Introducing the next eco-warriors

Derrick O’Keefe writes:

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s indigenous president, has said that the challenge of the 21st century is to respect and restore the rights of Mother Earth. And the stakes are high. Ultimately, the fate of our species — and millions of others — hangs in the balance.

Already, thousands of young people worldwide have woken up to their historic task, as the first decade of this century has seen the rise of the climate justice movement. For many among this new generation, the December 2009 UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen was a rude awakening.

Preceded by years of grassroots and civil society demands for the adoption of an ambitious, legally binding global plan to reduce fossil fuel emissions, legions of young activists arrived in Copenhagen full of hope that they could be part of making real change. But something was rotten in Denmark. Circumventing and ignoring not just global civil society, but most of the world’s governments, U.S. President Obama and a handful of the other biggest polluting nations met behind closed doors and declared the “Copenhagen Accord.”

For Emily Hunter, daughter of Greenpeace founder Robert Hunter and an experienced environmental activist in her own right, this was a moment when “hope was nothing more than a distant dream.” Hunter is the editor of new collection of essays, The Next Eco-Warriors: 22 Young Women and Men Who Are Saving the Planet.

In her introductory essay, she explains that after the shocking disappointment of the “Accord” forced through by the world’s most powerful politicians in Copenhagen, her hopes were rekindled by demonstrating in the streets with other young people:

“I came to realize that with the failure of Copenhagen came an opportunity. An opportunity to build a movement that was not just focused on events like this summit, but also on a generation’s actions. An opportunity for a movement that is more global, inclusive, and stronger than ever before.”

The activist testimonials collected in The Next Eco-Warriors provide a sketch of the breadth and dynamism of this incipient movement.

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