We can only win the climate struggle if we truly start empowering people outside of our comfort zones. That’s why I joined Climate Tracker this year.
If the Paris Agreement was a new hope, the empire struck back this November bringing a white supremacist and climate denier into the Oval Office.
I believe only people power can stop the Rex Tillersons and Koch brothers of this world. But too often we only reach out to people like us reading the same newspapers living in the same geographies. Too often we empower people but don’t go beyond a petition or one-time protest. This is important, but not enough.
In 2016 Climate Tracker has involved over 3.000 young people in more than 100 countries. We did 20 webinars and conducted workshops in Brazil, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Morocco, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, France, Germany, and Senegal. Great historical struggles tend not to be smoothly sorted out by privileged elites.
We can’t win the climate fight if we stay a movement of mainly privileged liberal Global North folks. We enable young people around the world to influence the public debate and policy decisions on climate change. In September we launched climate journalism handbooks in 10 languages including Swahili, Mandarin, and Tamil among others.
In the same month, Climate Tracker led a workshop in Mauritius. Afterward, Chetan asked us for some further tips to improve his writing and to get published. Only two days after our director Chris sent him some training material, Chetan emailed us this article of his article published in l’Express, the biggest newspaper i the country.
One month later I joined colleagues from Egypt and Belgium to conduct a workshop in Tunisia in Arabic, English, and French. We combined our workshop with a writing competition, bringing one journalist from Tunisia fully funded to the UN climate summit COP22 in Marrakech.
Only two weeks after our workshop, Hamdi managed not only to get a half-hour radio show about climate change on national radio; he also had a one-on-one discussion with the Tunisian environmental secretary on TV. His radio editor then invited him to give the same training he had joined at the Climate Tracker workshop to the other journalists at the radio – simply because they hardly knew about climate change. There is so much more difference we can make once we move out of the typical climate space. This is where we need to go.
But I also believe empowerment goes beyond giving opportunities, it is making people use these opportunities. Opportunities we offer come with some requirements.
All scholarships, fellowships, and opportunities Climate Tracker offers, are awarded based on competition. Most of the time people have to publish articles on certain topics. I went through this process last year and learned a great deal simply by applying to one of Climate Trackers opportunities.
To be challenged was what really made me go beyond what I thought I could do when I joined Climate Tracker: to publish in leading national media, organize meeting with ministers and develop an in-depth understanding of climate politics.
In November we brought nine fellows from all over the world to the COP 22 in Marrakech. Among them was Lina, an 18-year-old girl from Sudan. She did not only publish in the biggest newspapers of her country after Climate Tracker training, she was literally the only journalist from her country at COP and the only one covering it. Lina also got three job offers after and during COP and has spoken at a number of public events in the few weeks since that.
The climate movement needs to empower more people like Lina. Not as the exception, but as the norm.We asked our COP fellows in an anonymous questionnaire after the COP about their experience at COP. Here is what they answered:
We want to give this chance to even more people. There are always more writers and activists who would deserve getting awarded. That’s why we will grow even bigger in 2017, train more people in more languages and more places around the world and offer more opportunities to more people.