The trek was her way of seeking clarity, listening to others, and giving herself space to think about who she was and wanted to be. Her journey of more than 400 miles preceded the Conference of Parties (COP23) climate talks, held in November. Diehl was selected to attend as a youth delegate member with the group SustainUS.
After a nerve-racking and exhausting first day of walking 14 miles, Diehl had to adjust her timetable to prevent further strain to her body. She couch surfed through much of her travels, trying to remain as independent as possible while still receiving help from locals.
Diehl’s passion for climate advocacy began soon after she learned about climate change in her seventh grade science class. She was also inspired by many interdisciplinary classes at Beloit, including environmental ethics, global political ecology, and art history, to name a few.
Diehl describes the climate talks as humbling, but simultaneously demoralizing. Relegated to one zone at the event, she saw firsthand what little influence even united grassroots organizations like SustainUS can have in environmental discussions and legislation.
However, she was one of hundreds of American SustainUS delegates who stood up during a U.S.-led panel discussion about the advantages of fossil fuels and began to sing a rendition of “God Bless America” in protest. Soon enough, cameras turned to the group, and the singers didn’t back down. While the speakers filed out of the room, the group continued to sing and share their stories as they marched outside. Diehl was proud. “It was one of the most joyous and empowering moments of my life. That was the biggest thing that’s happened at COP23 so far, and definitely one of the biggest youth actions in the history of COP talks,” she says.
Diehl is still processing her travels in Europe. While she is thankful for the Weissberg grant that made her trip possible and the good people she met along the way, she knows this is far from the end of her journey. “I learned so much about myself, the climate justice movement, the youth movement and politics, and I met amazing people from all over the world,” she says. “I’m excited to carry this momentum forward.”