A pair of college students from Seattle are among the members of the American Youth Delegation at the U.N. climate summit in Cancun, Mexico. They’re allowed to attend some of the negotiations, but the young people say they have a moral right to have a greater say.
When I met with Ian Siadak and Lauren Ressler, they came across as smart, articulate and well-informed. They’re also a little ticked off.
“People are negotiating with our futures,’ he said. “and unless we have a really strong say in that, it seems highly unfair, by any standard of justice.”
Siadak, like Ressler, is a senior at Seattle University. They both work with the Sierra Student Coalition, an offshoot of the Sierra Club. And they both see a bunch of older folks endlessly dithering while the planet grows increasingly imperiled.
The youth delegation does have official standing at the conference. But Lauren Ressler says the bureaucracy hasn’t really taken advantage of the skills and aptitudes young people bring to the fight against global warming.
“The Internet, and our ability to engage a very, very wide audience at the drop of a hat, is something that will be an essential tool for mobilizing action in the future,” she says.
Youth delegations from around the world have been keeping track of each other at the conference and spreading news of developments via social media and smartphones.
Siadak and Ressler say they hope the relationships they’ve formed with other international youth will help break down the kinds of cultural barriers that they feel are helping make the climate negotiations so difficult.