The Green Scene

By the time you read this, UNCA senior Ellie Johnston will be in Copenhagen, Denmark, observing closeup what happens at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which runs through Dec. 18. Chosen earlier this year to join a 25-member youth delegation for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit SustainUS, Johnston plans to share her experiences via a variety of social-media tools. "We'll react to developments there, taking pictures and writing blogs and communicating what's going on via Twitter and Facebook," Johnston told Xpress earlier this fall (see "Copenhagen or Bust," Nov. 18, and Green Scene, Oct. 14 Xpress).

Climate talk: UNCA senior Ellie Johnston is part of a youth delegation that will be protesting and reporting from the Copenhagen climate-treaty conference. Photo by anne fitten glenn

On Nov. 25, Johnston had this to say in her personal blog, responding to the news that President Obama would attend an early portion of the conference: "Right now, pre-negotiations have fallen into a sort of stalemate where no one wants to make bold commitments without knowing what the world's biggest emitters are going to do. Many have already predicted that this stalemate will not be resolved in Copenhagen and that the outcome will merely be a step towards a more comprehensive agreement. We will see if Obama will bring hope to Copenhagen."

On Dec. 2, shortly before departing for the conference, Johnston sent the following missive (the first, we hope, of many we can share with you online and/or in print):


In just a short while, after finishing up my last final exam … I will be getting on a plane to Copenhagen, Denmark. I'm headed to the Danish capital, as many of you know, for the United Nations climate-change negotiations that are being held from December 7-18. Like many who will attend, this will be my first U.N. Conference. I am attending with the youth delegation of SustainUS: The U.S. Youth Network for Sustainable Development. We have been preparing our plan for Copenhagen as a team since July, and my anticipation for this trip has been building along with it. I will be attending to elevate the representation of young people and our voice at these historic negotiations. Youth have a lot at stake in these negotiations and, as a result, we are rising up to meet the challenge of our time — ensuring a safe, healthy and secure future for us all.

In preparation for my attendance, I have been consuming articles about the negotiations, policies and the international youth climate movement with rapt attention. I have also found myself sharing stages with mayors and speaking before crowds reaching over 300. I've given almost a dozen speeches and presentations in the past months, from the local Sierra Club to the Western N.C. United Nations Association. The amazing outpouring of support and enthusiasm I have received initially caught me off guard. Quickly, though, it has reaffirmed for me why advocacy for climate solutions is the cornerstone of my life and has helped sustain a new level of personal commitment to this work.

I will do my best to keep you all updated on my view from the ground, as I find my place among it all. I'll be working with the communications of the SustainUS delegation and the international youth delegation to coordinate communications on behalf of the youth present. This will likely involve writing press releases, holding interviews and writing blogs about what we are doing throughout the two weeks. You can stay posted at the SustainUS blog (, Twitter (@johnstonellie and @sustainUSagents), Flickr and YouTube, or you can also follow my personal blog ( and Twitter (if that's your sort of thing).

As leaders ante up their climate commitments and demonstrations amplify, the eyes of the world are shifting towards Copenhagen. The U.N. negotiations will bring together world leaders and people from all sectors of society. This conglomeration of 15,000-plus people in the … conference (and many more outside) will make for an energized atmosphere where, undoubtedly, great things will be accomplished.

Thank you all so much for continuing to inspire me and for your generous support in helping me get to Copenhagen!

All the best,

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.