Tag Archives: COY9

Texas to Poland: Coal & Pipelines. Culture Shock? Not Really.

After a delegation meeting, one of the delegates asked “Did you hear about the pipeline explosion today?” I immediately answered, “YEAH! The one in Texas?! Again!?” “No… here in Poland…” they replied in a tone that I can only describe as reserved surprise.

1456712_10151971624234146_2061192061_n

Before I go on my rant: SIGN THIS PETITION!!!! I met a wonderful Polish woman named Diana who is working hard to keep an unnecessary proposed coal plant from being built. The man who owns the proposed coal plant is also the chairman of Green Cross International’s BOD and is a member of the Climate Change Task force. What the hell, right?

This whole trip I’ve felt these odd connections between Poland and Texas. Not only is coal a big problem here in Poland, but back home in Texas. Texas is home to two of the five dirtiest power plants (note: this list is not just limited to coal) in the United States: Luminant in Martin Lake and NRG is W.A. Parish- both coal-fired power plants. Poland is home to the Belchatow coal-fired power plant in Lodz which spews 35 million tons of CO2 annually.

Today, I felt even more like Texas and Poland aren’t so different from one another.

Today, both countries had natural gas pipelines explode. In Texas, Natural gas is being touted as an alternative to coal- same as in Poland. This is a big problem. Natural gas is by no means a clean transition source of energy over coal. While natural gas does not release as much carbon when burned, it releases more methane, which is “more efficient” at keeping greenhouses gases in our atmosphere. Not only is the expansion of natural gas extraction accelerating climate change, it’s creating accidents like these where pipelines explode. Is this really the future we want? Earthquakes where there have never been earthquakes before. People’s homes being ruined by exploding pipelines. New cases of cancer popping up near fracking well pads. Does this sound like a “Clean Energy” future? I think you know the answer to that question (“NO”, duh!).

Sitting in Poland thinking of Texas, I can only hope that both of our states are able to figure out what is important: the long-term health of our communities, not short term economic profit.

The only real difference I can think of between Poland and Texas: Temperature (it’s freeeeezing in Poland)

Advertisements

New Experiences: International Anti-Oppression

IMG_6448

To be completely transparent: I’ve been writing, re-writing this post since I led the workshop last Friday. I find Anti-oppression to be difficult to write about and agonize over every single word trying to make it the best possible. I’ve decided it’s just time for me to be human- I can’t be prefect, so I hope that y’all understand that I did my best and I hope my desire for solidarity, justice, and understanding comes through in this post. 

After attending COP18 in Doha last year, I was left feeling like I hadn’t properly shared one of my passions, Anti-Oppression (AO) work, with the other youth that I interacted. The reason why I am so inspired to work utilizing AO is that I believe that in order to make any sort of change we must all have the ability to be heard, to act, and to make the differences that we are called to. Climate change is a particularly large problem. It interacts with every part of our lives and, as such, means that we must remember that everyone is affected by climate change, but some more so than others. In this workshop, we discussed the role that privilege and oppression take within the environmental work that we do at home and then further discussed how these concepts are seen at the COP. Even though we had youth from nine different countries, we agreed that there were vast inequalities in terms of resource distribution between countries, the sharing of leadership roles by men and women, minority groups’ communities being used as grounds for energy extraction and production sites, and also the dynamics that come into play when we consider who is able to participate in this process.

_MG_1342

By exploring these two concepts, we started a dialogue about how to make the International Youth Climate Movement (IYCM) a more inclusive and thoughtful group of activists. I really wanted to emphasize that tokenization (a common and unfortunate trend in environmental work) of others should be avoided at all costs not only in our media work, but in our personal interactions. In addition, I felt it important to discuss how by saying “if only more people from the global south were here” and “why don’t more people speak up” is a tokenizing experience in itself. In order to have the strongest, most justice-oriented movement as possible we must first change the systems of oppression within our structures and create more open spaces for more voices and experiences to be heard. Why would those whose voices are only asked for when people need a spokesperson for one’s identity (or assumed identity) and not accepted as a necessary participant in all conversations?

_MG_1343

This was the point of the training: to open a dialogue about privilege and power dynamics and to emphasize that we should not wonder why people are not in spaces, but actively work to change the way people with more privilege take up space. Seeing that impacted communities are regularly tokenized, our workshop was to explain a) what tokenizing is b) how people can recognize and check their own privilege and c) discuss simple ways to make space.

_MG_1491

One individual rightly asked why our workshop was targeted towards folks from Western countries and whose primary language (or are comfortable using) English and did not have marginalized peoples in the space to direct the conversation and say what their needs are. I personally think that it is not the job of a person facing discrimination or oppression to constantly give answers or lead these conversations. Why should someone be constantly confronting the various levels of oppression in their life and having every conversation revolve around it? Another fear- when talking about these systems, isn’t it helpful to remove those with privilege from the opportunity to tokenize someone by asking them for their opinion as a spokesperson for their identity or to attempt being validated as not being [insert word here]-ist?

_MG_1338

These are my own opinions, experiences, and approach. I realize that there are many other valid ways of going about anti-oppression within and outside of the U.S. . If anyone has experience with AO at an International level and has an ideas or would like to collaborate, please let me know. (sidenote: Power Shift CEE/COY 9 was primarily composed of people from the “Global North” is this contextualizes the conversation about tokenization)

We ended with this quote: “The question is not just about what unearned privileges we have been walking around with but also about what it would take to change the systems that gave us these privileges in the first place. We must move beyond acknowledgement and guilt, panels and conferences, and start living, working, organizing, consuming, and loving differently.”

I firmly believe that it’s important for us to create an equitable, just, and powerful climate change movement. We need to take all of our experiences and knowledge to inform the changes that we’re making to get the best results. So the intention of the workshop was to open a discussion to discover how we can actively amplify the needs of those most impacted by being good allies that give space for others to speak and act, rather than us doing it in their place.

To see the handout from this workshop click here.

Workshop photos by the wonderful David Tong (thanks!) 

Coaland Doesn’t Represent the Polish People

Poland is a country known for it’s coal. But what people don’t talk much about is that not all of the people in Poland are supportive of these energy projects. It was discussed at the Conference of Youth/ Central and Eastern European Power Shift that a common misconception is that all Polish people are wary of having coal-fired power plants shut down because it is a large source of economic stability for the country. However, according to two residents of Poland that I’ve spoken with, the problem is not so much that people do not want to change, rather the conceptualization of what change looks like is more difficult to understand.

On Monday evening, Polish Independence day, the COP had their opening reception at the University of Warsaw’s Library (Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w Warszawie). As in the tradition of over the top UN gatherings, the entire library was being lit by an eerie green light, servers were walking around with glasses of wine and juices, and ours d’ouevres were being offered by the tray fill. Sponsored mainly by LOTOS, a Polish fossil fuel company, there was a sense of sad irony and corporate capture among many of the youth that I spoke to. Why is the COP accepting money from the very industry that is fueling (pun intended) the problem?

COP19 Reception Entertainment
COP19 Reception Entertainment
COP Co-opted
COP Co-opted

I had the pleasure of meeting a young Polish energy engineering student at the event who was very inquisitive about the COP process who I will call L. in this post. L. told me that he thought since it seems that the coal industry and the issues covered at the COP are related that he thought it best to get himself informed. I asked him what energy source he saw himself doing engineering for in the future and he seemed a bit sheepish as he started with the statement “well, you see… there is really only one source of energy in Poland. It is awkward.” We discussed how coal controls the government in Poland (very similar to how oil controls politics in the United States). He informed me that it seems impossible to move away from coal while the individual economic interests of those in power is being supported by coal.

As we delved deeper into our conversation, I asked him what he thought would start a transition from coal to cleaner energy and he said that he didn’t know. I tried to give him examples of times when we’ve successfully shut down coal plants in the U.S. and simultaneously started to transition toward more renewable energy and he didn’t think that it was plausible in Poland. He maintained that there is not enough interest and buy in behind starting to have more renewable energy. Children don’t know, he said, about other forms of energy. There is nothing environmental in Polish education even at the high school level. It’s hard for people to grow up and see an alternative to the current system without knowing what else is out there. In addition, L. told me that something that the people of Poland do not know that they import most of the coal that they burn. For the Polish people, the coal industry is pushed as being a main source of employment, but this is not the case given that their resources come from elsewhere.

What’s worse is that, like many European countries, college is paid for (or in some cases mostly) paid for by the government by a sort of education credit system. My new friend, L., told me that the government gives a certain amount of extra credits for students who wanted to pursue careers in science and technology (also like the states), but with an even greater chance for extra credits and additional scholarship money if they studied engineering (specifically energy), which L. said was “awkward”.

It is awkward, I thought to myself, that coal has such a strong influence over society that  the very people who could be empowered to make a change feel so helpless.

Things need to change in Warsaw, I think. And after Power Shift CEE, I think that the youth of Poland are well on their way to making that change.

Fossil Funded= Fundamentally wrong.
Fossil Funded= Fundamentally wrong.