MANY people have asked me why I’m going to Paris to demonstrate outside of the UN climate conference. The truth is, I feel that I can’t not go. Climate change is the most important issue of our time: far too important to leave to a small group of world leaders.

Time and time again, politicians’ agreements and promises have failed to result in the strong and urgent climate action the world desperately needs. I don’t see this changing any time soon. Governments are afraid that policies to reduce emissions might also reduce their popularity with voters, and they face too much pressure from business interests, who rely on never-ending growth and the exploitation of natural resources in order to sustain the system.

But there is a much more viable way to tackle this global crisis. Ordinary people are realising that if we want to slow down and ultimately limit climate change, we are going to have to do much of the work ourselves. We are seeing more and more examples from around the world of people taking direct action against fossil fuel and mineral extraction projects in their communities. In Scotland, people are getting organised and taking positive, practical action to reduce emissions and make their communities more sustainable, by opposing fracking companies, pressurising local authorities and universities to divest from fossil fuels, and generating their own community-owned, renewable energy.

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This growing grassroots movement away from fossil fuels and towards positive alternatives gives me hope, and I want to be a part of it. That’s why I’ve just taken a 20-hour coach journey from Edinburgh to Paris, along with 50 other people and Friends of the Earth Scotland. By being here and taking part in peaceful demonstrations, we and thousands of other concerned citizens from around the globe are making our voices heard and showing the world leaders inside the talks that there is widespread public support for a strong climate deal. But more importantly, we are using this time in Paris to meet and build relationships with international climate campaigners, attend workshops and develop our skills, and learn from case studies of practical, community-led change.

I’m writing this from the ‘People.Power.Action’ assembly, which has brought together thousands of people who are members of Friends of the Earth groups from across the world. I have already attended two workshops; one on how climate justice can be incorporated into the COP21 negotiations, and one delivered by Friends of the Earth International, about how people can get more involved in the climate movement in their respective countries. I’ve heard inspiring and moving testimonies from the front line of climate struggles by campaigners from Nigeria, El Salvador, Indonesia and Palestine. I’ve met many new people, with whom I will hopefully work in coming years, and have reconnected with some old friends, who now live elsewhere but are still involved in climate campaigning. I’ve enjoyed a delicious vegan meal from the “activist kitchen”, and now we are about to hear a briefing about the planned actions for tomorrow. The atmosphere is very exciting and positive, and on top of the practical training and networking aspects, we’re also going to enjoy some music and dancing later. When campaigning on such an overwhelming issue as climate change, it’s important to take time to have fun, in order to keep up morale and avoid burnout.

Everyone is looking forward to tomorrow, when all of the climate campaigners who are currently in Paris will participate in multiple actions. The first action in which I will take part involves thousands of small groups walking to designated points across the city. When viewed on a website map, these points will spell out the message: “Climate Justice for Peace”.

I am honestly not sure whether our demonstrations will contribute to a stronger, fairer climate deal. But I am confident that the climate movement will continue to grow over the coming years, especially after this fortifying experience in Paris.

To use the motto of the Suffragettes, we need ‘deeds not words’ in order to effect change.

Amanda Grimm is a university administrator from Edinburgh. She has travelled to Paris with Friends of the Earth Scotland. For all the latest news from Paris, follow Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’s Twitter feed at @sccscot