A bit blurry from the excitement of the IOF students being interviewed by NPR’s London affiliate.

Today was the first day that the five of us high schoolers attended the UN Climate Conference, and the day was eventful to say the least. 

I began my day with a COVID test – the first of many, since we have to test negative each day we enter the conference, and headed to the Green Zone. The conference is divided into two zones, Blue and Green, and the two are separated by a river (and heavy security), however, both are filled with climate enthusiasts and an incredible mix of cultures, languages, and people.

After a bus ride, a chilly walk, and an extensive security process, I entered the Green Zone and was absolutely blown away. Agriculture robots and hydroponic vertical gardens lined our walkway, there were vertical reality stations and pieces of Arctic ice on display, and the walls were decorated with strike posters and grim reminders of our planet’s reality. The venue was massive and filled with interactive science exhibits (some climate related, some not) and there were hundreds of booths from British and international companies looking to show off their sustainable practices.

My few hours at the Green Zone expanded my knowledge of home ponds, the UK electricity grid, renewable energy storage, food waste, and more, and all of the interactions I had with both educators and company representatives were fun and memorable.

I left the Green Zone after eating lunch to head to the Blue Zone and pick up my badge, which would gain me entry to the Blue Zone the following day. Unlike the Green Zone, entrance to the Blue Zone is selective and entails an application process, which, thankfully, Seven Generations Ahead handled for me. This selectivity, however, means that the Blue Zone is where a vast majority of the press and delegates at the conference spend their time (i.e. Biden, Trudeau, Johnson, etc.).

The badge pickup process was simple, and with a passport, delegate letter, and my negative COVID test, I entered the Blue Zone around 3 pm. Although I had been amazed upon my entry to the Green Zone, initially stepping into the Blue Zone was unbelievable. The main room is huge, with a giant spinning globe suspended from the ceiling in the center and several “Action Rooms” branching off, each of which were perpetually filled with speakers and events. Press representatives from various news agencies with cameras and microphones and high-tech lighting filled all of the space not already taken up by furiously typing businesspeople. 

Aside from the main room with the press and panelists, the Blue Zone also has a Countries Pavilion, where about 100 different countries are represented in informative booths. Each booth had representatives speaking English and the country’s language, and most were hosting events or discussions on subjects pertaining to each particular country. Some even offered authentic food!

Midway through our browsing the country pavilion, we were interrupted with word that Bill Gates was speaking in one of the Action Rooms. We ran back through the venue to watch his speech through a glass door, which was ridiculously cool, and even got to see him walk out of the room a few feet away from us. 

Our feeling of fame was further bolstered when we gave a spontaneous NPR interview a few minutes later. As a group of five, we answered questions about what we hope will come out of COP, why we were all attending, and what it’s like to be a young person who’s so invested in the climate. It was quite fun to do the interview as a group and to all freak out afterwards at the combination of seeing Bill Gates and speaking to NPR. 

Our night wrapped up shortly after the interview, as we all met at a restaurant to debrief and spend time together post-conference for a few hours. Overall, the first day at the conference was absolutely packed but also ridiculously cool. I loved learning so much about places and environmental subjects with which I’m unfamiliar, and I cannot wait to go back tomorrow. 

Stay tuned to hear about our BBC interview and further Blue Zone adventures!