COP26 with Anna: Day 1

I wrote this while at COP26 and am publishing them now with no edits after the fact. I hope it gives some insight, whether that’s emotional or educational. At the time of writing, I wasn’t planning for anyone to read it so it’s not packed full of facts or quotes as my blog posts would usually be. I write my journal as though I’m talking to someone. an unknown entity. I’ve never known who. This is educational more from a personal perspective rather than from an environmental one. It’s proof that climate activists are human beings with human emotions, which I feel is often forgotten about in the media.

“Today I arrived in Glasgow by boat and bus, having not slept the night before. The sea was rough, causing delays, and the slight fear and apprehension I felt were directly proportional to both slight nausea from the boat and the anxiety of going to COP26.

Firstly, let me get something clear: I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish I could not miss university lectures or freshers events or work shifts to travel across the border during a global pandemic to a conference. But this is necessary. The climate crisis is terrifying and people on the front lines are dying every day, and so 2 weeks is nothing compared to what MAPA (most affected people and areas) are experiencing. 

I dropped my huge rucksack off at our accommodation and went straight to the MAPA Press conference. The press and police almost outnumbered the activists as we got to the location overlooking the SEC and the River Clyde at sunset. This press conference was to give MAPA the space to talk about their experiences on the front lines of the climate crisis and to say what they wanted to say about COP in a space where they would be listened to, everyone else was there for security and to offer solidarity.

The press were abhorrent in how they acted. MAPA were ignored consistently and the media focused their cameras on the white, European activists for most of the press conference. These are the people we should be listening to: the people on the front lines of the climate crisis, with lived experiences, and who will be disproportionately affected. 

As me and my friend Flint sat on the floor as contributors to the line of security, a reporter stepped right over the top of us and shoved a camera in people’s faces. After telling them to step away multiple times, we had to step in and attempt to remove them physically. The police just watched them shove us. We are mainly teenagers, we don’t deserve to be disrespected and physically hurt as we protect our friends. 

Once Greta arrived, this increased exponentially. It took MAPA shouting to listen to them and white activists shouting to listen to MAPA for a long time for the press to turn their cameras on the MAPA people giving speeches. It was blatant rudeness on the reporters’ part to ignore people speaking into a microphone. these were some of the rawest, most powerful speeches I have ever heard. I cried.

At one point, Greta was upset so we hugged. What else does a friend do? As I attempted to comfort my friend, the same journalist from earlier bruised my arm as they tried to get Greta in the shot that I was ruining. This isn’t right and it’s not OK for the press to treat us as though we aren’t human. She is just 18, let her live her life and treat her with basic respect.

Afterward, we had a Fridays for future chill meeting where we ate hot vegan soup and bread, and of course, drank Irn Bru. It was good to debrief, warm up and talk to people from all over the world that I’ve only seen on zoom calls. The day ended on a more content note.

Published by Anna Kernahan

I’m a youth climate justice activist from Ireland

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