By: Andrew Wong
May 30, 2012
I’m sitting by the window on a train heading to Toronto. My destination and purpose? I’m going to the Brazilian Consulate in Toronto to pick up my visa that will let me enter Brazil for the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
As I look out the window, gazing at the fleeting scenery, momentarily fixing my eyes upon suburban houses and trees as they pass by, I think about how far we have come as a team this past year, and how close we are to reaching some of our goals and how close we are to Rio. Around this time last year, as things were just getting started, our delegation was searching for its identity, and going to Rio for the Rio+20 Earth Summit was just a dream. After twelve months of consistent, impassioned effort by our team members, we have gained so much knowledge on polar issues and experience with the United Nations system. We have given ourselves a reason to attend the Earth Summit.
Over the past year, our team has worked on so much together. Our team’s first collaborative effort resulted in an input document which was submitted to the United Nations for the Zero Draft Compilation Document, the initial text which served as a foundation for the Rio+20 negotiations happening today. Then, from January to May, more than a dozen of us from across Canada, the US, Norway, and Hong Kong worked together week after week to research, write, and publish a detailed, peer-reviewed recommendation paper entitled ‘Navigating from Rio+20 to Polar Sustainability’, which has been presented to Rio+20 negotiators and polar decision-makers. I believe it is a valuable document that will make a positive difference, and I am so proud of our team for having created it.
In addition to our written work, our delegates have made a visible impact in our local communities by educating others. Team members from Canada, the US, Norway, and Mexico have spoken to over 2200 youth and civil society in 20 presentations about the polar regions and the importance of polar sustainability. We hope we can inspire others to live every day more sustainably to protect the polar regions and this planet.
As an international youth delegation, we are concerned for the future of the polar regions due to climate change and the possibility of unsustainable resource development. Instead of sitting around talking about problems and doing nothing, we have taken meaningful action over the last year. Because of that, we have a reason to attend the Earth Summit. Yes, global issues are complex, but we hope our actions can inspire world leaders and decision-makers to do the same.
As I pick up my visa from an employee at the Brazilian Consulate, he gleefully says to me: “You’re going to Rio+20? Excellent! Go save the planet for us!!!”
I smile back at him. Sorry amigo, ‘saving the planet’ cannot be done alone. We all have a role on this planet, you and me. We all have a responsibility to the planet. And we all have it inside ourselves to act.