International Unitarian Universalism

Global Complexity and Urgency

By Bruce Knotts

This post was originally sent out on September 24 via a monthly email message from Director Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations.Subscribe to the UU@UN email list.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is seen speaking at the podium of the UN General Assembly Hall. He is wearing a black suit with a red tie.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

We are living in extraordinarily complex times that demand urgent and unified action.

At the UN General Assembly this week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the twin global challenges of climate change and the COVID pandemic. He emphasized that we need global cooperation to deal with these global issues, and that as nations we are not working together.

Our survival rests on our ability to find common ground to solve common problems, which include climate change, pandemic, forced displacement, hunger, poverty, violence, authoritarianism, and more. The problems are many and unity is in short supply.

In fact, instead of unity we have increased fragmentation, autocracy, hostility, anger, and hatred. While these attitudes may be natural in situations of stress, for our global community to meet the urgency of the moment they must be replaced with justice, compassion, love, care, sharing of scarce resources, and mutual effort.

My work representing Unitarian Universalists at the UN has brought me into conversations in recent weeks with members of the UN Security Council. That body of the UN is responsible for responding to concerns such as famine in Tigray; Syrian, Afghan, and Haitian refugees; civil war in Cameroon; military dictatorship in Myanmar; and much more.

Our world is fragile. Hurt and pain are near to the surface. It will take our leaders’ best selves to do the hard work that’s necessary to address climate change and its attendant impacts of forced migration, drought, food shortages, floods, infrastructure damage, and more.

In the midst of a pandemic, we recognize that global collaboration and heeding the lessons of history will carry us through. Previous pandemics of SARS and MERS prompted research that greatly sped the development of the vaccines we have now to address COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

The United Nations has made it clear that we must share. The coronavirus and climate crises do not recognize borders. If the wealthy horde vaccines, food, and other resources, there will be chaos, and all will suffer.

Only by considering global interdependence can our leaders achieve a livable world for all. The UU@UN has worked with the UU Service Committee to assemble delegates to represent us at COP26, the upcoming UN climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Central to their call for urgent action on climate change will be an insistence upon justice for marginalized communities who are the least responsible for causing climate change yet suffer from it the most

We have the capacity to end dependence on fossil fuels and to reforest the planet; all we need is the will to act. The terrible effects of climate change that we already witness will quickly get much worse, making the road ahead more difficult.

We’re in this together. It’s time to put our differences aside and work together quickly to save the planet before it’s too late.


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About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...

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