OK, hear me out. I know this sounds like the dullest blog topic, like, ever. And you may yet be correct. But I wanna talk about about responsibility - my responsibility, our collective responsibility - in the context of climate change and action.
I’m en route to COP24 - the 24th conference of country representatives to discuss international treaties for tackling climate change. It’s a privilege to attend, to go to Poland where it’s held, to meet like-minded climate activists, to advocate for the rights of youth and future generations to a safe, thriving future.
And the millstone of Privilege is Responsibility.
I’m told that my responsibility is limited to learning and growing personally from the experience of COP24. “Surviving COP is an achievement,” has been the common advice of past attendees. With all of the intensity of being surrounded by 30,000 people, negotiating the future of humanity, I guess they’re probably right. But I feel a nagging sense of responsibility to do more with my privilege while there. I’m yet to work out what that will be.
But let’s examine this with a broader lens. Whose responsibility is activism? Is it right that a small subset of the population, conducted by their rigid principles, dedicate their life and emotional energy to making change for the benefit of the hoi polloi? Viewed differently, are these same activists consuming the collective, quiet actions taken by most people every day, relegating those actions to the frame of apathy? Rather than a changemaker, am I (being a badge-wearing activist) actually a barrier to change? What is my responsibility in speaking on behalf of many? And what is the responsibility of the many in giving me the platform to speak?
And am I even the right person to be doing this mahi? My privilege suggests I’ll be one of the least affected by climate change. Is it right for me to go, and take the place of someone whose voice has been missing from the conversation?
I’m left with more questions than answers. And I’ve left for COP24 feeling deeply uncomfortable.
Thankfully I’m joined by a delegation of smart, compassionate, brave, young people. They’ll be my whānau for the trip, and we’ll be responsible for looking after one another. And in that I can find purpose.