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Twelve Years Left

Powerful Message From A 15-Year-Old Activist

As I sit down in mid-December to work on this article for our January paper it is 60 degrees in Denver. There is no precipitation in the forecast, and temperatures are projected to remain above normal for the foreseeable future.

At the same time in Katowice, Poland, the annual Conference of the Parties (COP 24) Climate Summit came to a close. The conference is a yearly meeting that started in 1995, and tracks the progress regarding climate change. The U.S. delegation, representing the Trump administration arrived promoting coal and fossil fuels and along with Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait moved to block approval of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

In addition to the U.S. delegation was a coalition representing governors, mayors, business and faith leaders letting the world know that they support a stronger climate agreement and are fully committed to the Paris Agreement. Back at home, President Donald Trump made announcements proposing sweeping revisions to the Clean Water Act and provided a new definition of federally protected wetlands, making six million acres of the Florida wetlands vulnerable to developers.

To top it off he announced a rollback on restrictions for greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants.

During the COP 24, Polish youths protested by holding signs spelling out “12 Years Left” – a reference to a recent study showing the world has about that much time left to take radical measures to combat Global Warming, or risk irreversible harm.

Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old activist, stood before the world and gave an impassioned speech calling out the world for its inaction. I would like to share the majority of her speech now, with you.

“You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children. But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet.

“Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many, which pay for the luxuries of the few.

“The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.

“Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. We need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground, and we need to focus on equity. And if solutions within the system are so impossible to find, maybe we should change the system itself. We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us again.

“We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.

“We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”

These are sobering comments from a young person who clearly sees the writing on the wall. We cannot fail the youth of this planet. So I ask each of us to make a resolution this year that we will work to solve this crisis. Will you commit to make one simple change each month that reduces your impact?

This next year, Greater Park Hill Community will expand on our work with the Sustainable Neighborhood Program.  Please share your ideas with us and let’s work together so that we hand this planet over in better shape than how we found it.  We have a moral obligation to the youth of this planet.

Greta, I hope in the year 2078 you are able to tell your children that the world came together and stopped a catastrophe. That would be something amazing.

Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. Active in the Registered Neighborhood Organization for many years, MacDermott was the 2012 recipient of the Dr. J. Carlton Babbs Award for Community Service. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017, and is currently the Statewide Chair of the Climate Reality Project for the 100% Committed Campaign.

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