While Diana Vicezar’s PZ ’24 friends are busy taking classes in Claremont, Vicezar is representing her home country, Paraguay, in Milan, Italy.
She’s attending the Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition summit, a climate change conference for young adults hosted by the government of Italy and organized by the United Nations. TSL caught up with Vicezar on Tuesday to learn more about why she decided to apply for the conference, and what she’s been up to this week.
The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Could you briefly describe what Youth4Climate is?
DV: Youth4Climate is an event for young climate change activists from all over the world who are actively working on projects, ideas, organizations and other initiatives in their communities and want to network with other young activists. The summit helps drive the conversation around why it is so important to involve young people in the climate advocacy process. It shows that it is not just world leaders who should be paying attention to these kinds of issues, but why young people actually have the best ideas for how to create a more sustainable future. This event is basically an amazing opportunity to just share ideas and proposals on how we can implement climate change advocacy to create a better world for future generations.
This specific event also serves as a precursor to the pre-COP Summit. The first two days we will be working in groups, sharing our experiences and ideas on climate solutions, and on the last day, we will get to talk with the various ministers attending pre-COP 26.
When does this event take place?
DV: It is from Sept. 28th through the 30th.
How did you hear about this event and how did you get involved?
DV: I’ve been very involved in the environmental activism community in Paraguay since I was about 16 or 17 years old. It’s actually one of the main reasons why I wanted to come to Pitzer—I knew that they were involved in that specific field and that their students were very excited about projects that were related to environmental activism and climate change.
Also, I had some experience working with nonprofit organizations in Paraguay. I actually founded a nonprofit, called Mymba Rayhu or animal love, when I was in high school which was basically about animal rights and environmental education. I think that was actually a big part of the reason why I got into this amazing event. The main focus of our project was creating awareness campaigns and educating young people on environmental issues, especially middle school and elementary school students.
These experiences led me to so many wonderful opportunities. It allowed me to be selected as one of 30 most influential young people in 2019 by an organization in New York and also helped me participate in mentoring other young leaders and activists. But this is definitely the biggest opportunity that has come out of that experience. The United Nations is supporting our work and they are actually interested in getting to know more about our perspectives, which I think is very important.
Could you talk about the selection process?
DV: We all had to fill out a long application form that asked for us basic, personal information as well as questions about our experience in climate change activism and environments that require activism. I also talked about my prior experience attending other events, helping other organizations as a mentor, and some ideas that I had in terms of environmental activism. Additionally, I had to write some essays on why I wanted to attend this event and why they should select me to represent Paraguay.
Were you the only representative selected from Paraguay?
DV: Two people from each country are invited to attend these events, so I am one of the two people representing my country, Paraguay, in this program.
How many other delegates are there? Are they all students like yourself?
DV: There are about 400 delegates from all over the world, from the ages of 13 to 30. So, there are high school students and even people who already graduated from college and got their P.h.D in sustainable development—it’s an amazing group of people. Some of us have just started our journey in activism work and others have years and years of experience. There are people from all sorts of different backgrounds and perspectives.
What does this event cover? What will you be doing here?
DV: The COP26 event (UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties) will happen in Glasgow, Scotland later this year and before that, there is usually this event called pre-COP where climate and energy ministers from various countries will get together to discuss what will be addressed at COP26. Basically, the specific event that I am attending right now is linked to the pre-COP. We [the delegates] are working on creating a document that is going to be shared in the pre-COP convention in October. So, instead of taking all 400 young delegates to Glasgow, they are giving us the opportunity to write this document so that they can summarize all the ideas that we have at pre-COP and give it to the leaders, ambassadors, and ministers at COP26 to see what can be done in the future.
We also are given the opportunity to listen to numerous influential people and young activists speak, and we work together in groups to come up with solutions related to climate change. For instance, we recently heard Greta Thunberg speak and her speech actually went viral.
What do you hope to gain from this event?
DV: I think that this event is a great way for me to share my personal experiences and perspectives on climate change. It is actually the first time that young people from Paraguay are participating in these kinds of events, so it is a huge deal for my country as well.
And I am extremely excited to see where this convention is going to take us in the following weeks and months, and how we are going to keep working on solving these issues. I feel as if there are so many amazing projects and initiatives that are going to come out of the event because we are all connected with people who have the same ambition and purpose.
How have you accommodated to taking classes while you are in Italy? How has Pitzer adapted to your schedule and your absence from campus?
DV: I am actually taking three classes this semester and one of my classes, a Keck science class, is already virtual through Zoom. I just had to ask for permission from two of my other professors to complete my work separately. Of course, they were very understanding and were very excited for me. One of my professors actually encouraged me to use this experience as inspiration or motivation to work on my final project for his class. So, there is definitely a lot of support.
My advisor, friends and roommates were all very excited for me. The only thing they asked me is to be safe and to not get COVID-19.
Could you describe the COVID-19 precautions you all have to take?
DV: They are very strict with the COVID-19 restrictions here. We had to get tested before coming to Italy, we have to get tested every 48 hours, and we have to get tested before leaving. We must keep our masks on everywhere and social distancing is being practiced in the venue where we are gathering.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
DV: I would just like to add that I am so happy and excited to be representing not only my country but also Pitzer College at this event. I am looking forward to putting into practice everything that I am learning here in the future. Also, because I know that there are many students who are involved with activism at the 5Cs, I wanted people to know that this is an opportunity available every year to us.