I attended the second week of COP22 as part of the UUA delegation. Firstly, I thank you for this opportunity to serve our faith and our planet at the COP. It was truly an honor and soul-affirming experience.
This report includes summary of key events I attended at COP and lessons I have learned for future COP attendees.
My main goals for the COP were promoting the UUA platform on climate justice, building connections with faith and other organizations involved in climate justice and learning how others are learning and teaching resiliency. My first goal was easily achieved as discussions with the folks that I met led to what brought the UUA to the COP and what the UUA affirms and believes for climate justice. Several times a gift occurred when deeper connections were made when I told people I was in seminary. People told me stories of heartache, pain, fear and anxiety about what the future will bring and how to survive as a species through this momentous disaster. Through listening and being with them, I provided these people pastoral presence and a space for them to witness their emotions, especially post-election with an administration that doesn't believe in climate change. I also learned about how to successfully counter against disinformation and climate change denial, a skill necessary in this country. I wore Standing on the Side of Love stickers but I wished I hadn't forgotten my collar. If a minister or a seminarian is to go in the future, I highly recommend they bring their clergy wear as just being a visible person of faith there reminds people of the moral urgency of this situation and that faith organizations are involved. Furthermore I recommend that the UUA delegation bring a sign or perhaps a cut-out (Henry Thoreau maybe?) that people at the COP can take pictures with. That would open us up to even more groups and help get our message out there.
Many of the strongest connections I made in Marrakech were with religious and faith-based organizations such as the Episcopal Church, the Quakers, the Morivans, Green Faith, Brahmani Spiritual University, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Francesians, Muslims, and more. I took part in interfaith services led by the Episcopal Church as well as in the solidarity prayer service led by First Nations and indigenous people with the people at Standing Rock. The relationships built and fostered at COP22 give us as an association the necessary springboard for interfaith work that is required of us on the local, regional and national level. I also met with Special Envoy on Climate Change Dr. John Pershing with the faith groups. During this meeting, he gave us advice for the coming administration: “Work together on the local and regional level. This is where a lot of the work has started” and “Be a moral voice on climate change. Challenge the administration and never, ever shut up.” With all of us, we can and will be very loud. My suggestion for next year and my own personal goal if I were to go again would be to have a UU service there as I met many UUs who were working in various spheres there outside of our delegation. We could pass out the information for the service at our photo opportunity point.
Lastly, I learned about cultivating resiliency from faith groups' and art groups' workshops and individual conversations I had with folks. Yet a lot of this information was either too generalized, too unknown because of folks fearing to make predictions about what will come. The truth is, to get mythical about this, that a second great deluge is coming that will dissolve lands, cultures, and nations and we as a planet and species are ill-equipped for it. I learned at one of the panels I attended that spirituality is key to well-being after a natural disaster. Since a great many are coming, we need the resources to ensure that in an ever rejecting of organized religion age, we have the means and resources, tangible, emotional and spiritual to offer our human siblings. Because of going to COP, I am starting a podcast on the intersection of spirituality and climate change to help build these resources. For future delegation members, I recommend that the UUA delegation offer a class on resiliency or spirituality for the people of COP.
Once again, I have immense gratitude for attending the COP as a member of the UUA delegation. This has reaffirmed my calling and my commitment to the Seventh Principle and environmental justice as the core of my ministry.
Read Cat's other news and reflections here:
Resiliency in Faith Communities: Eco-villages and Eco-churches
Hope in a Cactus
Youth Presents Species Extinction Performance Piece
Native American Issues Neglected
Theological Reflection on Solidarity Prayer Service with Standing Rock