We woke up today, as if it was a dream. We rolled over in bed to check our phones and saw that they had blown up with messages and updates. “You’re joking,” we asked each other once we learned of the news. How could it be real? How could America have let this happen? All the hope we had felt the day before was suddenly lost. Denial, confusion, anger, and sadness flooded our minds as we realised that this doesn’t just affect America, it concerns the entire world. This made us anxious to start the day. We knew that Trump’s victory impacted everyone here at the COP in a major way and that it would be the main topic of conversation.
Donald Trump is now the leader of the most influential country in the world… and he’s a climate change denier. In 2012, Donald Trump shared the tweet “The concept of Global Warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” from his account @realDonaldTrump. How can the most powerful person in the world hold this perspective on climate change?
As many have seen through media, Donald Trump spits rhetoric that is anti-Islamic, homophobic, sexist and racist. His hateful attitude towards minorities goes to show that he is not in power for positive change. Trump’s presidency runs the immense risk of impeding progress on more than just social discrimination, but also on our Earth’s future, and climate action. A climate denier as president will surely prevent progressive action on completing the requirements of the Paris agreement.
Realising this brought on a sense of impending doom. We ate breakfast in silence, each one of us trying to wrap our minds around what a Trump presidency really meant. It varied around the breakfast table—as Americans, as global citizens, as females, as youth—our separate realities seemed warped and our futures bleak.
“This is the end…” Jim Morrison crooned in the background as we finished eating. An appropriate song for our discouraged moods. In that particular moment, it did seem like it was the end of the world. Yet, as we took in our dejected atmosphere, we burst into surprised laughter at our dramatic reaction, prompting a change of music. It wasn’t really the end of the world and we knew it.
In an attempt to lift our collective spirits, we played Patti Smith’s single,“People Have The Power,” and refocused our attention to our efforts in Morocco. The fact that the president-elect of one of the world’s most powerful nations is a climate change denier means that what we, the youth, are doing at the COP22 is that much more important. We learn over and over again that it is the people who make a change, not the government. But even as we had this discussion, we still felt discouraged about what we were saying and that feeling stayed with us even after we left our riad.
Winding our way through the streets of the Medina, through the security at the COP, and into the entrance of the tents, each of us felt stuck in a bad daydream. What seemed to be the most extreme event in our lives had just occurred and the world seemed to be going on exactly the same. No protestors outside the entrance to the COP, no whispered conversations in the conference cafe concerning this issue. How could this be? We made our way through the same corporate booths with the same tired representatives, and couldn’t help but be confused. It is now, more than ever, that we must push and advocate the issue of climate change. Yet, if we believed this to be true, where was everyone? We finally found a place to share our emotions outside the entrance to the COP within a circle of passionate activists of all ages.
We gathered together, at least one hundred people, all standing in a large circle at the base of the flag poles. The SustainUS delegation, representing American youth from all across the states, hosted the circle for climate justice. They expressed their emotions waking up to the news of Trump’s election. They felt the same as us, in shock and grief. They spoke of hope, and they talked with passion. They had a list of demands—the “Presidential (People’s) To-Do List” and it went as follows:
1) Work for Climate Justice
2) Respect Indigenous Sovereignty
3) Honour the Treaties
4) Cut Corporate Ties
5) Zero by 2050
6) Break Free from Fossil Fuels
7) Commit to a Just Transition
8) No Corporate Trade Deals
9) Stop Militarism
10) End Inhumane Policies.
11) Protect Water.
We all yelled this list together, twice. It was a cathartic experience. After a very grey morning it felt like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel to hear these people speak.
It was a healing gathering—we chanted and hummed in unison, while one of the delegates from SustainUs sang: “But hey, don’t you know, there’s no need to feel dejected because all of our grievances are connected…” We realised, from this process, that Trump’s victory and the uncertain implications of his win mean that there is even more reason to stand up and become green leaders. We cannot let our anger, frustration, or shock create a wall between us (even if Mexico will pay for it). Our collective consciousness and love for this world will fuel a revolution. But we need to remember to hold on to that feeling.
When we got back home we felt hope. Being surrounded in that environment helped us realise that we can make change, and we have the power to do it. We can’t say that we still don’t have a little fear but that feeling drives us to work harder. We will not be afraid to stand up and keep on going—no matter what.