CLIMATE CHANGE | How has COP 16 influenced me? Well…


In the past few days, I have been attending many conferences and discussions with UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.  She is an energetic and fiery woman that gives off an aura of honesty, practicality, and toughness.  At an event discussing intergenerational work on climate change, organized by youth delegations from around the world, Mrs. Figueres had some incredible commentary.  I will just share a few of her comments here: 

“I have not compromised my ambition and I never will; I have not compromised my passion and I never will; I have not compromised my optimism and I never will…if you abandon your passions, you are not true to yourself, to your world.”

“We are only borrowing your planet…this is your planet; we are just keeping it for you.”

“It [climate change] is your present…it doesn’t have to be your future.” 

These comments made me really contemplate my life and what I am doing in this process.  I took it as a challenge to myself: what can I do to save the world?  Yes, I am taking many of the small actions: reducing my waste, using alternative transportation, washing in cold water, etc, but what am I really doing to combat this on a larger level, whether that be locally, state-wide, regionally, nationally, or internationally?  And what can I do about it while still being able to provide for my own needs?  I have seen some incredible examples in Senator Ellen Anderson and Representative Kate Knuth that have led us on this trip, as well as other climate change leaders such as Bill McKibben from  Now the question that remains for me is how can I find a career as a soon to be graduating, 21-year-old student?  This is truly a question I cannot answer right now, but I am open to suggestions!

And with this, I pose the same challenge for you: what can you do?  It does not have to be a career path relating to climate change such as mine, but maybe a mind or pattern shift in business as usual in your life.  Learn about the science, encourage lively discussions with friends, think about potential solutions, attend lectures and events, join movements and organize rallies, letter writing campaigns, educational events… in short, do something!  Something more than you are currently doing and take that as a commitment to continually step up your efforts in the future.  That is my hope for all Americans; that our passionate spirit will push us to educate people and create solutions to take leadership for the future of ourselves and our world.  As a John Pascal van Ypersele de Strihou, a head IPCC scientist, summarized, “It’s not only you needing the planet; it’s the planet needing you.” 

Link to information on Christiana Figueres:

Link to summary of negotiations at COP 16 by IISD:

Check out the blogs and coverage at the U of M’s Institute on the Environment page: