Six inspiring young people got the unique chance to work as Young Reporters at COP 24 in Poland last month. All of them found the conference to be inspiring, educational and a little overwhelming. Nevertheless, they did an amazing job conducting interviews, attending sessions and representing the YRE programme at this highly important conference on climate change. Below are the personal accounts of two of the participants, Martina and Wesley, who both look back at the COP with new energy and inspiration.
Visit Exposure to see all the articles and interviews created by the Young Reporters during COP 24.
Martina Mifsud, Malta:
I went into COP24 anxious, nervous and on edge.
I came out of COP24 ecstatic, enriched and fulfilled.
COP24 was easily one of those priceless experiences that you can never really replace. It was a week filled with knowledge sharing, opinion discussing, and idea shaping. And it was only possible through the active participation of each of the 20,000 observers, panelists, youth activists and NGO representatives. Collectively, it was a goldmine, bringing together so many different people under one roof (except when the sessions were in area G, because that was at the other end of the planet).
Everyone; from young to old, from developed and developing countries, gender and ethnicity disregarded, had the opportunity to participate and voice our opinion, and the thing which truly impressed me was the receptiveness of the people, and they were not shy to say what was on their mind. Of course, not everyone agreed to everything that was said, but everyone respected what was said. There were sessions with great speakers and not so great speakers, but the information available was all rich and useful. Even the observers themselves spoke out, asked questions, argued frugally when needed and discussed opinions. It was one whole body at COP, and no one was left outside the circle. Not the shy last-row observer during the first session, not the easily judged indigenous woman during the second session, not the speaker discussing so openly about things usually hushed in the third session, and, most definitely, not us three young reporters, who formed an inseparable bond during those five days, and who together with our dearest Kristina, represented YRE International for the said week. COP was filled with good people with good intentions, each keen to share knowledge and spread positivity (and, where needed, potential defeatism).
I do not have words which sum up my experience- and I am absolutely thrilled that I was the first Maltese person given this opportunity to represent my country at COP. There is nothing which I can use to describe how this week has been for me- except that I feel that it will have an impact on all of my future decisions. I would like to wholeheartedly thank Young Reporters for the Environment International for the opportunity, Ms. Audrey Gauci for being there from day one, our dearest Ms. Kristina Madsen for her patience and much needed help during that week, and my fellow reporters; Lovely from Canada, and Wesley from Singapore. It would not have been possible without you!
Wesley Poh, Singapore:
Looking back, my experience at COP24 has been incredibly memorable. There was nothing I had done in the past or could have done prior to arriving in Katowice to fully prepare myself for the level of activity going on at the conference — there was always a side event going on, an interesting session on the intersection between climate change and one of the many other scourges of humanity being held, a networking event to meet and learn from inspiring activists all over the world and countless interview opportunities as you walk down the numerous hallways around the venue.
Yet, even amidst the madness, I find myself having grown so much both as a budding environmental reporter and simply as an informed, global citizen of the world. At the conference, because our party of YRE reporters was constrained to a small number of three individuals, I had no other choice but to be forthcoming in asking extremely distinguished panelists questions about their views. The stresses of the environment also meant that when I did manage to get interviews, I had to conduct them with a discerning mind by asking insightful questions to get the most of the short amount of time we had together. This in my view made the experience at COP24 a lot more meaningful than the capacity building training we had in Lisbon eight months ago as I could not rely on the work of my teammates if I encountered difficulties. In a way, I’d like to think that if you as a journalist survive COP, then that in itself is a huge achievement. In my view, not much else is harder than covering COP as a young reporter for the environment.
Finally, the experience at COP24 has undeniably broadened my mind. It has taught me to analyse issues holistically and to avoid using reductionist tendencies like oversimplifying complex problems just for the sake of easy understanding. For instance, I had initially planned to do one article solely on climate change and poverty, and the other solely on climate change and gender equality. Within the first two days of the conference however, it became glaringly apparent that the interactions between such issues cannot be cleanly defined. There is no absolute division between the problems of poverty and access to water; nor between indigenous rights and loss of biodiversity or between health and gender equality. The realities are a lot more complicated than most of us are comfortable with, but this should not intimidate us.
Krakow and Katowice now have a special place in my heart, and shout-out to my ridiculously capable groupmates Lovely and Martina for always being there when things got a little too overwhelming. I’d also like to thank Kristina, who was always very supportive in guiding us throughout the four full days. Of course, I am indebted to YRE for giving me this unparalleled opportunity.
As I leave Poland today, I do so with a nourished mind, a full heart, and an inspired spirit.