"The disaster is already in progress, but we have it in our power to end this injustice." -Desmond Tutu, COP15
I am writing from Copenhagen. It is 3 a.m. and I am filled with incredibly conflicting emotions.
I am surrounded by those who face the consequences of global warming every day—families who watched their homes disappear in flood waters, farmers who can no longer harvest their crops because of drought, and those who have lived peacefully but are facing strife as they watch their homeland’s natural resources deplete rapidly.
A debate about the existence of global warming denies the human experience and hardship of millions of people around the world.
However, I carry with me a great hope and faith. Last year, the United States came together. We stood defiant in our affirmation of our commitment to one another. We recognized our desperate need to be one country whose values and purpose would withstand the test of time.
Yet, we are at a crossroads. Barack Obama was elected with the promise of a clean-energy economy that would restore our economic power and affirm our place as part of a global community. He left no doubt that global warming was real and was a threat to our existence. People of faith joined with young and old, rich and poor. We stood together because we loved our country and we wanted it to be better. We heard a call to our highest selves.
Now, that feeling has faded for so many. The political reality of our current system has given way to disillusionment, and in moments like this, despair.
This moment calls us back into action. The election is not the end of the mission. Change can only be measured by the translation of values and promise into action. Hope is not enough. It must become change.
We are being called into service. The United States must take bold leadership in Copenhagen. We act not just for the mother who spoke from Africa, but for those in Oakland and Coal River Mountain who want to see their children thrive and have opportunity in their communities.
Desmond Tutu’s words in Copenhagen reminded us that we have an ability to stop the injustice.
We must stand strong in our values and commitment to one another. Change is not easy and cannot be measured only by election cycles.
We need to match rhetoric to results. And my hope is to see it here, now, in Copenhagen.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Phaedra is the CEO of Green For All, a national organization working to build access and opportunity for all communities in the clean-energy economy.