CLAREMONT, Calif. — A college student from Claremont is back home after spending a week in Scotland for the U.N. global climate change conference.

Pomona College senior GiGi Buddie promoted artwork at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

Buddie is a former intern at the Human Impacts Institute in New York and was part of a group art project that amplified the voices of indigenous people who are leading efforts to stop climate change.

“Indigenous voices are so important to these conversations because indigenous people have been caretakers of this Earth for millennium,” Buddie said. “They are the ones who know the Earth. They know how she breathes, how she cries, how she lives.”

Buddie is also indigenous and of Tongva and Mescalero heritage. She was proud to see the art on display for dozens of world leaders to pay attention to and hopefully, make better decisions about a planet she will inherit.

“Our world leaders, our old world leaders are going to die before they really see a lot of this policy really make a change,” Buddie said. “So who is going to see it? We are. We’re going to see it.”

A 2019 survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post found most teens and young adults feel afraid of climate change.

One in four teens say they have taken action to combat the climate crisis.

Oak Park High School senior Siena Reale is one of those teens. She joined a wildfire prevention club after the Woosley fire torched her community three years ago. Now, she and other club members collect acorns to be replanted and grow into new trees.
“It feels like we’re actually taking action to better our community instead of passively waiting for the fires to control our lives,” Reale said. “We are taking control and we are trying to restore the nature that has been lost.” 

The loss is personal. Reale lost her home to the wildfire and her family moved six times until it was rebuilt. The experience pushed her to get active physically and politically. She joined the Sunrise Movement for youth to speak out about climate change.

“We’ve left it up to the older generations to fix their mistakes and they haven’t proven successful,” Reale said. “Now is the time that we need to take charge because the next few years are so crucial in determining what our planet is going to look like and we know this is the time to demand action.”

Buddie heard that message echoed all the way to Glasgow. She saw seven and eight-year-olds rallying and calling out for change.
“I really do walk away from the United Nations Climate Change Conference with hope and that is only because of our youth,” Buddie said. “That has nothing to do with our world leaders. I don’t want to say I have no hope for what they can do but diminishing light for what they can do. It is our youth.”