Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Unsupported leadership: Day Ten at UN Climate Change Forum

As a child I was taught to respect and honour leaders. I think most children are taught to respect authority. But as a faith leader in an increasingly secularizing context, I am well aware that institutions no longer illicit respect.

Hon. Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of Environment, made his statement at the high level segment of the UN Climate Change Forum in Durban, South Africa. As Mr. Kent began his address attention was drawn to the front row of the observer’s gallery. A row of youth stood and removed their garments uncovering white t-shirts that portrayed their disgust at Canada’s hesitancy to support the Kyoto Protocol. Media scuffled to get the image as the youth stood unmoving in silent protest.

Eventually security ushered the peaceful protest out of the building. Kent continued his statement but his words were unheard through the loud supportive applause by the crowd. With the clap of their hands the crowd stood in solidarity with the disillusioned youth.

I was drawn by the expression of one of the young men standing in protest: a look of determined defiance. It wasn’t a glare of angry rebellion. It was the face of one driven by regret: opposition propped by sadness.

What would cause these youth to express such displeasure? Some would dismiss them as misinformed idealistic youth. But having witnessed the articulate and researched presentations that have consistently characterised their statements, such a dismissal is indefensible.

For some reason the youth have lost faith in their leaders. So they are taking back their future. There is a feeling that such an irreplaceable commodity as the future cannot be entrusted to those willing to gamble with it.

And so they did what they thought they needed to do. They disrespected their leaders in order to preserve their integrity. It was a sullen display of disenchantment.

“Kyoto is in the past,” stated Kent. But the delegation of the future clearly seemed to disagree.

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