Burcu Dagurkuden (ELP 2019) | Project Manager, United Nations Development Programme, Turkey
Life always seems to present us with innumerable challenges and problems on a daily basis. It throws left hooks when we were expecting right ones; it gives us apples when we desire oranges; it even presents us with seemingly awful surprises that we weren’t expecting, and it inflates us with unresourceful emotions that tend to tie us down to a life of mediocrity and unhappiness. Despite all this, it is not so much what happens to us that actually makes a difference, rather it is what we do with what happens to us that determines where we will end up, what we will have, and how we will be transformed by our experiences.
I come from a country where, especially at this very time, climate change is not identified as a problem or threat by the government and society. Because of the worsening political and economic situation, people are busy just surviving. They have little or no concept of climate change and simply do not care about the environment, the extinction of species, the lessening of our earth resources, and the future of our planet. But I do! I do worry a lot about the future of the world. And that’s why I choose to work at UNDP. I feel privileged and honored to be a part of this great organization that I believe does a great job all around the world, especially for the most vulnerable communities. The impact of UNDP’s efforts on supporting communities, government, and private sector adapt to climate change risks are now felt in many places around the world, from Bangladesh to Ecuador, Kazakhstan to Somalia, just to name a few. That is something to be proud of. I believe our small actions when combined together, can play a big role in protecting this planet and I now have a chance to contribute to this cause.
But sometimes when I see politicians and business leaders not doing what needs to be done, like in my country and many others, and witness hypocrisy of the policymakers and the institutions, all the hard work and effort that we’re putting into the work seem worthless. I feel discouraged, saddened and hopeless and consider doing something else where I could help with changing things. But that’s the moment when I remind myself about that little brave young girl Greta Thunberg, who first argued for the climate strike, or Bill McKibben or George Monbiot who I admire a lot and who has written extensively and continuously on the impact of global warming for many years and challenge to spread information to others. Those people are first dismissed as crazy, unreasonable, and ridiculous but they are the ones who inspired many peoples, pushed them to think about the consequences of their actions, and caused people to change their behavior. They have even hard-pressed some governments to take concrete actions on climate change.
If history teaches us one thing, it’s always that change never starts in the center, but it always starts on the fringes with people who are first dismissed. Every milestone of civilization is full of examples of people thinking out of the box. I believe who we are is defined by the values we are willing to struggle for and as Mark Twain once set it very fittingly “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
Like most of us, I want the world to be better. I want my life, my work, my family, to mean something. It's like if I’m not making someone else's life better, then I’m wasting my time. Because I accept it as true that my life will become better by making other lives better. And we’re now at a time in world history, where we simply cannot afford to be ignorant. We can’t afford to just be teetering around the edges when it comes to the realities of climate change. We have to do whatever it takes to achieve the cause and don’t give up. In the end, it’s ideas that prevail. It’s ideas worth fighting for. And we have no other planet to live in and no plan B!