The UN, The World We Want, Protecting Everything

Tonight I had the honor of participating in the United Nations Association of the United States Historic Discourse on The World We Want to help contribute ideas to the UN’s post-2015 agenda right here in Iowa City IA.

It was probably one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I know now I have contributed and will keep striving for a better world. More so, I know now anyone can contribute, because if I can, you can.

It started by us signing in and finding our table. When we RSVP’d, we had to choose three possible topics to discuss. I choose education, equality of women and men, and protecting the forests, rivers, and oceans. When I got there I found out I was put in the Protecting the forests, rivers, and oceans group, which I quickly dubbed the Protecting Everything.

I was the first to my table, so I sat down somewhat nervously. I was expecting the rest of the table to fill up with older people. I probably would not relate to these people and just have to sit back and listen to them and make sure they didn’t say or decide something really stupid. I was surprised though when another younger girl sat down and I quickly found out she was a student at the University of Iowa also. Then the next person came, who was also a student. Finally, when the last two people joined us, to my surprised it turned out they were recent graduates! We were all 30 and under, and I knew then this was not going to be anything I expected.

It turned out everyone at my table was part of the Enviromental Sciences or planning somehow and had a degree related to that. This made the dynamic interesting considering I am a painting major. After eating dinner, we all introduced ourselves and why we were there. Everyone had a deep passion for the environment and love for all the natural ecosystems, so quickly we realized their would be little conflict within our group. Of course, everyone wants to protect the environment and we were going to figure out how.

So for the hour or so we discussed, led by a list of questions everyone had to answer, and typed up our notes to send to the UN. It was almost like any group project at the University, and distinctly reminded me of the Intro to Sustainability course I took a couple years back. We talked about analyzing systems and how they can be improved, how do we assign value to resources we don’t use, and what regulations need to be put in place. The discussion was diverse and many many many ideas shot around the table, and we definitely were one of the highest energy groups in the room. Our reporter was typing furiously to get it all down, but she did with grace and her words when read back to us were eloquent.

Some of the major points we came up with was promoting an implementation of a Grey Water System, creating No Development Zones around watersheds, promoting sustainable forestry in already forested areas, creating quotas for fishing, farming, logging that directly correlate with is x amount of land/resources is used y amount must not be used, and implementing these based on ecological systems instead of political borders, because this is a Human problem, not just one countries.

Then I made the fatal mistake of speaking up by asking “Who is going to present all this” which instantly got me nominated. I begrudgingly agreed, for I have severe stage fright, and I didn’t not want to make a fool of myself by freezing up in front of a 100 some people. It was a challenge though, and I wanted to do this for the group and for the nature I love so dear.

I sat with the group and wrote out what I would say for our 3-4 minute speech, and practiced in my head leading up when I got up there. I came up with a great joke, but I knew I had to go after the climate change group to pull it off. Serendipitously, I did.  I got up there and said “Pretty much ditto to everything climate change said,” which started it all out with a laugh. I went on to explain why my group chose me, because I was an artist and they felt I could explain everything better than a bunch of Environmental Scientists – to which I got another laugh. I then explained what I described above of our ideas and issues and it went by like a blur. One of the last questions the UN wanted us to answer was “Is this a human rights issue?” so I ended my speech with “As to if this is a human right’s issue, well if we do not have any trees or clean water, their will be no humans to give rights to.” That is where I ended it, for it felt like such a powerful statement to leave it off.

I got a hearty clap, and everyone seemed happy with my speech, and I was just a rush of adrenaline. I hope the UN listens to some of our ideas and I hope more people participate in this process. The powers of the UN want everyone’s voice to be included as much as it can, and everyone should use their voice.
If you want to be involved with The World We Want project go to: can vote on different ideas and follow the progress of this project.

Thanks for reading and sharing my experience with me!