Yana Smith is one of nine UU representatives, and one of two UUYACJ members, going to Marrakech, Morocco as an observer of the UN climate change summit COP22. World leaders will convene Nov 7-18 to discuss the implementation of the Paris agreement, which aims to keep global climate change below an average of 1.5 degrees Celcius. More info can be found here.
What motivated you to be part of COP22? What will be your role there? How does your faith intersect with your interest for climate/environmental justice?
I see COP22, and more specifically being part of this delegation, as a way to look more closely at climate justice through the lens of my UU values. Growing up in Alaska I was very fortunate to be exposed to the wonder of nature at a young age. I was also very aware of the problems climate change was creating. I was able to see glacial retreat, decreasing snowfalls, increasing temperatures and wildfires. At the same time I was being raised in the Anchorage UU Fellowship. A congregation that always stressed the importance of the 7th principle. Currently, I’m studying environmental science in Switzerland, which has been wonderful for learning more about the global climate. I hope that attending COP22 will allow me to look deeper into how UUism can play a role in instigating climate action, learn what other religions are doing to help, and be able to motivate other UUs to take part in creating much needed change.
What do you hope to learn/gain from the experience? What gives you hope in this struggle?
I will be in Marrakech for the first week of the conference. While there, I hope to learn more about how countries plan to implement their contributions agreed to last year in Paris as well as how they plan to increase their contributions moving forward. I’m most excited for the opportunity to learn what other religious communities are doing regarding climate justice.
Do you have plans for how to bring back this experience to your communities?
I’m currently working on how I will bring my COP22 experience back to my communities. I look forward to returning to my home congregation in Anchorage this spring, but would like to find mediums to share what I’ve learned in the meantime. I also plan to share my knowledge with my academic community through lectures when I return to school.