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COP26: Becoming Better Ancestors

The world needs you, and you, and you, and each and every one of us to operate together as an authentic community, built of genuine relationships and deep care for one another and our common home: Planet Earth. This communal leadership is what will change the world quickly. It did not, and will not, happen by the world leaders who convened at the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland during the first two weeks of November. Politicians motivated by capitalism, who view people as consumers rather than citizens, are not the solution.

I was there at the COP26 as an non-governmental (NGO) observer delegate with the U.S. Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) coalition. I shared in the intense feeling of disappointment, watching as very few change-making decisions were made, and feeling the weight and gravity of the moment as the world was watching Glasgow. It was an experience that will forever change my understanding of the actual impact climate change has on people globally, and the fight for real climate justice in the Global South in the midst of rampant carbon colonialism. It will be impossible for me to un-see.

Kyle Hill, University of North Dakota; Nicole Donaghy, North Dakota Native Vote; and Ashley Fairbanks, 100% Campaign (left to right); presenting during the People’s Summit for Climate Justice in Glasgow outside of the COP26 conference. They discussed their lived experiences as Indigenous people on Turtle Island (North America), current efforts to combat the climate crisis, climate resilience frameworks and challenges posed by settler-colonialism, extractive industries, capitalism and globalization along the way.

Forging new relationships with powerful articulate change makers was the most inspiring piece of the two-week global experience. Women from island countries, youth leaders from around the world, river and watershed protectors from Patagonia, Inuit scientists and activists from the Arctic Circle and climate educators from across America were just a few of the people I encountered. Their passion, authenticity, kindness and professionalism as effective advocates and activists was contagious and inspiring.

Building a new friendship with Germaine Umuraza, climate programme director for the World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, was a highlight of Sarah Johnson’s experience at COP26. Here they are standing in front of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals expressed in numerous world languages, including Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda where Germaine is from.

Here are a few things we can all do to take action now to join the global movement to work to create a future where ALL people are welcome, empowered and included in the race for climate solutions. Begin by asking yourself, “What type of ancestor do I want to be?” Write, draw, sing or dance the story you want to become. Tap into your deeper self and feed your soul some love; remind yourself that you are enough. You have what it takes to participate and be an active part of the community where you are. Then, start to seek out and listen to the stories that truly matter and tune out the noise that is so loud. Listen for climate science facts, as well as stories of people’s ambition and determination and communities fighting for justice. Amplify these stories. Join in authentic solidarity with someone not like yourself, from a different cultural background or ideology. Don’t just send money. Instead, learn their stories, feel their pain, hold their hand and walk alongside them fighting for a better future. Stay curious and full of wonder. Notice the beauty around you each and every day; be amazed by it and celebrate and share it with those you love.

Participants find profound connections during a People’s Summit for Climate Justice event at the GalGael in Glasgow. Sharing untold climate stories of extractivism, climate colonialism and community alternatives brought together people of Glasgow and global participants. Conversations centered around how one's lived stories and experiences shed light on the interplay between extractivist logics, climate emergency, colonialist responses and how community practices resist false solutions

By creating and leaning into a new story, the ripple effect begins. As the everyday narrative begins to evolve, so do the people who live and hear it. We become healthier, and so does the planet. We become hopeful, inspired and our ability to work toward real, active change becomes energized. We come together and build a community that is more grounded, trusting, full of life and genuinely connected. This connectedness builds power: power bigger than any one person can manifest by themselves; power to change the world as we know it. The power is within the people to create systems change and climate justice. We are what the world needs, power of the people, an unstoppable global movement. Read more about Sarah’s COP26 experience at


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