Friday, December 9, 2011

Abigail Borah stands up for the planet

The Occupy movement has developed the mic check as a way of communicating democratically when no other sound is allowed (as in Zuccotti Park). Mic check also announces its presence critically to pompous capitalists and government officials. One is mistaken not to see the inspiration of this movement – and of Mohamed Bouazizi and Arab spring – in the far reaches of protest, of asserting decency. For instance, Wednesday in Durban, South Africa, Abigail Borah, a Middlebury College student, emulated Asmaa Mahfouz of Egypt in February. See here and here. Mahfouz spoke eloquently of the need to protest the police beating and murder of a teenager on Facebook. Borah stood up to challenge the Obama administrator’s liar and staller of any reasonable agreement at the global climate change conference in Durban. Her words were met with "wide applause." When she was led out by the authorities, so was the truth.

The poor official, with no sense of his own humiliation and discrediting, let it all happen, self-concerned, let Borah be escorted out. He could easily have stopped it.

He had the same relationship to the truth as Democratic Governors and Mayors like Jean Kwan and Michael Hancock and John Hickenlooper or University administrators like Linda Katehi of the University of California at Davis, letting the police spray nonviolent protestors with toxins. Borah stood up, a lone woman, her presence terrifying to him and to the gendarmes of the 1%. "Make her go away," he thought. But she had already spoken. Her ideas named what everyone thought. They occupied the conference...

In liberated South Africa, the police are not, despite the best efforts of American companies chasing cash, heavily militarized. And the conference was also no setting – against a lone women speaking to great applause – for police violence.

“Seen and not heard,” he might have thought. No, Abigail Borah’s words electrified the conference, and moved out, despite the curtain of silence in the commercial media – I refer especially to the decadence of the New York Times - to the planet. Was there bigger news Thursday than this?

In addition, women are often path-breaking leaders – consider Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Yet it is unusual for a young woman, still in college, to rise up and tell the truth about the dangers posed to the planet by the 1%, the deadlocked American Congress (deadlocked through oil money, the sociopath Karl Rove snickering while the world roasts…)* Obama knows the truth but is unwilling to go down, politically, in flames (leaving the world to flame…). Keep our hope alive, she says, capturing the turn of phrase of Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama…

Here are her words:

"I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot. The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty. 

You must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world's most vulnerable. 

You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions. You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations. Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.
 
We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric. Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait."

It is unusual, of course, for a young man (or any man) to display this kind of courage and integrity. The ripples of Mohamed Bouazizi flow outward in continuously amazing and innovative ways.

US College Student Shames US Climate Delegation in Durban

Abigail Borah, a Middlebury College student and climate activist from the United States, was ejected from a plenary session at the COP17 climate summit this morning after interrupting introductory remarks by US chief negotiator, Todd Stern.

Middlebury College student from the US, Abigail Borah, is led away by security officials after interrupting US Climate Negotiator, Todd Stern, at the COP17 climate conference in Durban. (Photos: Josh Lopez & Shadia Fayne Wood | Project Survival Media)Her statement, which was met with wide applause from the crowd, read as follows:

"I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot. The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long. I am scared for my future. 2020 is too late to wait. We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty.

You must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world's most vulnerable.

You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions. You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations. Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.

We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric. Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait."

SustainUSA, where Borah has worked according to her facebook page, released a statement highlighting the urgency of Borah's message and pushing the US delegation in particular to heed the warnings of climage scientists:

Since before the climate talks, the United States has held off on the necessary emissions reductions targets until the year 2020. Studies from the International Energy Agency, the UNEP, and countless other peer-reviewed scientific papers show that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction would cause irreversible climate change, including heightened tropical storms, worsening droughts, and devastation affecting communities and businesses from Africa to America. Nevertheless, the United States has held strong to its woefully inadequate and voluntary commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord and Cancun Agreement.

[...]

The U.S. continues to negotiate on time borrowed from future generations and with every step of inaction, forces young people to solve the quickly exacerbating climate challenges that previous generations have been unable and unwilling to address.

Borah travelled to Durban and gave an earlier address to United Nations negotiators at the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on behalf of the International Youth Climate Movement (IYCM), but it appears that this action was done in her own name, and on behalf of the planet.

*Nero at least could fiddle...


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