As a teaser of what’s to come, I want to introduce you to Vositha Wijenayake- a daring, talented, and refreshingly candid environmental activist I have recently come to know. Vositha lives and works in Sri Lanka, where she is getting her LLM degree through the University of London as a correspondence student, she’s a part-time French lecturer, the executive coordinator for a youth organization called the Sri Lankan Youth Climate Action Network, and a self-professed “Green Freak.” And, she’s lovely- passionate, fun, generous, and one of those people that just won’t settle until they see the world change for the better.
I first discovered Vositha thru her blog (linked below) because she reposted a speech she gave at a recent UN climate change negotiation session that was somewhat blustery, emotional, and candid. In her speech, Vositha shares the following real-life vignette- just the kind of non-fiction that makes me tear up but also drives me to action. I think you’ll love her words, and I can’t wait to tell you more about her experiences in posts to come. (And yes, I hope to highlight Vositha’s Madlivian friend soon as well…) I’ve trimmed this only slightly, just for length-
I was at the 15TH Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC, chilling out, when one of my friends from Maldives walked in crying. If you recall the summit held in Copenhagen it was one with a huge crowd and my friend always gets confused for a 15 year old. So for a moment I thought someone might have done something to scare her… So I ask her for the cause of her distress, and she goes “our countries is not in the globe.”
For a moment I was confused. I thought she was talking out of trauma or something. I realised a few seconds later that she was referring to this huge globe that they had placed within the conference premises and people walk past on a daily basis.
She was crying because Maldives was missing on that globe… For me, it was something that might seem funny. Sure, the dot it missing in the globe, but Sri Lanka is still on the globe! I mean “ the” globe. But for those who are facing peril, on a daily basis, it is not a joke. For them it was a matter of personal attachment. Their country is drowning, and will eventually NOT be on that globe, if some substantial measures were not to be taken. And the little dot that was missing on that globe, well it did mean something more than a dot to them.
So my friend Shehan, who was wiser than I, took a marker, went and put the dot on that globe, where Aisha pointed out her country should be. And that made her happy.
But the question is, can we solve the real problem, the problems of all who suffer of a similar plight, not their country being missed on a globe, but suffering of real threat to lose their homes… I would have loved to have told her that it was a task as easy as that. But as you and I both know, it is not.
Find Vositha’s speech in its entirety, as well as her blog, here- http://vositha.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/youth-for-climate-change-solutions-transcript-of-speech-delivered-at-tedx/