Kristen Lu

Updated: Jul 10, 2021

The sky in Los Angeles is not blue. It hasn't been for years. It's muddied by a muted shade of grayish-brown, the result of years of reckless atmospheric pollution. In recent years, that brown has started to transition to an ominous shade of orange around August, the result of wildfires dotting the region.

My hometown is particularly vulnerable to the threat of fire. On our tiny peninsula, sunshine yellow mustard weed grows tall in the spring and dries to a crisp in the summer. By June, it's perfect kindling. Last year, four brush fires erupted in the span of just five days. All were effectively contained, but rising temperatures and international dawdling in the face of anthropogenic climate change only magnify the risk of a future catastrophic blaze.

I spent a total of seven years in policy, a highly competitive debate style characterized by exhaustive research about anything even tangentially related to our annual topic. Every year, I pored through countless legal briefs and online databases while attending summer camps at Dartmouth and Berkeley to hone my rhetorical ability. Because climate change is an omnipresent threat, discussion of forceful climate crisis policy punctuated nearly every round I had, every speech I wrote, regardless of the topic. Discussion of the IUCN, however, was absent, most definitely not by virtue of insufficient research. Now I realize how conspicuous that absence was.

Before becoming a part of Our Drowning Voices, I hadn't even heard of the IUCN. That's because the IUCN has been complicit in the erosion of its own legitimacy. Motion 003, in its original post-comment form, called for a proactive commission that would effectively reckon with the climate crisis. However, the IUCN's deferral to opponents of the motion allowed unjust alteration of the proposal's original language, ultimately prescribing the climate crisis a fourth task force, not the desperately needed commission. The IUCN is the self-proclaimed "global authority on safeguarding the natural world," but it's difficult to see the truth in that description. After marginal progress has been made with three task forces, it perplexes me to even consider why anyone would support yet another.

I attended the IUCN Global Youth Summit a few months ago, and my experience there only solidified my convictions. The #YouthSpeak labs conducted every other day, intended to gather authentic youth input, were characterized by the most rudimentary questions that only served to underscore the existence of warming, not the need for a lasting solution, nor the IUCN's role in that solution. I found it funny that the IUCN devoted so much time to emphasizing that climate change exists, a fact young attendees of an environmental summit would likely never dispute. Further, I attended a meeting about how best to engage youth, and yet no youth - aside from me - were in sight.

Despite these organizational shortcomings, I'm confident that the members of the IUCN do not share the same negligence. Motion 003 to establish an authoritative climate change commission would be the locus of collaboration for climate experts and environmental advocates worldwide. It would place emphasis on groups of the IUCN has historically failed to take into account, namely youth and Indigenous groups, in a manner more effective than its #YouthSpeak labs. It would force the IUCN to the forefront of this environmental crisis, to re-actualize its status as the global authority on preserving the natural world.

I strongly urge you to vote in favor of Motion 003. Climate change is the only truly ubiquitous threat to all life. We have stalled for far too long.

Kristen Lu

Government and Philosophy

Claremont McKenna College, Class of 2024

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