Today, UU Young Adults for Climate Justice leader Amelia Diehl is beginning her walking journey from Paris, France to the site of the 23rd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP23).
In her own words, Amelia is walking from Paris to Bonn, Germany, because:
In his groundbreaking encyclical on climate change, Pope Francis wrote of how to care for our common home. One of his concerns was for the rapidification of the world, the quicker pace of how we live and work, and how this can distract us from what really matters.
For me, walking has become one way I can slow down my life and make space for that openness. Putting one foot in front of the other, feeling my feet on the ground, is a spiritually grounding and intentional practice to root my body and mind, and feel connected between myself and my surroundings, to reach a place of calm and clarity that helps me live deliberately. Through walking, we become centered in our bodies – or maybe even lose ourselves for a while to truly feel part of something bigger. It is one way to take ownership of our planet, which must involve celebrating its beauty and honoring our pain for the world.
As a Unitarian Universalist, I am strongly guided by the seventh principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Before we can talk of changing the world for the better, we must first accept that we are part of the world.
I am a member of the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice Network, a diverse group of activists aged 18-35 across the US and Canada fighting for a livable world, guided by our UU values. This group has helped ground me in a community of like-minded folks as I embark on my adult life after college graduation.
The writer and activist Rebecca Solnit, who wrote a whole history of walking, said that “walking becomes testifying.” When we walk, we are witnessing the world, both a participant and observer, embodying what it means to move forward in these uncertain and dire times. We take a stand for—and actively take steps towards—transformative visions of what it means to be a human in the Anthropocene.
Walking is also a direct form of resistance against fossil fuel infrastructure, which threatens the health of our people and our planet.
This is why I am organizing a pilgrimage walk from Paris, France to Bonn, Germany, where the next United Nations climate talks are being held in November. In 2015, world leaders reached a landmark Paris Accord, agreeing to limit global temperature change to 2 degrees, which most scientists believe are drastic—but still livable—conditions.
This walk will be a symbolic and literal act of bringing the energy from the Paris talks to forge our own path to demanding climate justice in Bonn. Along the way, I will bear witness to our world, listen and collect stories, and carry what I learn to this gathering of civil society and decision makers.
Once in Germany, Amelia will be an active member of the SustainUS Youth Delegation: participating in a youth summit, Peoples Climate Summit, mass mobilization against the Rhineland lignite coal open pit mines, and of course, COP23. You can follow Amelia’s journey on her personal blog, cop23walk.org, and she will also be helping with the SustainUS Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and blog. SustainUS is also currently fundraising to support the COP23 delegation—consider making a donation.