Reflections from Outgoing Network Coordinator Amelia Diehl

NOTE: This first message originally appeared in the Create Climate Justice newsletter. 

UUs showed up for climate justice in deep ways at this year’s virtual General Assembly (stay tuned for recordings to be made public after Labor Day) — including an impressive and emergent rapid response mobilization from Young Adults, building off of decades of organizing to align UU resources with UU values.

In the span of 72 hours, a group of Young Adults at GA were able to write and submit a Responsive Resolution calling for the UUA Common Endowment Fund to divest completely and immediately from the banks funding the Line 3 pipeline, and include Young Adults in investment decisions moving forward — AND this passed with 80% of delegate’s votes! If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read and share the resolution, which was endorsed by UU Ministry for Earth and UU Young Adults for Climate Justice, as well as the public statement. Find more background information in this Twitter thread (public to all), and language introducing the resolution here

Witnessing such a collaborative, joyful and intentional energy among fellow Young Adults, and receiving affirmation from the wider UU faith, reminded me why I joined the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice Network in the first place, back in 2015. Yesterday was my last day as Network Convener, and on the Communications team of UU Ministry for Earth. I am sad to be leaving, and also ready to pass the torch, carrying deep gratitude and awe for the sacred work that is done in the UU faith, knowing the lessons and relationships that have been gifted to me over the past 5 years will continue to nourish me.

Alongside this sense of shared power of Young Adults at GA writing the resolution, there was also shared grief, anger, and fear in that Zoom room. We’ve known the climate crisis is here — and the past few weeks especially have made that painfully clear. My thoughts are with those suffering from record-breaking heat, floods and other extreme weather in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. The work of not only surviving but thriving in a more just world must be done in community, collectively — and this Responsive Resolution is another way Young Adults are teaching each other and the wider UU faith how to begin again, together. 

Divestment work necessarily asks us what reinvestment means, and I hope this Young Adult-led campaign will reignite — and unite — our faith’s commitment to social justice values in continuing to ask hard, urgent questions: if last year’s Responsive Resolution affirmed the UUA’s commitment to supporting and investing in youth and young adult ministry, what does intergenerational solidarity look like? What role can the UU faith play in reparations, Land Back, redistribution of wealth, modeling a regenerative economy? How can the UU faith seed not just the survival but thriving of youth, young adult and BIPOC UUs? 

The urgency for climate justice that many felt at GA is evident elsewhere. Just to recap this impressive week: On Monday, hundreds of Sunrise Movement activists (including some UU young adults!) blockaded every door at the White House, demanding President Joe Biden pass an infrastructure bill that includes a Civilian Climate Corps. And all day yesterday, UUs, Indigenous and frontline leaders have been camped out at Joe Biden’s lawn, demanding an end to the era of fossil fuels. 

Please read on for the latest news related to the three priority areas of the Create Climate Justice campaign. But first, I want to leave you with the last line of the public statement, as a chalice lighting for people of all generations: “While we as young people inherit a world already marked by climate chaos, we remain steadfast in our collective clarity that climate justice and collective liberation is the only way forward.” 

NOTE: This second message first appeared in the UUYACJ Network newsletter. 

UUYACJ logoYesterday was my last day as UUYACJ Network Convener, and on the Communications team of UU Ministry for Earth. I wouldn’t have been part of this community, let alone in these leadership roles, if not for the invitation and continued support from my co-conspirator, aspiringly-nonhierarchical supervisor and friend Aly Tharp, who brought me on as Communications Coordinator of the Network in 2016. I have deep, big gratitude for the ways Aly holds this work, and I have learned more from them than I will ever be able to name.

I also want to express gratitude and appreciation for the UU Ministry for Earth staff, Boardmembers, and volunteers, as well as the wider UU climate justice ecosystem, including those ancestors who have come before me, for being examples of how this faith community can show up with joy, grace, strength and commitment for the more just world we deserve.

I first heard about UUYACJ when I attended the 2015 GROW training in Chicago. Both Chicago and UUYACJ would become movement homes for most of the following years for me. Having organized in a variety of different contexts, I’ve come away from it all  appreciating how faith-based spaces are uniquely resourced to provide a kind of sense of belonging that might be hard to come by elsewhere.

I’m often asked as a climate person, “how do you have hope?” Perhaps you get this question a lot too. And the answer I’ve come to for me is, first, that, as abolitionist Mariame Kaba says, “Hope is a discipline”; it’s not something outside of us, but what we actively create together through our resistance, no matter what the powers that be are doing. But the other piece is, no matter how bad it gets, we still have to live in community with each other on this precious planet; a better world is always worth fighting for. The question for me isn’t “how do you have hope?”, but “what communities do you belong to, what communities hold you in not just surviving but making meaning amid climate chaos, and what does that feel like?”

One thing the UU climate community has taught me is to think in terms of relationship. Sometimes your relationship to the climate crisis can only be understood, articulated, with others — sometimes you can’t, as an individual, answer the questions these unfolding tragedies ask of us. It’s messy, challenging, scary work — and there needs to be space for despair and other hard emotions. But one thing I want to acknowledge is how, amid the mainstream climate movement’s necessary but alarming sense of urgency, faith spaces often provide a willingness to ask deeper questions about what it means to heal the past, present and future, grounding in a different relationship to time.

And now, after taking on the Network convener role in 2018, I am giving myself permission to transform my relationship to movement work. Starting in August, I’ll move from the Great Lakes region to Salt Lake City, where I’ll be attending the University of Utah’s two-year masters program in Environmental Humanities. I hope to keep exploring writing and storytelling to visibilize histories of resistance and build solidarity with grassroots movements.

And I’ll be around: I don’t know if you noticed, but young adults are pretty fired up for climate justice — and I can’t wait to see how this community grows into its power!

huge thank you to and excitement for Zoë Johnston for taking on this role in carrying the network forward — and thank you to all of you for being part of this.

The word I want to leave you with is not “hope”. I will offer you, especially the fellow young people reading this, though: I used to say, my future will be defined by climate chaos — and I’ve started saying, my future will also be defined by the collective work for climate justice. To quote the last line in a statement written collectively by Young Adults at General Assembly, “we remain steadfast in our collective clarity that climate justice and collective liberation is the only way forward.”

See you in the streets (and also the gardens, and the co-ops, dinner tables, forests…)!

Amelia Diehl
Amelia Diehl
Amelia Diehl is the Network Coordinator for the UU Young Adults for Climate Justice Network, and a Communications Specialist for UU Ministry for Earth. She's been with UUMFE since 2015 and is based in Chicago and the Great Lakes region. Her other movement homes include Rising Tide Chicago, SustainUS and freelance writing.