By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Shane Goldie, a student minister from Milk River, had his sights set on traveling to Dubai as a delegate to COP28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties. His plans have changed. The Middle East is in turmoil, and the trip that Goldie had planned has gone from an actual reality to a virtual reality.
The conference runs Nov. 30 – Dec. 12, and Goldie will be participating remotely, though he says that in some ways that’s a good thing. “That helps cut down our carbon footprint,” he said.
Goldie, 22, is a student minister of the United Church, which has a standing delegate status to the climate conference. He serves Knox United in Taber and St. Paul’s United in Milk River, and is part of the Indigenous Church as well. He holds a bachelor’s degree in theology with an English minor and is currently a master’s of divinity student at St. Andrew’s College (Saskatoon). He identifies as Metis and Cree, and credits his heritage in part for shaping him into an advocate for a healthy planet. “It’s the way that my people are and were, and continue to strive to be caretakers and stewards of the land. We’re just guests on it and it’s our job to maintain and care for all of mother earth.”
As the student minister for two United Churches, he does everything that an ordained minister would do. He’s done marriages, baptisms, and communion, and lives in the church manse in Milk River, traveling back and forth between communities.
“What really got me interested in applying for COP28 as a delegate was the extreme fires that we had across the country this past year and seeing the effects of that. I think it’s good for youth to be able to have a voice. More often than not no matter what organization or group you’re a part of, it’s the younger generations that often get overlooked.”
As a delegate to the conference, he’s not necessarily expected to bring a message, but rather be a messenger upon leaving the conference. He’ll have the opportunity to witness negotiations and policy discussions at the U.N. and to connect with like-minded people from other nations. “We get to create networking opportunities where we can speak and share the stories that we’re all experiencing and having, and figure out ways that we can work together.”
“At the United Church we have calls to hold candlelight vigils for those who are at COP and for the COP negotiations,” he said. “And we get to talk and share and discuss how effectively each country has met its goals and commitments over the last year. They’re supposed to have met the marks they agreed to, but for the majority (they) just missed those.”
He brings a mix of religious faith, spirituality, Indigenous heritage, climate activism, and progressive values to his role. Those factors influence his work both inside and outside of the church, and he’s open about how those all come together to work for him and for others.
In a Nov. 15 media release, the United Church of Canada backed its presence at COP28 and said its actions reflect a “commitment to reduce its own carbon, energy, transportation, and operational footprint, and to work with allies and collaborators for stronger advocacy and church-wide participation.”
As a representative of his generation, he said, “It’s a passion to be able to speak on behalf of younger generations and my generation. The degradation of our environment isn’t just an ecological concern but a spiritual crisis; when we harm the Earth, we stray from the sacred responsibility entrusted upon us.”