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COP15: Young COP

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During the December climate negotiations, a team from WWF will have an ‘Arctic Tent’ on a main Copenhagen square and we have invited lots of people to help tell the stories of arctic climate change.

In front of the tent, we have a life sized polar bear carved from ice, created by renowned wildlife sculptor, Mark Coreth, and we have a stunning outdoor exhibit by some of the top photographers working in the Arctic today.

By Clive Tesar

Today was turn of the youth voices to dominate the Arctic Tent. They were not the first youth in the tent, but this was their day, entirely given over to young people from the Arctic, or inspired by the Arctic.

What was amazing was the how the Arctic has become a magnet for young people intent on making a difference in the world. No fewer than three groups, the Cape Farewell Group, the Students on Ice, and the WWF Voyage for the Future have within the past two years taken people from as far afield as Japan and Chile on expeditions to the Arctic, so they could experience the imprint of climate change first-hand. Although they were all impressed by the receding ice and the slumping ground that are the hallmarks of arctic warming, what shone through in the presentations was their contact with northerners.

It was hearing the personal stories of the people who live with climate change in an intimate way that really brought home the impacts to the visitors. And once those impacts were brought home, they were transformative. In some cases, the transformation was more personal, starting a commitment to eat less meat, use local products, cycle more, turn off unnecessary power sources. In other cases, the witnessing of arctic change gave birth to movements, like Green Finger, a youth-driven movement that has pulled in thousands of people, resulting in pictures that now adorn the outside of the Arctic Tent.

Today, visitors to the tent did not have to travel thousands of kilometres to hear people from the Arctic: the people of the Arctic came to them. They came from a university class from Alaska, where one presenter talked of his home town of Shishmareff, a place that is being eaten away by increasingly violent storms, as the frozen ground which once held together its sandy bluffs melts away. They came from Canada’s Northwest Territories, where another presenter spoke of the increasing desperation of people whose ability to survive on local foods is being taken away from them.

We can only hope that the audience today, having heard these voices from the young people of the north, leave feeling as inspired as today’s young presenters from the south.

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