You know, perhaps Poland is not the best place for a vacation (with it’s whether that is strangely reminiscent of Ithaca) but, as the billboards around town say, Poland is a good climate for talks. I later discovered that this refers to only talks concerning climate change. During my own time here I have found Poland to be decidedly grim on the regular, everyday conversational side. A certain night (every night?) spend searching for our house with little help from the locals comes to mind. Even so, I have perfected the use of the words meaning “thank you,” “I do not speak polish,” and “I’m sorry.” The last on the list being the one that I am particularly proud of: “przeprazam” (a bit of a tongue twister...). These few (extremely) meager attempts at Polish seem to have gotten me pretty far. Luckily, some parts of everyday Polish existence do include connections to the English language. For instance, I was very impressed with how well people from Poland (who may or may not speak any English) can still (with great accuracy) sing Nirvana songs. Extraordinary.
An interesting feature of this trip (that actually concerns the conference) I have noticed is the lack of other youth who are filling the same role as our delegation from Ithaca. It feels like our class is the only group of youth who are not attending the conference with the aim to achieve any specific goals. The other youth I met during the Conference of Youth (COY) from groups such as SustainUs were attending with plans to influence delegates and garner media attention. At the COY, there was one workshop where we learned how to positively lead groups and another where participants worked on how to successfully and coherently answer questions from the media. This surprised me and it seemed that our delegation was prepared only to… observe? I am not personally critical of this and, in fact, to me it seems a noble pursuit for college students such as ourselves. Even so, it strikes me as interesting that almost all of the other youth (at least that I have met) attending the COY and the actual UNFCCC have taken on the role of lobbyists. Through speeches and media events, they are actually trying to influence policy and give a face to the movement supporting strong action on climate change. I do not know if their work will actually cause any changes to policy, but I think that it is important to hope that it will. Perhaps students from Ithaca College attending future UN climate change conferences should be encouraged to become more involved in the actions taken by youth groups such as Greenpeace and SustainUs. I think this could add another interesting level to our current existence at the conference.
Soon, most of our group will be attending a reception celebrating the conclusion of the first day of the conference. I hope to eat lots of free, sustainable food.
Na zdrowie! (To your health)