Sustainable Dartmouth alumni Morgan Curtis ’14 and Remy Franklin ’13 participated in the 22nd Conference of the Parties of the United Nation's Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) this fall with a delegation from the youth advocacy organization SustainUS. COP22 was held in Marrakech, Morocco from November 7-18. Remy Franklin reflects on the experience of joining SustainUS and attending the COP.
Click through the slideshow to see some pictures from his adventure and read below his take in his COP experience.
Finding out that Morgan was leading the COP22 SustainUS delegation was just the latest of a string of moments where Morgan posted something on Facebook and I was impressed. My thought process was something like: ‘wow, she’s done it again’.
Morgan and I were close friends at Dartmouth - we both orbited through green groups and intern positions at the Sustainability Office, we took a seminar together with Terry Tempest Williams, Morgan was instrumental in handing over the Big Green Bus to my crew in 2011, and we spent three months together on the Dartmouth Environmental Studies Foreign Studies Program in Southern Africa in 2012.
After graduating from Dartmouth - when I was still kicking around Hanover cooking for a food truck and TAing in the Geography Department - Morgan moved up to Maine and spent a year working as a sustainability educator at Chewonki. The next summer she began Climate Journey, traveling from Vermont to Paris (mostly by bicycle) to document stories about climate change and attend COP21. Before I knew it, Morgan was writing in the New Internationalist and had been selected for the first year of a new Spiritual Ecology Fellowship. Let’s just say she seemed to be doing climate activism right.
So when I saw the call for applications for the SustainUS COP22 Delegation, I applied and got launched into a pretty incredible climate justice journey.
SustainUS is youth-led NGO advancing justice and sustainability by empowering young people to engage in advocacy. The organization has been sending US youth delegates to the UN climate talks for 15 years (including notable Dartmouth alumnus Leehi Yona ’16), but the COP22 delegation was new in a few ways.
Under Morgan’s leadership, the application process was organized around a ‘Creative Challenge’ where interested youth applied by writing stories about their own experience as well as topics related to the broader climate justice movement. This focus on storytelling guided our work at COP22 as well. Instead of focusing primarily on the policy-making process, we started from an understanding that climate justice will only emerge from new cultural narratives and an organizing community that embodies the values we’re fighting for.
Our delegation’s focus on community meant that we emphasized building a strong base before arriving in Morocco. Beginning in August, we met for weekly phone calls and planning meetings. We all flew to Oakland in September for a 3-day retreat at Canticle Farm, where we strategized and built community through the Work That Reconnects. For me, it was transformative to take this time away from graduate school and devote my energy to connecting with 12 other climate justice leaders from across the United States.
Our work at COP22 revolved around storytelling as our core tactic, operationalized through media, mobilizations, and policy advocacy. Our strategy to further climate justice revolved around supporting three needs. First, to practice active solidarity by standing with frontline and indigenous communities (especially from the Global South) to support their ongoing struggles at the UNFCCC. Second, to lend capacity for climate justice focused storytelling on the ground at COP22. Third, the need for supportive, whole-person, transformative community spaces in the youth climate justice movement.
We were involved in more ways than I could share in this post - but you can read about a lot of it in articles published online. See Morgan’s New Internationals article about why climate justice must also be a struggle for sovereignty; delegate Ryan Camero's piece in Common Dreams 'From Executive Power to People Power'; Devi Lockwood in Pacific Standard on how Youth Delegates at COP22 Are Mobilizing Ahead of a Trump Presidency; or Kayla Devault's story in the Good Men Project about Environmental Injustice in Morocco, Just 300km South of COP22.
I quickly realized that SustainUS is one of the major delegations of US-youth that attend the UN Climate Change Conference each year. The organization is known in the space; alumni work for major environmental organizations like Greenpeace, 350.org, and Oil Change International; we have a relationship with the US State Department. SustainUS is also one of the more radical NGOs at the COP - without a big green brand name and dedicated donor base, our only responsibilities are to the many youth who have built the organization and to frontline communities who are most affected by climate change. This allows us to practice active solidarity, mobilize around difficult political issues, and remain dedicated to the values of justice and sustainability we fight for at COP and elsewhere.
It was amazing to watch Morgan lead the COP22 delegation, and an immense privilege to be part of it. I am proud to say that Dartmouth was in many ways our training ground - the site of important lessons, mentors, and experiences that continue to inform my work for sustainability and social justice.