A Change in the Wind? Paris Climate Talks and the Continuing Necessity of Activism

IMG_3580The year on the calendar may have changed, but Starr King’s MASC celebrations have not skipped a beat in 2016. The first event of the New Year focused on what is shaping up to be a defining issue of our generation: climate change.

Offering unique insight on the subject was MASC graduate Christine Boyle. An accomplished community organizer, Boyle’s work explores the intersection of faith, spirituality, and activism. She played an integral role in initiating and coordinating several campaigns (see Spirited Social Change, The Self Care Project, and Fossil Free Faith), and her leadership helped persuade the United Church of Canada to officially divest from fossil fuels.

One month after attending the Paris Climate Talks as a delegate of a global interfaith network, Boyle made a virtual appearance at Starr King to offer first hand perspective on the negotiations. She began by sharing the following video of Kathy Jetnil-Kijinera, a 26 year-old poet from the Marshall Islands, to put the issue into context. Stories like the one below, Boyle said, are what inspire her to keep fighting for climate justice.

Although reasonable goals were set at the Paris conference, Boyle and other climate activists point to key details that have yet to be worked out. One of the most contentious themes of the debate was the notion of reparations, or that developed countries owe a debt to those whose resources they used for economic benefit. It seems world leaders have yet to determine how to hold each other accountable on this front. Moreover, some critics say that despite the hard work of well meaning people, the larger systems through which they work are simply not equipped to facilitate such urgent change.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.19.01 AMThe evening concluded with Boyle emphasizing the continued necessity of swift action. The climate crisis has become a “spiritual crisis,” she said. When current systems fail to preserve the planet’s natural beauty and resources, it is up to the people to organize for their own self-interests. We must challenge the notion of “private salvation” and preach the gospel of “collective liberation” in its place, because the reality is that we are all in this together.

To view Christine Boyle’s presentation in its entirety, click here (skip to the 14:00 mark).

“A Change in the Wind” is part of an ongoing event series celebrating the 10th anniversary of Starr King’s Master of Arts in Social Change (MASC) degree program.