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COPENHAGEN: ‘Youngos’ Wear Orange

Youth leadership at climate summit hard to miss

December 11, 2009 | By Brian Beauchamp
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

  ‘Youngos’ are attracting a lot of attention in Copenhagen, and not just for their bright shirts.
Wherever one goes in Copenhagen’s Bella Center there are young people gathered, sharing their stories and concerns and making plans to keep in touch once this conference is over.

They are the international youth delegation, they’re called ‘youngos’ here, and their presence is felt everywhere.

Yesterday saw a group of American and Chinese students working together on an editorial they are co-writing and planning to submit to newspapers in their respective countries.

And I saw hundreds of youth activists inside the conference center creating the sounds of a great human thunderstorm, as part of a 350.org reminder of the storms heading our way due to climate change.

There are many more youth activities planned for the next week and a half of the COP15, but most striking perhaps is the plans they are making to stay connected once the climate summit in Copenhagen is over.

350.org’s May Boeve, a leader among leaders of the international youth movement, spoke as part of a youth panel and challenged young people from around the world to stay connected to the movement.

“While we’re still hopeful that the science of 350 will be reflected in the final text coming out of negotiations,” May said, “it’s equally, if not more important, for our youth delegation to use our time together here in Copenhagen to keep building with a focus on what happens next. Leaders are taking notice of our efforts and we must stay connected and keep our momentum moving forward.”

Using cell phones, emails, blog posts, and more, young people are certainly leaving their mark on the Copenhagen talks. They are asking tough questions to world leaders, even putting US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and US Deputy negotiator Jonathan Pershing on the spot with thoughtful, sophisticated remarks.

What might be most noteworthy about the ‘youngo’ people is their patience and foresight. By building strong networks today, the prospects for their future actions are looking bright!

While they are not in a position of power and influence inside the negotiations, their presence here is most certainly felt everywhere. Especially today: They are color- coordinated in orange tee-shirts that helps them all find each other—and travel in large groups from one place to another inside the center.

It’s a sight to behold and one that can’t be missed.

Brian Beauchamp is a policy specialist for the Michigan Land Use Institute and helps coordinate TC350, Traverse City’s chapter of the worldwide organization 350.org. Reach him at brian@mlui.org.

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