This week in Durban young citizen journalists are challenging the popular stereotype of Generation Y. Gen Ys are supposed to be: self-obsessed; apathetic; disengaged; with limited attention spans; shallow online chatterers and gamers; little concerned for the future of the planet they’ll be inheriting.
Move over baby boomers! The twentysomethings are at the gates, in particular a new generation of committed and skilled young women activists. Many of them are in South Africa to cover the current United Nations COP17 climate change conference.
These web warriors are not just reporting the story. Increasingly they are the story, as they lobby to bring about climate action. Meet three of them.
Adopt a Negotiator tracker for Mexico, Andrea Arzaba, is an active blogger with Global Voices and Th!nk About It. Her energy and commitment are reflected in the places from which she has reported on climate change and developing world issues including: the United Nations in New York, Cancun, Portugal, Montreal and now Durban.
Andrea is equally at home writing blog posts in Spanish or English, making videos, interviewing her country’s representatives or giving her own presentations to global conferences. Those who dismiss her brand of citizen journalism as kid’s stuff or amateur dabbling just aren’t paying attention. She has interviewed Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, and questioned Mexican Presidentin a public forum at COP16 interacting with him afterwards.
Andrea’s video report on Week 1 of COP17 can be viewed in Spanish here .
She responded to the question about Durban – ‘How will you measure success?’:
"I would say by seeing in actions what they write in papers, by seeing civil society mobilizing and fair representation between Global North and Global South.
Also success for me would be when we start thinking more about our planet, our people and life, not only about and corportations..."
Young Ugandan Kodili (Chandia Benadtte Kodili) is an Activista Swarm blogger with ActionAid and Secretary for Female Affairs at the National Youth Council. She also has been part of Global Voices' mentoring program .
Kodili travelled with the Trans African Caravan of Hope that visited 17 countries on its way to Durban:
"One of the events carried out was the climate justice concert. This was mainly to attract the attention of young people and educate them about climate change as they were being entertained. This concert was graced by the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda who pledged his government’s support in addressing the effects of climate change." The power of music in saving the climate
She literally reported from the field about the problems facing Africans and their environment:
"Mazoe Gondwe a woman farmer from the Malawian Women farmer’s coalition has very high expectations from this meeting that, for the first time, is convening in the continent bearing the brunt of the negative effects of climate change.
Mazoe Gondwe believes that the African woman will be listened to this time. The African woman is a mother, worker, gardener, wife, care giver, not forgetting that she needs time for herself! ...The burden to put food on the table is on us." Listen to the African Woman
Kodili is a fast learner, having to pick up numerous skills: interviewer, video presenter, writer and video maker to name just a few. It’s mostly in English, which is not her first language of course. Durban is a long journey, in many ways, from her village north of Kampala.
Her video from Zambia summed up local concerns about the future of the Victoria Falls.
Her message to the developed countries from the Global Day of Action march in Durban on Saturday 3 December:
"These women work tirelessly amidst high levels of poverty to try and live positively with the effects of the climate changes that are not their making. It is only fair that their lives are not made any more difficult than they are now. We need commitment from the industrialized countries to owe up to their responsibility of having polluted extremely over their years. We need them to put money on the table to help the farmers like Shumba and others to accesses advanced irrigation schemes. They should as well cut their emission to avoid worsening the situation."
The third young woman doing it for her planet is Gemma Borgo-Caratti, the NSW Coordinator of AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition). She tweets as @beyondthinice and her concerns about Antarctica can be shared on her website Changing today for tomorrow. You will find her Durban blogs posts there too, as well on the AYCC website. She too has a message of hope:
"There are hundreds of young people here, all for the same reason – action on climate change is increasingly urgent, and it will only be successful with a strong global effort.
In Australia we’ve made some great steps in the right direction this year, with a price on carbon being passed and a commitment to greater investment in renewable energy. But this progress can’t be left at home in Australia. We need our Government to show ambition and leadership here in Durban, and help inject momentum into the negotiations." What would you do in Durban?.
Of course there are scores of young Gen Y men championing climate justice at Durban and beyond. Highlighting young women is a matter of balance. At last count there were only four women amongst the leaders of the G20 nations.