SPUSA Goes to Africa: Youth at the Durban Climate Negotiations

kylegracey | Climate Change, Youth
7 Feb 2012

This is part 2 of a 3 part series exploring SPUSA alumni’s work across Africa. In Part 1, Cameron blogged about his research to stop malaria while expanding scientific research in Mali.

An unbroken circle of energy. Everywhere – on the ground, in the hallways, in front of tables, around tables, on tables. In the grass. On the pavement. In the center of a ring of security. To be part of the international youth climate movement is to be a part of a lot of circles. The choice to sit and work in circles is a deliberate one – without a head or tail, no one is more important than everyone else, and if one person drops out, the transfer of optimism, ideas, and work, continues to cycle through the group.

And having been one of many who, over the last few years, helped to grow this international force of young people from all over the world working to stop climate change, I have sat in many of these circles. Fundraising circles, where we helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars from supportive governments to fund our work to forge a stronger international climate agreement, and tens of thousands more from our own pockets and organizations to help fund our brothers and sisters from climate-impacted countries to come to the negotiations and show the world how climate change they largely did not create is killing people and nature they depend on. Policy circles, where we evaluate and lobby about complicated issues like forest protection and carbon capture and storage, and where we have scored several small and a few large victories in changing the text of the talks. Communications circles, where we have coordinated some of the thousands of stories and interviews that youth have received.

The latest talks, in Durban, South Africa, were no different. Nearly a thousand youth from almost a hundred countries, including many new faces from across Africa, came to give youth a voice in the negotiations. Here, too, the circles were obvious. All of us, and the African youth especially, were linked to broader circles of youth outside of  the negotiations, and often far away in our home countries. Because we know that, as much as the world needs international cooperation to halt the costs of climate change, it needs help from people right at home, too. And so, while youth would never try to take credit for everything positive that has happened on climate change in the last year, any more than they claim to represent every young person in the world, the advances by California, British Columbia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico, and many others were won in part by hard campaigning by members of the international youth climate movement. Similarly, while Durban did not deliver a strong outcome to stopping climate change, it was at least positive progress overall, and one the growing youth movement will build on.

“Growing” is maybe not even the best word for this movement. Widening might be better. More youth from more countries join every day – nearly every country is now represented. And the scope of  young people putting effort into this struggle is growing too. Young scientists, engineers, soldiers, political conservatives, artists, journalists, and business students show up in our circles in greater numbers every year. Not to worry – we always make our circles with room for more.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


  1. Lol, always great to see some healthy debate, even on the tough issues

  2. […] is part 1 of a 3 part series exploring SPUSA alumni’s work across Africa. In Part 2, Kyle describes helping to build a growing international youth climate movement at the South Africa climate […]