The following is the prepared speech of remarks made by Anjali Appadurai, a student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine, as she addressed the COP17 climate conference in Durban, South Africa on behalf of youth delegates. Just after her speech, she led a mic check from the stage — a move inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests:
I speak for more than half the world’s population.
We are the silent majority. You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table.
What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money? You have been negotiating all of my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.
But you’ve heard this all before.
We’re in Africa, home to communities on the frontline of climate change. The world’s poorest countries need funding for adaptation NOW. The Horn of Africa, and those nearby in KwaMashu needed it yesterday.
But as 2012 dawns, our Green Climate Fund remains empty. The IEA tells us that we have five years until the window to avoid irreversible climate change closes. The science tells us that we have five years, MAXIMUM. You’re saying: give us ten.
The most stark betrayal of your generation’s responsibility to ours is that you call this AMBITION. Where is the courage in this room? Now is not the time for incremental action. In the long run, these will be seen as the defining moments of an era in which narrow self-interest prevailed over science, reason, and common compassion.
There is real ambition in this room but it’s been dismissed as radical, deemed not “politically possible”. Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation and to condemn millions to death by climate change. What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach. Stand with Africa. 2011 was the year in which the silent majority found their voice, the year when the bottom shook the top, 2011 was the year when the radical became reality.
Common but differentiated and historical responsibility are NOT up for debate. Respect the foundational principles of this Convention. Respect the integral values of humanity. Respect the future of your descendants.
Mandela said “it always seems impossible, until it’s done.”
So, distinguished delegates and governments of the developed world: deep cuts now. Get it done. To wild applause from the audience, Anjali then stepped away from the podium. As delegates took their seats, the youth remained standing.
Dropping the pages of her prepared speech on the floor, Anjali cupped her hands over her mouth and screamed: Mic check. Fifty or so young people echoed back:
Equity now. Equity now!
You’ve run out of excuses. You’ve run out of excuses.
And we’re running out of time. And we’re running out of time.
Get it done. Get it done.
Get it done. Get it done.
Get it done! Get it done!