at the United Nations.

This Wednesday, the second great Bike MN 350 Epic Trek will begin. This ride will be a little bit older and wiser than the last. We won't be doing any 100 mile days this time, and we won't be anywhere near mountain lion territory when the sun goes down.

We have a slew of amazing stops along our journey, including a tour of the McNeilus Wind Farm, a tour of the largest solar array in the state at St. John's University, and one night where we'll even be camping out at an alpaca farm. The solutions to our climate challenges are already being created across the state; on this ride we will seek them out and learn what it takes to transition to a sustainable future.

The kickoff event for our great adventure will be in Como Park by the Pavilion starting at 10am, and the bikers will hit the trail at 11. Keep an eye out for future posts as we give you a glimpse of clean energy, local agriculture, and bike transit in rural and small town Minnesota.

Happy biking,

Saturday, February 6, 2010

New Bike Adventure Video Blog!

Hey Friends,

Check out the first episode of my new video blog on biking, bike activism, and promoting cleaner transit:


Happy biking!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Beyond Copenhagen: The Trail Tale Continues

As the COP 15 Climate Summit came to a close in Copenhagen, my hopes for the future were tempered with a healthy dose of reality. The challenges ahead of us may not be easy, but we can still choose our better future. Some proclaim that Copenhagen was a success, some that it was a complete failure, but I think that it was a little of both. The three page “Copenhagen Accord” that we left with was not the culmination that we had hoped for, but it paves the trail for a future agreement, perhaps in Mexico City, where the 16th UN Conference of Parties will be held.

As the conference began, there was a sense of hope permeating everything. “This is possible, Copenhagen will be the place where an effective, fair, and legally binding treaty will be wrought.” Before the conference, I had the opportunity to meet young people from across the world at the Conference of Youth. Throughout the summit we worked tirelessly to make sure that the negotiators listened to youth calls for a strong treaty. “How old will you be in 2050?” we called out on the Youth Day of Action. Climate change is not just a theory, but a legacy that we and our descendents will have to live with. The choices that we make in the next couple of years will influence our ability to lessen the impacts of climate changes and prepare ourselves.

United States Youth Delegates met with legislators and with our country’s representatives at the conference. We gave EPA director Lisa Jackson and standing ovation for her work in the new EPA rule that designates C02 emissions an atmospheric pollutant. We attended meetings with high level officials from President Obama’s Cabinet, including Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. The question that we asked, and the question that I asked former Vice President Al Gore, was always preceded by the phrase, “I am here today with 500 youth from across the United States,” and then we would all wave. This showed our United States representatives that we had an organized presence at the conference, and a right to take part in the process that would determine our future.

Even if it may be difficult to tell how our presence at the conference may have influenced the result, our actions and organizing sent shock waves back to the many people we were representing in the United States, which I would argue was even more important. Through video conference calls with classrooms and students back home in Minnesota and in Washington D.C., I had the opportunity to send news back home about the negotiations process in Copenhagen, and discuss what the ephemeral next step should be.

The more that I think about my role at the climate summit, the more I think that many of the decisions made there were determined before it even began. The United States arrived with the climate bill still mired in the Senate, crippling our ability to fight for a strong agreement. On the other hand, thanks to the 350 Day of Action, the number “350,” representing the 350 parts per million of CO2 that is the safe cap in the atmosphere (right now we’re at 387) actually made it into the proposed treaty text.

So what is the next step? What is the best, most effective thing that you or I or anyone living in the United States can do about climate change? Well, although Copenhagen was propped up as the be-all-end-all-or-else-we-all-die-and-the-world-ends event, it doesn’t “be all” because it is only one step in a process that needs to take many forms, and it doesn’t “end all” but instead offers the opportunity for countries to go back home and come back in a year to create a real treaty together. Yes, that’s right “accord” is code for “let’s come back and figure it out later.” Not ideal, but here in the United States it gives us the opportunity to come back home and work for the passage of a strong CJAPA Senate Climate Bill. Then, we can have the framework for clean energy climate solutions here in the United States, and we can have an ambitious argument that we can bring to the next COP for a fair and legally binding treaty next December in Mexico City.

Copenhagen was not an end, but a beginning, and I am excited to be back home and to be part of the solution. If you want to do something right now that will take only a minute, call your Senator and ask them to not let the Murkowski ammendment to become part of the final bill. This ammendment would strip away the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gasses and the coal industry, which could potentially lead to an increase in greenhouse gasses. Another thing that you can do is jump on your bike and take it for a ride. It's actually a lot easier to do in the wintertime than you'd expect. If you don't think that the roads are safe enough to bike on where you live, then do something about it. Did you know that the Minnesota legislature is considering a bill called the "Complete Streets" act that would integrate bike paths into street designs? You have the ability to influence the world around you: you just have to get off your duff and do it, and doesn't hurt if you can find some friends to take with you too.

Happy Biking!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thursday: 24 Hours To Treaty

The COP15 Conference is about to come to its conclusion tomorrow, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done for a treaty to rise from the ashes. Today no one from the youth delegation was able to get into the conference; fewer and fewer NGO and youth observers have been allowed in every day (45,000 could get in on Monday and only 300 could get in today, 90 tomorrow).

There were protests yesterday where thousands of activists tried to break through the fence and get into the Bella Center. Unfortunately, the end result of these protests only delayed the negotiations because some of the negotiators, such as IPCC Chairman Rajenda Pachauri, couldn't get past the wall of protestors/ police. As the week as progressed and fewer and fewer observer NGOs have been allowed entrance into the COP15 proceedings, this has increased discontent and probably helped fuel the ill thought out protests.

What happened on the outside was not nearly as effective as some of the events that the media are not covering as well. For example, youth and NGOs have been meeting with high level negotiators throughout the conference, and youth staged a sit-in protest for being shut out of the process, refusing to leave until at 1:30am this morning when police forced them to.

Yesterday evening, members of the delegation along with Will Steger, Michael Noble, and Rep. Kate Knuth gave a Midwest Climate Presentation at Klimaforum, an alternative to COP15 open to the general public. I had a good time M.C-ing where we talked about why it's important that the Midwest prepare for climate change, and what the Midwest has to gain about it. Although the topic might seem obscure here in Denmark, we had a packed house of people from across the world (many from the Midwest!). I was nervous as I went up in front of the packed room, but as soon as I relaxed and just had fun with the presentation, everything went smoothly.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Second Week Opens

It began on December 7th, as delegates and NGOs, youth and press descended upon the Bella Center here in Copenhagen to decide how to deal with the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. I trekked here to the fifteenth Conference of Parties with a team of twelve talented youth from across the Midwest, led by polar explorer and educator Will Steger.

Throughout the first week, I joined with fellow youth from across the world to come up with creative ways to engage our representatives here at the COP 15 in Copenhagen. We have been coming up with creative actions to gain media attention, such as standing out in the cold in our underwear to bring attention to the fact that youth had been “left out in the cold” in the negotiations, shouting that we were “in the cold to stop the heat!”

Beyond just a focus on action events, youth have taken the time and read through entire treaty proposals, sorting through sections by group to better understand the text of what is happening at the conference.