The images of attendees you usually correspond to a United Nations conference are distinguished, veteran delegates, serious in stature and mood.
The recent U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa, hosted plenty of people fitting this description, but they were joined by a growing faction of passionate young activists.
Garnering much attention in the final days of the conference was Anjali Appadurai, a Canadian student at the College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, Me., and a member of the youth delegation at the U.N. summit. A representative in Durban to COA student group Earth in Brackets, she was selected to address the climate summit at a plenary Dec. 9.
Appadurai has gained much attention for her energized speech to the delegates, clamoring that they stop talking and start acting. She concluded her speech with a mic check, leading her peers in a chant of "Get it done! Get it done! Get it done!"
Appadurai was not alone in her feelings of impatience. The port city of Durban saw many youth speak out toward the inactivity plaguing much of the two-week conference's negotiations.
As top U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern was set to deliver his plenary speech to the U.N. delegation, Abigail Borah, a Middlebury College student, interrupted from the back of the room, stating "2020 is too late to wait," referring to plans to implement a new international emissions-reducing treaty by that date.
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The Occupy movement also made its way to Durban, with the group making their mock-U.N. session to discuss climate change.
Several Canadian youth activists even held a bake sale, in an attempt to have their government represent the interests of people, not corporations. Malkolm Boothroyd, 19, is quoted in the article, saying "Oil companies have bought Canada's climate change policy. We're holding a bake sale to buy back our future."
But the protests weren't limited to only to visitors. African youth from across the continent joined the Caravan of Hope as it made its journey toward South Africa. Others participated in a special session organized by UNICEF, with another group gathering on a nearby beach to form a lion's head, hoping the symbol would give delegates the courage to act against climate change.
Whether the climate leaders heed the demands of the youth remains to be seen, but it appears the their voice will only grow louder.