Caption: Elizabeth Wathuti, Youth Climate Activist from Kenya at COP26 (Credit: UN Climate Change/Kiara Worth (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
All Saints Day at COP26
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in the holy place?Psalm 24:3
Today is All Saints Day as the first session of COP26 begins with the World Leader’s Summit. It is an opportunity for glowing words and wondrous intentions to be spoken into cameras for the edification of the media, bureaucrats and lobbyists. This ritual exemplifies the disconnect we are seeing with the world of human actions and our collective responsibility to steward creation. Pope Francis said: “The saints, who often count for little in the eyes of the world are in reality the ones who sustain it.” It is with this perspective that I listen to the truth spoken by the Youth Climate Activist from Kenya, Elizabeth Wathuti as she addressed the world’s leaders: “My truth will only land if you have the grace to fully listen.”
It is a measured response that not only calls for accountability of decision-makers, but amplifies the need to step away from the prison of thinking only within systems of finance and the limits of our technological ingenuity and scientism.
Wathuti describes a heartbreaking reminder of the human toll of climate change. It is a reminder that the things we have done collectively have led to the sustainability issues we face now. And it is the decisions we make today and tomorrow that continue to lead us down this path.
Wathuti’s ‘call to action’ can be seen in the light of the glacial speed the Indigenous ‘Calls to Action” have moved in Canada, where will is reluctant at best. And as warnings become more dire, we only see more debate, more obfuscation, more disinformation and more delay erupting in more and more turmoil. How can this hold us together as the world attempts to move toward a collective goal of temperance, respect and justice? Can it?
As communities of faith we see the moral choices ahead of us. We see the opportunities and the same obstructions that have placated our progress in the past. We must now search the lessons learned, the lessons of our recent past, the lessons of our collective past — lessons of unrest, lessons of inequality, lessons of our own shortcomings — if we are to position our response effectively.
The Psalmist asks: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” This is Wathuti’s question. It is a pointed question. One that we must ponder as our choices determine who lives or dies today. Do those who live in accord with the will of Creation ascend in unity with creation to the top of the hill? Or is this a squid game of opportunity to usurp the place of one another until someone reaches the top? Who shall stand in Creator’s holy place and by what virtue? Are we prepared to implement needed change, or are we moving incrementally within a body of rules that suggest we can each tolerate each other for the time being? Is it our will or the will of creation being tested here?
Wathuti points out that by 2025 half the world’s population will be facing water scarcity. Four years till the devastation already felt by so many becomes pervasive and manifest throughout our collective existence. We have very little time. In many cases, we are already too late.
Let us, as people of faith orient ourselves to morality and justice to assist our leaders to move beyond their current positions and fallibilities into a better mindset for humanity and creation.
Let us have the grace to fully listen.
Tony Snow, member of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and The United Church of Canada Climate Advisory Circle, is a member of the joint United Church of Canada and For the Love of Creation virtual delegation to COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. You can follow the delegation on Facebook and Instagram at #UCCanCOP26 and #FLCCOP26 and check back here for more personal reflections from the delegates in the coming days.