Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ordinary Hero: Abigail Borah, her COP 17 plea heard round the world

Screen shot of Abigail Borah speaking out at COP 17
Democracy Now! video
This week in Durban, South Africa, the United Nations concluded its seventeenth conference on climate change. Abigail Borah, a Middlebury College Student, flew to Copenhagen to attend the talks, along with many other youth concerned about their future.

Disturbed by the failure of the United States and other nations to address the immediacy of the situation, Abigail penned a short statement, stood up, and "with trembling hands," read it to the assembly.

2020 is too late to wait

The conference chair told her "No one is listening to you." Todd Stern, the United States delegate about to address the assembly waited with rather a condescending pose. (I want to believe he was secretly glad for her stand.) Abigail, an ordinary person who could not and would not be afforded an officially sanctioned microphone at these talks, persevered, determined to be heard. Here is her statement.

I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot. The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. We need an urgent path to a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty. You must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world's most vulnerable. You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions. You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions, not expectations. 2020 is too late to wait.
Despite the ultimate failure of the talks to take action now, it gives me some small ray of hope that the audience applauded Abigail as she was led from the hall.

Immediately after Abigail's impromptu speech, Todd Stern hastened to call a press conference, where he refuted Abigail's assertions regarding the US do-nothing approach.  In this Democracy Now! video titled, "I'm Scared For My Future": Student Disrupts Speech By US Climate Envoy Todd Stern in Durban" (7.3 minutes), watch and hear Abigail read her statement, followed by an excerpt from Stern's press conference.

It is important to note that one day following Stern's assertion that the United States was not standing in the way of a legally binding agreement, the State Department issued a statement saying otherwise.

You can read the whole story, in Abigail's eloquent words, here, in Why I stood up and spoke out.

Ordinary Heroes Award
© L Kathryn Grace
Abigail Borah, in speaking out as you did, you risked arrest, potentially putting your reputation and your future in jeopardy, yet you acted. Rather than become immobilized by fear, you used your fear to take a dramatic stand and to power your voice--a voice literally heard round the world.

For your courage, for your commitment to making change, for speaking for millions who feel as you do, for being one of the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands working to create a better world, a good world, you are an Ordinary Hero and my hero. I bow to you in deepest gratitude.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

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