Are you a youth wondering what the UU@UN spring seminar is like? Questioning if you want to register? Worried you will feel out of place or like your voice doesn’t matter? Well, here is a quick guide to what the experience has been like in the past for youth, what youth have to look forward to at this year’s seminar, and why you should absolutely come.
The theme of this year’s seminar is Displacement and Human Rights: All In for Climate Justice; so we will be talking about human rights, climate justice, and community-based action. The main focus will be climate-forced displacement, which is basically when someone is forced to leave their home due to causes rooted in climate change, such as flooding, forest fires, extreme temperatures, etc. These huge themes might seem very intimidating at first, but they are not as scary as they may seem!
Each topic will be broken into manageable pieces, and there will be a variety of speakers and workshops exploring each subject to ensure that everyone can learn in a way that is comfortable for them. There will be no judgment about how much or little you know about climate-forced displacement and everyone will be learning together over the course of the seminar.
A great tool for deep learning is to build an uplifting and welcoming community. Last year I made a lot of new friends through planning and participating in the seminar and it was the perfect opportunity to find people who are passionate about social action and who care about the same issues as me! I also got to meet a lot of people with very different backgrounds and perspectives than me, who taught me a lot through stories about their unique experiences.
For example, last year I was in a small group with a few other people and we met about three times over the course of the seminar. I got to know them very well in the short time we had together and I was very inspired by their different experiences and their enthusiasm for activism. I also got to hear about some really exciting organizations that I was not even aware of before! If you are like me, trying to find your place in the climate justice movement and searching for a community that can help you, this seminar is a great place to start.
A really cool aspect of this year’s seminar is that we will be having both virtual and local in-person components! Some workshops and events will take place in an online setting so that everyone can participate from the safety and comfort of their homes and meet people from across the country and beyond. Other components will be in-person at local host congregations so you can get connected to organizations and communities near you and see how these global issues might be affecting your own community. This new format will hopefully strike a balance between the health and environmental concerns about a fully in-person seminar and the mental impact of a draining online event.
There’s so much to look forward to for this year’s seminar. As I’ve worked on the seminar for the past several months, I’ve seen what an incredible opportunity it is to make a real difference in the world. How many youth get the opportunity to learn from and have input into global issues and UN policies that directly improve people's lives all over the world? Many youth want to change the world; this is our chance to do that.
The seminar is a great way to be able to connect with other like-minded teens and build connections with them. I’m looking forward to getting to know and talking with other teens who share my values and want to make a real difference in our communities and in the world. It’s a place where I can hear different opinions and ideas than my own. In addition, the seminar specifically and purposefully uplifts youth and emphasizes that our voices are important. This is a distinct space for youth voices to be heard and acted upon.
While helping plan this seminar I’ve gotten a taste of what some of these conversations look like and I can’t wait to be a part of them at the seminar. I know I’ll get a deeper understanding of climate-forced displacement from perspectives I haven’t heard before. I’ll meet new people from a variety of different backgrounds than mine, and I hope to make some friendships that will last a lifetime. This is an experience that will be both meaningful and important and it will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Youth voices and opinions are always needed but now even more than ever. Climate change directly affects our future in ways we don’t completely understand yet, and the ways we do know are horrific. We have to take action now; we don’t have the luxury of time. It is crucial to be able to have a say in our own future and contribute to the conversation about what will happen to the world we inherit. I hope and expect this seminar to be a way that I, and many other youth, will be able to make a difference in changing our future to one with a better, safer outcome for everyone.
Register by April 10, 2022 for the Intergenerational Spring Seminar, "Displacement & Human Rights: All In for Climate Justice," hosted by the UUA Office at the United Nations in partnership with UU Ministry for Earth, UUSC, and Side With Love.