At A Breaking Point: A Youth Perspective on Crisis and Hope at COP26
My name is Solveigh Barney (she/her) and I am from the Diocese of North Dakota. I am writing this blog from the position of an official delegate of the Episcopal Presiding Bishop for COP26. I would like to take this time to write about my call to this ministry, what the climate crisis entails from the perspective of a young person, and my hope for the future of the church and the world.
To begin, nature and the Episcopal Church are both central to my identity. I grew up with an Indigenous father who took my siblings and me on nature adventures for as long as I could remember whether that consisted of exploring the banks of the Missouri river or trudging through a five-foot snowbank. On the other hand, The Episcopal Church came into my life a little later. When I joined St. George’s Episcopal Church in middle school, I immediately fell in love with all it had to offer whether that was the traditional services with tolling bells or the activism and push for progressive politics.
Thus, I have been so lucky to find a space where these two commitments meet. I am so grateful to be able to serve on this delegation and be surrounded by such wise individuals who care deeply about climate change. I admit, as a young adult, it is sometimes frustrating when all you see are older adults living in the short term and you have to live with the anxiety knowing that our current trends are threatening a future that you are supposed to look forward to living. Young people are one of the many unheard voices at the frontlines of this crisis. However, in these past two weeks, I have heard the thundering pleas of my generation at COP26. We need to start adapting now so my generation has a future. As Ellie, another young adult delegate, mentioned the other day, I want to still be going to my Episcopal Church at 80 years old. This really resonated with me and got me thinking about a future so far away. My hope is that we will be living in a sustainable reality where we made the decision to do so in the year 2021.
I am afraid to witness the catastrophic events of the future if we don’t act now. We will have to deal with the trauma and grief accompanied by climate disasters, entering into another mental health crisis. Some countries of the Global South are already experiencing such events. I think of the children of Madagascar who are experiencing one of the first famines directly linked to climate change. They are starving and even dying because of the lack of adequate infrastructure and development. They simply do not have the funds to adapt to climate impacts. This is a tragedy and if we don’t change our habits, I’m afraid to see what comes next.
I know this is a dire narrative, but young people are frustrated. We wish people could just realize that our planet and very existence are at a breaking point. It also seems some of our peers have given up out of frustration and make remarks of pessimism that they don’t have a future. But not all of us have lost hope. We keep on fighting, for this is not the end, but it is the beginning.
I have seen hope and resilience in these last weeks at COP26. May we hold leaders responsible and keep them to their promises so we can live in the world that we are hoping for. I am also hopeful because of the great passion I have seen from my fellow delegates to save our Earth. We come from all different backgrounds ranging from laity to bishops, from students to climate scientists. I can’t wait to see where we will carry this torch of hope. The Episcopal Church is essential for bringing such hope into the dialogue. I also believe we are ready to carry the messages heard at COP26 back not only to our dioceses but also to our state lawmakers, neighbors, and other communities, because our hope as the Episcopal Church is exhilarating and will bring people into action. I know this to be true because that is why I am here right now. So, thank you to all for giving me hope.
Solveigh Barney was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota. At twelve years old, she decided to join the Episcopal tradition and began attending St. George’s Episcopal Memorial Church. She immediately fell in love and became heavily involved. Solveigh also has an intrinsic love for the earth. Growing up on the banks of the Missouri river, she was never shy from nature. For the last three years, she has worked in a greenhouse and has been educated in the fields of botany, horticulture, and soil conservation. Solveigh is currently a Sophomore at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, majoring in Environmental Studies and Religious Studies.