It’s not the ‘Blue Zone’ that makes me hopeful – it’s my peers in the Green Zone

By Rodrigo Puntriano Mendoza

Rodrigo is a young leader from Peru with a passion for environmental sustainability. He volunteers with YMCA Peru and joined the grant-winning solution team of Sumaq Muru, which is implementing a project to tackle environmental pollution while providing better life conditions for its participants.

It’s the morning of what was supposed to be the end of negotiations. World leaders however don’t seem to be able to reach an understanding, and continue to discuss a final agreement that – hopefully – will honour the expectations of youth, indigenous people and citizens from around the globe.

Hopeful… That’s how I feel, not because I believe in authorities but because I’ve learned to believe in myself and in young people.

As I look back over the past two weeks, processing what I have experienced, I reflect on my journey to and through Glasgow. I see every place I’ve been to, the panels I’ve spoken on, the interviews I’ve done, events I have listened to. I get emotional as I see myself along brilliant young leaders from our delegation, sharing our history with everyone willing to listen, opening our hearts.

I go back to the last event and perhaps the most important one for us. I see myself sitting with my fellow delegates, watching the premiere of a film documenting just a little of what we have achieved with innovative local solutions to the climate crisis around the world. We then take to the stage and speak our truth. I feel overwhelmed listening to us. As the panel comes to an end, a standing ovation fills my heart with joy, and I see people coming towards us. They thank us for our words, and share their thoughts with us. We feel empowered, we listened and we encouraged them to continue working for what we believe in.

During COP26 many stages have welcomed us to speak about our work, our youth-led solutions and our message to invest in young people, and I simply cannot thank them enough for offering us the platform and the space to show what we are made of.

My thoughts then take me to the Blue Zone, and I see myself trying to navigate through the complicated schedule and programme, confused, uncertain of what to do, where to go. Most of what I know about what has been happening in the negotiations I have learned from my peers or from the news, so I don’t feel I can really write about the Blue Zone. But in the end, it’s not the Blue Zone that makes me hopeful, it’s the friends and peers standing by my side.

I believe in them. In their work and in their indomitable spirit. I’m certain that they are the leaders this world so desperately needs, and I’m convinced that this is not the last day of anything. It’s just day one, and we are ready for the journey ahead.