How did you react to the unfolding reports about the worsening climate crisis this week? How are you reacting, and, more importantly, how are you coping? Some comments from my friends included:
“I don’t feel strong enough for this tonight”
“I’m too old for this; it doesn’t seem like there’s any hope.”
“It doesn’t apply to me, because I knew this already. I’m already working as hard as I can to do something about climate change. How can I work any harder? This is for other people to hear, and I just wish they would act too.”
“I wish with all my soul that the world had not reached these crossroads, but we are where we are.”
What should Christians do with news like this? And how might we support others who find it difficult? What does our faith have to say about a crisis such as this?
Christians are called to care for creation. The Uniting Church believes that God, as the Creator of the universe, calls humanity into a relationship of mutuality and interdependence with the Creation, and that God’s will for the Earth is renewal and reconciliation, not destruction by human beings. Climate change is a serious threat to the integrity of life on Earth, now and for future generations, and action is not only an excellent antidote to despair but an essential part of making a difference.
Firstly, we know that there are sufficient technological solutions to get ourselves to a zero-carbon world in a very short time. If you want to read more about these, you can start with Australia organisations Beyond Zero Emissions, Climate KIC, and the Energy Transition Hub at Melbourne University. Australia has the technology and skills to decarbonise at a very fast rate, showcase these developments and share them with the rest of the world, and export clean renewable energy from the sunny Northern Territory to places like cloudy Singapore.
Secondly, there has been a huge upswing in personal consumer action over the last decade, and it’s easier than ever to reduce plastic use, eat less meat, use renewable energy and other ways of reducing your carbon footprint.
So why hasn’t this fixed everything already? We have serious structural problems here in Australia which didn’t happen by accident but are a result of deliberate actions by corporate executives and our elected political leaders who put profit and personal power ahead of the well-being, safety and longevity of the people who are their customers and voters.
We can act, and we can care for each other. We should do these things.
This is not an exhaustive list of actions you can take, but neither is it prescriptive. Pick something – anything – and make a start today.
- Write to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, asking for serious action on climate change. Send your letters to the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) by early September (details here) and they will present your letters to the PM as part of their own delegation to his office.
- Visit your local Federal MP as part of a church group and have a conversation about climate. Join a training session with Uniting Earth on Wed 25th August to learn more about doing this effectively (details here)
- Move your money – your bank accounts, your credit cards, your superannuation, your insurance policies – away from financial institutions that keep lending to, investing in, or insuring fossil fuel projects that lock in catastrophic emissions. ARRCC have all the details here – and plenty of other resources under their ‘act’ and ‘advocate’ options.
- Join a local group working for better local planning to reduce and mitigate the effects of climate change. For our local residents, this could be the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre, which identifies and facilitates local opportunities, and cooperates with other organisations.
- Work with your congregation (or community group, or family) to reduce your emissions further; Uniting Earth provides useful resources and case studies here. Although personal action can by no means substitute for the global industrial transition that is necessary, encouraging people to take action at a personal level often helps to move them into taking direct action to pressure politicians and corporations into meaningful action.
- Knit a ‘climate scarf’ to present to a state politician or local community leader such as your mayor or church leader with a message of creation and climate justice. Read more here about the Knit for Climate Action campaign being undertaken by the organisation Common Grace.
- Vote for candidates committed to real action on climate change rather than ones whose parties have simply made the situation worse for the last couple of decades.
Climate anxiety – is that what I’m feeling?
The Uniting Church’s Climate Anxiety and Pastoral Care Task Group is made up of environmental experts, mental health practitioners, and clergy. They say,
“The first thing to know is that this can be a normal and completely rational response to the situation we are facing – and you are not alone. There are three things that can help you start to address these feelings: talking about it, taking action, and working together.”
The Group has prepared a Climate Conversations Guide for facilitators to assist people in dealing with climate anxiety, and our congregation plans to organise a session so that people seeking support can join together online.
There are other things you can do to support those around you and build your own resilience as we live with climate change and act to prevent it getting so much worse:
- Connect with God and nature: these devotional guides recommended by Uniting Earth can help both adults and children.
- Watch this video (5.30min) by Hobart doctor of the Tasmanian Climate Resilience Network talking about the basics of looking after our mental health in response to climate change.
- Explore what resources are out there to help you and others: ARRCC has a wide range of sermons, prayers and other writings to help you reflect, meditate and pray (details here). Psychology for a Safe Climate seeks to support people emotionally in facing the climate reality. You can find resources on their website, and join an online workshop on Sat 28th Aug from 2-5pm for guided reflection and support in acknowledging your grief about climate change.
Is finding hope the answer? Or is it courage that is more sorely needed right now? And is prayer an exercise of faith that properly accompanies deeds, or an action in itself, or both? The writer of a letter preserved in the Bible says to the audience, a gathering of believers in the city of Phillipi, that the peace of God would be theirs in prayer. For some of us, that peace is to be found, in addition to prayer, in the company of others working together and taking action for the common good.
Engadine Uniting is developing some online events and gatherings to address both the need for climate action and for self-care, and will advertise those as soon as possible.