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“Twenty Somethings” of the World Unite

(Prepared at COP 16 in Cancun, Mexico). Mickey Glantz. 8 December 2010

This is a quick note (that is, I wrote it as if I were speaking to someone) that was first sent to the group of students who participated in the First International Graduate Conference on Climate Change and People” held 15-19 November in Kathmandu, Nepal. I have been learning a lot (see, old people can still learn!) being at the COP16 side event, though I was not there as an active negotiator. Negotiations that have occurred in the first week may end up having little to do with what will happen in the second week (now in progress) when the Ministers’ level gets involved in negotiations. They are likely less familiar with the details and nuances of climate change science and its impacts that the negotiators have been dealing with and they are more political I believe than most of their national negotiators.

Anything can happen, as the COP 16 comes to a close in a few days. One thing is sure: The USA Congress will continue to be an obstacle. The Congress will be hindered by several members so conservative (anti-science and into religious fundamentalism {the earth was created 6000 years ago, so they believe!} and that means that, for the USA, the local communities will carry the burden of addressing climate change causes and consequences on their own time, energy and money.

As you know, the core problem of global warming (that is, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation) is one involving a creeping phenomenon where today’s co2 levels are like yesterday’s and tomorrow’s levels will be like today’s. Like the frog in the boiling water analogy there is no indicator when a dangerous threshold of major change has been reached and is crossed and major troubles become visible and attributable to a warming atmosphere. NO GOVERNMENT DEALS WELL IN ADVANCE OF A CREEPING ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE, TILL IT IS LATE IN THE GAME. though scientists tell us there will be more extremes, it is hard to see that from day to day. Climate and weather records are being set somewhere every year.

Governments, the big ones especially, are backing into the future. How to turn them around to look into the future is the challenge that has faced older generations alive today and trying to get them to figure out how to cope with slow onset, incremental but accumulating adverse changes we are making to the Planet. As i proposed at the Nepal Small Earth Network-CCB conference, we need to come up with a “Plot to Save the Planet”… and soon. It seems that the plot will be up to the youth to develop, not the negotiators mired in detail.

I have come to realize, following the conference in Nepal and the firstfew days at COP16 that we have to re-think the concept of “youth”. It has different connotations to different people. Teens are youth to other people. People still in a university are considered youth by still others. To many, the young are small, child-like and harmless humans who are seldom listened to until they become adults: but, is that how young people want to be viewed regardless of age?


Definition of youth

noun plural: youths

1. the quality or condition of being young, immature, or inexperienced his youth told against him in the contest

2. the period between childhood and maturity, esp adolescence and early adulthood

3. the freshness, vigour, or vitality characteristic of young people youth shone out from her face

4. any period of early development the project was in its youth


I suggest that there be a decade-wise view of humans where youth are up to the teens (high school and early college years) and succeeding categories are to be branded as “twenty something”, the “thirty something”, the “forty something”, and so forth. One could argue that each of these age groups (age cohorts) are generally speaking more like each other in terms of knowledge, goals, enthusiasms, shared lived history, etc. than they are with their neighboring age groups. the lines separating the adjacent age groups are not sharply defined so there is some flexible overlap.

www.20somethinguniversity.com/ a social networking site

The above suggestion means that i am … gasp … among the ‘seventy somethings’, the age group with lots of information and experience but little to no power! The twenty somethings (with a degree of overlap with “youth”) are in the process of gaining knowledge, training and experience. They hold the keys to the safeguarding the future. They are young adults (i do not like this term as it labels them with a junior status) preparing to take on the world. They are no longer youth, playing in a sand box or youth in middle school, ignored for their thoughts. They are out in the real world. They are increasingly demanding to be listened to, still unencumbered by bureaucratic rules and regulations. So, youth, twenty something, thirty something, and so on, of the world unite and challenge those professing to want to save the planet’s atmosphere. Hold those age groups in front of you accountable.

Finally, I would also argue that the twenty somethings and the seventy somethings make the best allies: the former are gaining the tools that they need to bargain in life, while the latter have the experiences that can be used to mentor and guide them without expectation of personal gain.