We are quite the misanthropes when it comes to climate change. We tell ourselves that this problem is too urgent, too complex, too heavy. We tell ourselves that there is no time for celebration, no time for congratulations – we must keep moving forward, onward, to the next campaign, to the nest mission requiring our urgent attention.

I agree. I recognize that this problem is so epic – we will never be done working. I know that pats on the back won’t directly solve climate change. But here’s the thing: working on these issues is heartbreaking and, quite frankly, absolutely terrifying.

What if we don’t succeed? I am constantly suppressing those thoughts, but I know that they’re there. Our lives become so intertwined with this cause that it is nearly impossible not to feel the hurt we know is both on its way and already here in vulnerable communities.

By dedicating our lives to climate change, we can oftentimes forget to take care of ourselves and of each other – by extension, a part of our planet.

We need to celebrate! We need to rejoice in our successes, acknowledge our efforts, support each other, and – most importantly – we need to remember to feel the deep love we have for the world. We must have the audacity to dream of a better world – and the audacity to love ourselves enough to work toward making it a reality.

People often dismiss self-care as being individualistic, but I think about self-care as both being a community practice and a reflection of the care we need to have for our world. We need to be conscious of how our souls are feeling, and how our well being is oftentimes a mirror for the health of our physical and spiritual environment.

Looking at past successful social justice movements, a common thread has been their sense of positivity. The civil rights movement, for example, had a commonly held belief that success was on the horizon. I can’t say the same about the climate justice movement – to be honest, most of us at COP21 are too busy dreading failure.

This needs to stop! We can be successful if we believe that it is possible. We can be successful if we love each other, if we take time away from COP computer screens and sterile conference centers to reconnect with the earth.

We need to celebrate how hard we are working here (even though it never feels like there are enough hours in the day). We need to rejoice in our media hits, our interventions, our actions, hugs, the incredibly awesome movement we are working to build within these halls and back home.


Leehi Yona

About Leehi Yona

Leehi is SustainUS’s Agents of Change program Co-Coordinator and Social Media lead for the COP21 delegation. An Israeli-Canadian from Montreal, Leehi is currently pursuing a double major in Environmental Studies and Biology and a minor in Public Policy at Dartmouth College. In addition to organizing Dartmouth’s fossil fuel divestment campaign, she helped organized PowerShift Canada and was a New Hampshire State Lead for PowerShift USA. She has attended COP and CSocD conferences as an Agent of Change through SustainUS, and co-led the CSocD-52 delegation in 2013. Leehi is passionate about the Arctic and has been researching Arctic Council policymaking as well as conducting climate science research in Greenland. A recipient of the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec’s Youth Medal, Leehi was recently named Canada’s Top Environmentalist Under 25. She loves to paint Impressionist art, make pottery, and witness the Arctic’s endless daylight.

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