Thinking Positively to Change the World

This weekend I went to Austin, Texas to attend the Clinton Global Initiative, a youth conference put on by Bill Clinton’s foundation. I went with three other members of the UN youth network I’m a part of. Like the rest of the participants, we made a “Commitment to Action,” a project that we pledged to work on to benefit the community. Our pledge followed the goal of our network, to promote environmental education about resource conservation in every state in the U.S. and every province in Canada.

What really impressed me about the conference weren’t the big name celebrities (think Matthew McConaughey, Drew Barrymore etc) but the conference participants themselves. I spoke with countless young people who didn’t just have an idealistic vision, they had a plan to turn that vision into a reality.

On the plane ride back from Austin, I sat next to a professor at UC Davis. We started talking about climate change and all of the effects that we are already seeing such as the melting Arctic, the wildfires in Australia and the death of millions of bees.  After a while, he put a hand to his forehead and turned to me, asking me how I still have hope.

I told him that I see climate change as an opportunity to make the world a better place. As Obama, Van Jones and Achim Steiner have emphasized, weathering buildings, installing solar panels and manufacturing wind turbines will create millions of new jobs.

But just as climate change doesn’t just effect one country, I think the benefits of combating climate change can be global. As I witnessed first-hand in Kenya, the lack of an efficient source of energy is an enormous impediment to economic prosperity. Since 44% of the demand for energy is going to come from developing countries by 2030, it is apparent that tackling climate change will have to include promoting clean energy technology in developing countries. There is so much potential for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to also reduce poverty, both at home and around the world.

I soon realized that I had been talking for a good ten minutes in response to his question. He didn’t seem to mind and we kept chatting until the plane landed.

Getting off the plane, it struck me that perhaps part of the reason I’ve been feeling so frustrated lately is that my current activism doesn’t line up with my vision for the future. Sitting in the airport, I started brainstorming ways that I could bring activities that I am already involved in to be more in line with my ideals.

What if I was able to somehow combine my positions on the UN environmental education campaign, the World Bank’s Youth Development and Peace network, my green campus internship with NW SEED and my failed trip to Haiti?

I’m thinking working with Trees for the Future’s Tree Pals program LINK to educate children on climate change and other countries while raising money to plant trees in Haiti and possibly even visiting Haiti over the summer to work with a youth delegation I met from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Hopefully I could get money/guidance/publicity from the different networks that I’m on.

There’s a good chance this won’t all work out as I envision it. But if I learned anything from the conference, it was the power of positive thinking to change the world.