The Road to Rio+20

Time to bring this blog back to life! What a great opportunity to do so as I embark on the road to Rio+20. So, what is Rio+20? Rio+20 is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (a.k.a Earth Summit…yeah this conference has many names). More specifically, the conference is titled “+20,” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

1992: I was 3 years old and learning how to write my name while the UN developed sustainable development goals.

2012: Marisol +20. Graduate student traveling to Rio. Hopeful that the UN will develop, implement, and meet sustainable development goals.

What’s the difference? Not much, honestly. Twenty years have passed and the Rio+20s (the babies of the 1992 era) are inheriting a world with many wicked problems. I believe that the root cause of inequality and conflict is due to the lack of strong environmental management and leadership. Additionally, I also believe that change is created from the bottom up: grassroots.

So, why am I going to Rio+20? To amplify the voices of  youth in the environmental justice movement and share my community’s story. To get a close look at how sustainable development is framed in negotiations/discussions and try to influence the outcomes Rio+20 with other colleagues.

One of the sustainable development themes I am interested in following at the negotiations is the idea of moving beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to Gross National Happiness (GNH), which was developed and implemented in Bhutan. GNH takes into account social, environmental, and economic indicies such as education, health, democracy and ecological well-being, thus making this measurement more holistic. My hope is that a concrete plan on developing and implementing measurements for sustainable development include this integrated approach.

This is my first time traveling to South America. I am very excited to arrive in Brazil and work with global youth towards The Future We Want: A Sustainable World.

Have to catch my flight, boarding time!


Written by Marisol in: Environment |

Youth Sit-In at COP15!

Since 5pm, a group of approximately 20 youth from across the globe started a sit-in inside of the Bella Center outside of the Plenary and continue to stay put. They are reading the names of 12 million people who want a fair and just climate treaty as well as transparency in the process. Among them, my friend Lisa Curtis.

Sen. John Kerry passed by and greeted the youth sitting-in as well as other delegates.

Please help spread the word. Let the whole world know we want real long-term solutions!

Live stream: http://www.powershift09.org/live

Videos by Sustain Us

UN security told youth that if they do not leave now, then they will be arrested and civil society will not be allowed to come into the building Thursday or Friday. Group has agreed to walk out to allow the few civil society has been guaranteed for Thursday and Friday.

Statement will be delivered outside.


Reclaim Power: The People’s Assembly

With access restricted to NGOs, no transparency in the UN negotiations, absurd emission target proposals that would rise emissions to 770ppm by the year 2100, and two decades of people organizing for environmental justice, the people took it to the streets…and to Bella Center!
Chanting “Reclaim Power,” hundreds of people from all over the world participated in this action to send the message to the UN and the World that real solutions are not discussed in the climate negotiations and the people are completely left out of the process.

Even though some NGOs were given the secondary badge to access the Bella Center today, Friends of the Earth were denied access to the center without any given reason. They sat in for two hours by registration and credentials desk until Yvo de Boer came by and said he wouldn’t listen to them until they act civilized and stop insulting him.

Quiet honestly, the ones that need to be civilized are the ones negotiating our future! There is nothing civilized about letting small island states submerge in water or allowing the continuation of emissions that not only harm the environment but also public health.

The people are fed up with the injustice and want long-term solutions not false solutions that continue to increase the gap between the rich and poor.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the UN negotiations because access was further restricted despite the fact that I have the proper accreditation and second badge. However, I did ride the train with Kat and Brenna and got off one stop down from Bella Center. We got a great view of the Reclaim the Power action and I got footage of it. We rode the train about four times…trying to figure out what to do next since we couldn’t enter Bella Center and the Reclaim the Power action was blocked by approximately 20 police vans/busses from all sides. During those four rides, we took pictures and video of the action.

Check it out: Reclaim Power! The People’s Assembly

(I will try posting a high quality version of this soon. Pardon the awful pixels for the meantime).

Video from the inside of Bella Center
by TreehuggerTV

Other videos of Reclaim Power action
by naturerights


Youth let down not once, but twice!

With tension building up in all directions at COP15, access to the center is being reduced to NGOs Tuesday and Wednesday, 1000 civil society members on Thursday and only 90 on Friday. Additionally, the G77 walked out of negotiations at noon yesterday causing a suspension. With that being said, I was eager to ask Yvo de Boer and Connie Hedegaard what they thought about G77 suspending the negotiations. What are the next steps? I also wanted to take the opportunity to ask a question in regards to why there is no international talk and action taken in regards to Climate Change and public health?

Due to last week’s experience waiting in line to enter the room for a high-level meeting with Yvo de Boer, I was determined to arrive early outside the room to secure a good seat for filming and was lucky that I was the first in line since a big crowd down the hall was going CRAZY over Al Gore walking by. Thankfully, I did not have to deal with the claustrophobic feeling of being shoved into the room by people behind me since security organized entrance better than previous events. I had the perfect seat at the front and was ready with my video camera to record the meeting especially since Linh Do, a fellow UNEP TUNZA youth advisory council representative for Australia was chosen to moderate the meeting.

The plan was for a 30 minute meeting. 15 minutes passed by and many youth in the room started to get concerned. 5 minutes later a UN staff member told us that Yvo De Boer and Connie Hedegaard were running late and still in a meeting. Finally, the UN staff member received a call notifying her to cancel the event. I understand that an unexpected walk out by G77 countries occurred at the negotiations, but if they both had to meet, strategize, and resolve the dilemma in negotiations, they should have sent someone to notify UN staff to cancel the meeting before so many youth went out of their way to wait in line and attend this high level meeting.

I was not too upset about this yesterday. However, today I got an email from the UNFCCC secretariat stating that the high level meeting with Ban Ki-Moon was rescheduled to Thursday evening! First of all, who will even get to this meeting with further access restricted for NGOs that day. It is almost guaranteed that no one in our delegation will have access on Thursday, much less on Friday. Additionally, the majority of Youth will not be in attendance. How does UNFCCC plan to distribute the secondary badges aka “yellow badges” amongst NGOs? Why are they doing this in the first place? Perhaps, due to security reasons and heads of state arriving. However, having 90 civil society members on Friday is just unacceptable! That is not being transparent at all. It is being exclusive. This is not a conference for the people. It is more a conference about economic benefit than it is about paying an ecological debt, human rights. In short: Money>People. Throughout COP15, the admiration of youth organizing kept being highlighted with comments from high level figures such as “inspirational youth” or “It’s great to see a large number of youth involved here.” However, they fail to understand our message that we want a strong deal with 350ppm and human rights included in the text. We do not need to be complimented on how great youth organizers we are. What we need is for them to act with us.


Where are our Human Rights in the Climate negotiations?

Over the course of the past four days at the climate negotiations, I have not had enough “Marisol time” to reflect on what has been going on in Copenhagen. At the very least, I would like to see in the final negotiations a legally binding agreement to reduce CO2 levels to 350ppm. The survival of many people is in negotiators hands. To be honest, that really scares me. I feel that the people most affected by climate change are often ignored when the countries that made the mess will be less impacted by climate catastrophe than small island states.

Yesterday, I participated in a youth “rainstorm” action at the Bella Center, reflective of the fact that together we can make a loud peaceful statement that we will not die silently and demand a legally binding agreement to reduce CO2 to 350ppm. At this action, a young girl from the Maldives spoke about how her island state is being affected by sea level rise as a result of climate change. She stated that even though 2 degrees increase in temperature may not seem too much of a change, it really does mean drastic change that may submerge the island. Listening to her testimony was very emotional for me. I had knowledge of the Maldives and other small island states that are facing the burden of climate change the hardest. However, hearing a live testimony from a climate justice youth activist is much more personal, more real, it is a first hand account.
Here’s a link to a video of our action:

Bringing it back home, I feel that communities impacted by the coal industry are also often ignored. Yes, federal government has made a big step by suing Midwest Generation, an Edison International company that owns six coal power plants in Illinois, including the Crawford plant in Little Village and Fisk Plant in Pilsen. However, we still need to wait and see what will be the outcome of this lawsuit.

With the new finding that green house gasses are a threat to public health. What will be done to address public health? People living near coal power plants are most impacted by air pollutants that lead to respiratory illness and premature deaths. People living in Appalachia are severely affected by black lung disease due to coal extraction, mining, and coal waste dumped into local rivers/valleys. Who are these people? Low income, African-American, and Latino. I’m from Little Village, a predominantly Mexican-American community. I live four blocks away from the Crawford coal power plant and I refuse to be labeled just as a “statistic”. I am a human and I deserve to breathe clean air! If politicians like coal so much, why don’t they put one in their backyard?

Some people may ask, “Well if it is so dangerous, why do you continue to live there?” When that is the only place your family can afford, you do not have the luxury of a choice.

Crawford Coal Power Plant. Photograph by Paul L. Meredith

Crawford Coal Power Plant. Photograph by Paul L. Meredith

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