Creation Care

Youth Activists facing Climate Change Anxiety with Faith 

December 15, 2023
Creation Care

By Kara Lyn Moran

The Conference of Parties (COP), the annual United Nations Climate Summit, is a place that was not designed for young people, but it is a place where young people belong, and they are bringing their energy and intersectional perspective. When the UNFCCC, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, was signed in 1992, most of the youth that participated this year were not alive, but they were very present in all areas of COP28 this year and this participation and community are only growing. 

When I arrived in Dubai earlier this month, I was struck by a number of ironies. While riding the metro to a conference about climate change, I stared out at oil refineries or thought about just how lush and green the venue was in the middle of a desert state. Every morning as I examined these questions and I asked myself, What am I doing here? How can I justify my carbon footprint of traveling here? I am still grappling with the answers to these questions, but they come down to speaking up and speaking with others. It is so important to look each other in the eyes, have impactful conversations and feel solidarity with others at these conferences. 

Looking down the barrel at our future can be scary and climate anxiety is real. In a recent national survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, about 64 percent of Americans are at least a little worried about climate change and I feel that myself. As a student at the Yale School of the Environment, we are working to find solutions to major climate problems, but we still have conversations about what our future looks like or whether we want to pursue having children in what feels like an uncertain future. Even with all this weighing down my thoughts at COP, I was uplifted by meeting other young activists and scholars at the conference. The solidarity and connections while working on these issues helps to keep me going in this movement. We are all facing questions of a similar nature, but we all see how we can collectively work together to make a difference. This feeling of community is so important to this work and very important to young people who often feel left out or not heard.  

One space of community that was impactful to me at COP28 in Dubai this year, was the Faith Pavilion that Bishop Marc Andrus helped to organize. This was a space of calm and amazing intersectional and interfaith work, with a wide range of ages, interests and religions being represented. As the article published in the New York Times about the Faith Pavilion says, “A pavilion at COP28 offers a space for meditation, prayer and something that feels lacking, at times, from global warming talks: hope.” I felt this energy when I walked into the Faith Pavilion and it was a major source of comfort all week. 

As a young researcher in this area, I often feel isolated in my work and barely old enough to understand the dynamics of the world that I am doing work in. But having this central place to gather with other people working in this area has given me a boost in my work and something that I am excited to share with the members of my school and church community. During my conversation with people at the Faith Pavilion, I was affirmed in the need to have more scholarly research in this area and how important faith actors can be in making change. I was reminded that I have an important role to play and that my voice matters. I am walking away from COP ready to share my experiences, with new connections and a reminder to advocate for a better and more just future.  

As I walked around the venue and saw the faces of other young activists, I kept thinking about how important a role we all have in this future. We are there and we are present because we want to shape the future that we will have. I encourage all people working in the environmental movement to make space for youth because we have important things to say and an energy to get it done. When we all work together as a community, we will accomplish great things and create a better future for all.  

Kara Lyn Moran is a Master of Environmental Science student at Yale School of the Environment, studying how religious institutions participate in environmental activism. She is originally from Des Moines, Iowa and is a recent Episcopal Service Corps Alumni at Grace Church in Millbrook, NY. 

Sources: Yale Experts Explain Climate Anxiety | Yale Sustainability 

Got Climate Angst? At the U.N. Summit, There’s a Quiet, Spiritual Place. – The New York Times ( 

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