Lucie reports from Glasgow, Scotland, where she's traveled for the United Nations Climate Change Conference and New York Times Climate Hub.
For my second full day and third day at the New York Times Climate Hub in Glasgow, Scotland, I attended a handful of events. Today’s From Eco-Anxiety to Agency: A ‘How-To’ Workshop stood out among the others.
The session began with the word “ecophobia,” which describes the feeling of hopelessness climate activists often feel when facing the overwhelming task of fighting climate change. This feeling is one I have certainly felt before and shared with classmates back on campus. In environmental student organizations such as Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP) and Take Back the Tap, I have heard so many students say–along with myself–how difficult it can be to enact change. My classmates and I have shared in the feelings of hopelessness, wondering if it is possible to make meaningful change when facing an entire institution or a larger target.
Last week, the sustainability committee on Lafayette student government spent the better part of the hour discussing what our role as students should be in implementing campus-wide changes. We have begun projects that felt successful at first, but the farther we progressed through them, the more the burden to implement them fell on us. By the end, we found ourselves split into two camps: half of us were saying how we need to take on this work and continue to push to build a campus-wide composting program among other initiatives, and the other half–including myself–experiencing ecophobia.
After today’s Glasgow session, I was able to leave with hope and tools to fight ecoanxiety, which 70% of climate activists have experienced. To begin with, we are already making a difference by having these conversations even if it does not always feel like we are. As the world witnessed with yesterday’s climate protests in which I, among 100,000 in Glasgow, participated, there has been a sense of frustration in Glasgow over the COP26 and how these negotiations are happening behind closed doors and are leaving out the voices of indigenous, black, and brown communities, women and children—those who are disproportionately affected by climate change. However, because of the climate summit there are satellite events, including the NYT Climate Hub, that have popped up throughout the city where people who are locked out of the negotiation rooms can engage and discuss meaningful change, which is something students are doing on campus every day.
Environmental clubs discussing action items, pushing initiatives, and creating petitions are making a difference. As said in the workshop, if students are hosting conversations and walking into meetings with the expectation of making a difference, they will make one even if it begins as simply as bringing the conversation to the table.
Lastly, the workshop discussed how our generation “brings a sense of vulnerability.” This is the world we grew up in, not one that was introduced to us. We grew up with this anxiety and fear wondering what the future of the planet will look like, and to avoid shutting down and growing numb to this overwhelming problem we need to share our stories and what we are each doing as stories govern and influence our ability to take action.
This is just my third day in Glasgow, and I have been able to ask John Kerry, U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, directly about carbon emissions and been asked to visit a local school to talk to younger students about activism and how anyone can get involved. I am so grateful to be here on the ground representing my school and participating in international and intersectional climate activism firsthand. I’ll be reporting back to Lafayette on further adventures in Glasgow in the days to come.
Photo credit: Craig Gibson for The New York Times