The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) officially commences in less than a week. The magnitude of this conference has been established. The implications it will have for staving off climate change have been analyzed. As representatives from 195 states gather at COP21 to deliberate on an agreement for mitigating climate change, youth from around the world will convene at events around the city with an agenda paralleling that of what diplomats hope to produce, a consensus on how to delineate a shared future that will not irreversibly damage our common home.
Student Energy's presence at COP21 and the organization's continued presence once the conference ends ensures youth voices have an outlet for discussing energy and sustainability issues without the red tape that exists within global diplomacy channels. Student Energy's ability to provide unbiased information through their newly developed Energy Literacy Platform and emerging University-level chapter programs attracts students from a wide range of disciplines. At COP21, Student Energy representatives will be available to speak directly with Undergraduate, Graduate and PhD. students about their academic work, ideas and ways in which an alternative energy future may be realized.
The stakes are high and students know it. Alternative energy systems and new technologies have seen rapid growth in the energy sector, often conceived by young minds. In an era where we routinely hear that we are not acting fast enough, students emerge as flares, calling attention to cutting-edge ideas that reconstruct current paradigms, ready to convert awareness to action in imaginative and disruptive ways. Students get it. Whether it is a course at NYU that presents renewables as smart investments, a syllabus given for a class on Sustainability Metrics in Columbia University's Sustainability Management program, or an intimate discussion among the students of Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group, the drive to accelerate action and induce momentum where it is lacking, is undeniably present. There I was. Amidst individuals whose optimism fueled my own. Here I am now. While the current state of the planet requires urgent action amid often dire predictions, this situation has brought to the forefront students passionate about what many believe the most important issue of our time, one that feeds into our economies, security, migration patterns, and food supply. During the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012, Bill Clinton stated, "Whether you can win or not in a fight that's important, get caught trying, be found trying."
During this past summer's International Student Energy Summit (ISES '15), I was able to assist in the development of a conference that brought together approximately 600 students from around the world who shared the belief that transforming the global energy industry is a fight worth fighting. The level of enthusiasm in discussing ideas for change and plans for action was exhilarating. An interactive Innovation Jam held during the conference was a fantastic display of leadership and cooperation among young visionaries. At COP21 students will again unite with the world’s top sustainability leaders to reexamine the future and initiate transformation through discussion and debate.
There is a different world, but it is in this one. Students, youth, respected leaders, and activists are among those who will help us realize this fact - by educating others through knowledge-sharing and igniting a collective re-imagining of what can be, not merely as being good for the planet, but as what is most desirable. Facts have been thrust at a public not prepared for linking future effects with the present. The dots remain scattered. Connecting seemingly unconnected events, actions, industries and backgrounds is key. Student Energy is providing tools for doing so.
In one week COP21 will bring together a massive network of energy enthusiasts. We are all excited to be in the company of a phenomenal group of people who will challenge and inspire. Student Energy will provide a foundation for discussion, debate, and resources to further stimulate your enernerd minds.
In the words of Senegalese environmentalist, Baba Dioum, "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."