COP22: Moving Past Trump

This past November, I traveled to Morocco for two weeks for COP22, the UN’s conference on climate change.

The night before I left, I excitedly ran to mail my absentee ballot. I turned 18 in July and have been waiting to vote since I can remember. And to get to vote for one of the most qualified candidates in history and a woman was an honor I took pretty seriously.

The first two days of COP22 passed somewhat anticlimactically. I explored the negotiations, peeked my head into policy meetings and press conferences, and made so many new friends.

The second night, my delegation buzzed with activity — finishing up banners for an action calling upon Hillary Clinton to be a climate leader, preparing for press conferences, and so many discussions about what a just world looked like.

I had to force myself to bed; I was so excited to wake up and to know that we had defeated fascism in this election. The real battle was just about to start.

It was 5 in the morning in Marrakech, Morocco on November 9th. My memory of that morning is foggy. I remember darkness and somber voices.

Gently, my roommate woke me up. Speaking quietly, she said, “Not all the results are in yet. But it looks like Trump is going to win the election.”

You know that moment when it feels like everything is falling apart? When you suddenly realize that millions of your fellow citizens voted for a man who embodies rape culture? For the man who has marginalized thousands of people? For the man whose name has been a rallying cry for white supremacy groups?

That moment hit me like a truck. Barely able to see through the tears in my eyes, I desperately searched on my phone for a sign that I was dreaming an awful nightmare. But the map of the U.S. I saw lit up red. I could see the blood of this country and the blood of so many people murdered by the oppression that Trump empowered.

I arrived at the COP early that morning to prepare for a press conference. In thirty minutes, I had to rewrite what I had planned to say the night before — Hillary Clinton was not the president of the United States and I had to publicly address that.

Till the moment I was called upon to speak, I was unsure of exactly what I would say. Only a few hours had passed since I had learned that a fascist would become the president of my country. That’s not nearly enough time to process the countless emotions and thoughts I had in my head.

As I started to speak, I began to feel empowered.

My heart is absolutely broken at the election of Trump. I have a president who no longer values who I am as a young woman or the child of immigrants.

As a young woman and first-time voter I will not tolerate Trump’s denialism of the action needed for climate justice. Our country must undergo a systemic change and just transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy within my lifetime. The next four years are critical for getting on the right pathway, and the disastrous election of Trump serves as a solemn reminder of the path ahead of us.

The room energized me. I slowly began to replace the darkness I felt with a new light and energy from being surrounded by so many of amazing organizers and activists from all over the world.


Caption: Activists standing at the United Nations after holding an indigenous-led solidarity action for Standing Rock.

And see, that’s the thing. We can joke about moving to Canada and leaving this all behind. We can act like the world has come to an end.

But the reality is that our futures were never going to be determined by the actions of the federal government or the United Nations anyway. 22 years of climate negotiations and continued burning of fossil fuels should be evidence enough.

On the third day of the COP, young people from all over the world spoke inside the United Nations about how they felt about the election of Trump, knowing that the new head of state for the one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters believed climate change was a hoax. It is an awful truth that the U.S. has been and is a hegemonic and colonial power whose policies affect millions of people from all continents. And it is because of this reality that we cannot stand idly by with Trump in power.

We will continue to fight. This planet is not giving us a choice on when to act on climate based on political gridlock. The planet has spoken clearly that emissions must be drastically curbed in the next four years.

Never before has the fight in the local and state governments been so important. Since the election, the young people of iMatter have planning, brainstorming, dreaming, envisioning, and imagining our future of climate justice.

  • Kathryn Kwiatkowski
    Posted at 15:41h, 13 December

    You have inspired me by your posting, Becky. I am trying to be hopeful about the future yet recognize that it will be challenging to convince a narcissistic leader that he is wrong about the evidence for climate change, overwhelming evidence, collected over time by experts.

    I work with a group of very wonderful middle and high school students in an after school field science program. We are working to advocate for the preservation of wetlands in Ohio, particularly, and are just now working to do the kinds of things you and your student colleagues are doing to “act on climate”. Thank you, for your inspiration. Best wishes to you!