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COP22 and the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreat in Marrakesh

From 5 to 13 November, 2016, the Earth Charter International Youth Projects´ Coordinator Sarah Dobson visited the beautiful city of Marrakech, Morocco with a two-part mission: to connect with young leaders and civil society organizations from around the world at COP22, and to participate in the ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ programme for young ecologists.

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COP22, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, convened government officials from around the world to create international policies and strategies to combat climate change along with thousands from civil society who joined to influence and report on the negotiations and build networks and partnerships. Sarah met with young leaders from Morocco and every region of the world who are working, studying, innovating, and living with the urgent and earnest intention to transform our lifestyles and current systems to align with the protection and preservation of our planet. She met with people working in different youth networks with specializations in education, social entrepreneurship, science and research, and activism and explored ways that the Earth Charter can serve them whether as an ethical guide, a shared vision, or through our online trainings in ¨ Leadership, Sustainability, and Ethics. ¨

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After a few days at the Conference, Sarah joined the first ¨The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreat, unique programme series organized to foster dialogue and discovery. Earth Charter International served as a co-partner to the event which was organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) and sponsored by the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association (DDMBA).

The 4-day programme brought together 20 young ecologists from 14 African nations: Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Nambia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They were joined by ecology experts and spiritual leaders of various traditions and backgrounds.

The first days were spent discussing problems and solutions from the African perspective in the areas of biodiversity, water, and agriculture before the conversation turned inward considering the attitude and paradigm which allow these problems to persist and have prevented a large scale shift toward sustainability.

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Woven throughout the discussions, the mentors shared their stories and wisdom. Ven. Bhante Duddharakita from Uganda spoke of the need to reduce not only carbon emissions, but greed emissions. Sraddhalu Ranade from India spoke of the androcentric and reductionist mindsets which have led us to the point of crisis. Tiokasin Ghosthorse from the Lakota Nation in North America spoke of how our language separates us from Mother Earth, pretending to be superior and separate to Mother Earth and inventing notions such as domination and ownership. We reflected on a paradigm shift to relationship with all life and contemplated how to retain and relearn knowledge cultivated and held by indigenous peoples.

The youth delegates and spiritual mentors brought their wisdom to the COP22, presenting ¨the Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ as a side event which drew great attention and curiosity as it offered a deep, honest conversation about climate and our own intimate relationship with one another and Earth. The final day together was spent in a small Berber village nestled in the Atlas Mountains where the group shared delicious Moroccan tea and food and a final dialogue circle of reflection and gratitude.

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This program was the first in a series of regional ¨Inner Dimensions of Climate Change¨ retreats which will gather young ecologists and spiritual mentors to examine the deeper causes and solutions to climate change which begin with our mindset and relationship to the Earth. All youth delegates and mentors from each regional meeting are then expected to then gather together in 2018 to continue building bridges and relationships and strengthen the movement toward a more life sustaining paradigm and way of living.