Now was probably a pretty bad time to admit that I was burnt out. Anyone who has ever reached burn out will understand that necessary tasks like reading an article to having a conversation with someone becomes a lot more challenging.
Panic set in; did I come all this way for nothing? Could someone better have taken my place?
I realised that this was something I needed to face and there were 500 other climate activists roaming around the campus with their own stories of challenges of even getting a visa to be here.
In the weeks prior to Global Power Shift, I worked hard at thinking of ways a campaign focusing on fossil fuel divestment could build a stronger student climate network in the UK – accelerating into that movement we’ve all been waiting for. Was I saying the right things? Coming up with the right ideas? What if I say something stupid and blow the whole thing?
Luckily, Global Power Shift was a safe haven for all people of different energy levels, levels of involvement and understanding, ethnic background, cultural, political and religious beliefs to the colour of your skin and sexual orientation. We were all welcome and in this together.
I decided to follow the Power Shift wind which led me into conversations I never imagined having – talking about Shell’s destructive path on a young woman’s home town in Jordan, how social media has been a key tool in being part of this movement for activists in Eygpt and finding out that people from Barbados had Irish accents.
I learnt a lot of new facts but one thing that really struck me is that our global young generation are a lot more similar than I originally thought. We are all fighting for freedom, transparency, democracy and justice, whether it’s putting our bodies in front of tree logging machinery, lobbying policy makers or strategizing and mobilising young people in our own country to take action. Together we are the rotating cogs on an intricate piece of technology (so advanced it has yet to be invented).
This is the first time I believed we could make a pretty good stab at winning this thing.
After lengthy sessions, returning back to my UK friends to reflect on what we can take home to share with everybody else, I saw my fears were shared. Our biggest worries lay in the golden opportunity to build a massive climate movement back home and not fuck it up. How do we reach out to people who don’t normally identify themselves as climate activists and who are we to tell them that they should join us? How can we communicate with our communities, grassroots groups and cultural centres that they can keep doing all the amazing things that they are doing as long as they relate to and feed into one common message; End the extraction, demand and consumption of Fossil Fuels?
On one of the last evenings as I made my way to the Arts Café (a beautiful spot on campus built for us by local activists) for open mic night, we were communicating in ways that would never be possible digitally. Individuals stood up and sang songs from their countries in front of friends who were strangers just 4 days earlier. I listened to Pakistani love songs, Malaysian pop and Kenyan dance music with each performance respected as the last.
Then it clicked; our culture. Something that we can identify with, bond with people who share it or who it interests and something we want to preserve from the dangers of climate change, like our friends in the South Pacific Islands. I know that if I hear any ‘diddly aye’ music, you’ll find me on the next bar stool giving a classical rendition of Riverdance. My heritage is something I choose to be proud of.
Throughout Global Power Shift, I re-energised and built friendships around dance, music and art and that is something I want to return to the exhausted and frustrated movement in the UK. Whether we are cheering at the 6 activists making it to the top of The Shard or sharing Mate tea with a local South American group in the suburbs of London, we are all in this together.
The science is on our society, it’s time for our society to unite and Shift the Power.