by Helen Poertner
Youth Panel at Vision 2020
Connecting with other activists, educating ourselves, sharing our knowledge with others and gaining hope for the power of the movement were some of the goals we had in mind when joining the “2020 Vision - Finding Hope in Climate Action” conference in Norway, Maine on the first weekend of March. A group of COA students and Earth in Brackets members made their way across the state to join in on this three day event, organized by the local “Center for an Ecology based Economy”.
The event was opened by “An evening with Bill McKibben”, the founder of 350.org and an influential activist and author. It was a great privilege to hear him talk and share his story of world wide activism and the idea of 350.org that operates without a big central structure but more so focuses on empowering local action. Before his speech, Anna Siegel who coordinates Maine Strikes, gave a speech on the youth movement, which was very powerful.
Bill McKibben speaking in South Paris.
The next morning, our group was joined by MDI High school students and other youth active in the climate movement and together we were able to meet with Bill McKibben more personally over breakfast. We felt very grateful to hear his perspective on the movement and his emphasis on focusing on tackling the system and for example large oil companies instead of blaming the individual. We gave a lot of thought and conversation to the question of weighing our priorities as humanity in that we only have ten years to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis but still need to make a very just transition for frontline and marginalized communities. The opinions around the table differed and this certainly is a question that stays with us.
Members of Earth in Brackets, MDIHS Eco-Team, MYCJ and Climate Strikes coordinator Anna Siegel standing Bill McKibben at the nomad cafe in Norway, Maine.
At the venue, we were warmly welcomed and realized fast how intergenerational the event was. Especially, being usually surrounded by people of the same college-student-age, we appreciated the diversity of age groups that were present. The day was packed with workshops of all sorts from listening skills in movement building and fundraising to low waste living. Felipe held a popular workshop about conflict resolution strategies in climate action and a group of Earth in Brackets members led a workshop on climate justice and its power to unite community efforts of climate action across the globe. Felipe and Ania were also joined by a few other young activists to form a youth panel discussion. All panelists made very clear statements and found great attention among the audience.
The evening was filled with live music, wonderful food and a poetry reading.
The next day started off with a “Pecha Kucha” in which a number of people each had 20 slides with 20 seconds time to present each slide. Ania talked about her disappointment in global climate politics and the successful process of declaring a local climate emergency in Bar Harbor. Other presenters shared their local efforts regarding waste management, transportation, food systems and many others. These inspiring mini presentations were followed by Felipe’s powerful keynote. They reminded the audience of the importance of including the big global picture in our efforts of climate action. Their talk received great applause and a number of interesting follow-up questions. After another session of workshops, it was time for us to get back on our way to Mount Desert Island.
The entire group was very grateful for having been able to be part of such an event organized by a small local grassroots NGO! We left the conference with a feeling of increased worry about the urgency of the climate crisis and with hope that change can and will happen all over the world on the local level. Above all, we are taking inspiration from the local leaders all over the state with whom we were able to connect and hope to let some of their ideas inspire our initiatives in the future!