Friday, July 19, 2024
HomeOpinionEditorialTransforming despair into action

Transforming despair into action

2020 feels, for many, a year of one catastrophe after another. The recent experience of bushfires, smoke, drought, flooding and hailstorms has been somewhat upstaged by the current Covid-19 pandemic. Added together, this series of challenging and for some traumatic events have been damaging to physical, social and mental health and wellbeing.

The Climate Pastoral Care Conference, held online at the end of July, was therefore a timely and much needed event.

Begun in 2019 by Jessica Morthorpe, the Rev. Jason John and others from Uniting Earth, the Climate Pastoral Care Conference emerged from personal experience of climate anxiety and the need to transform individual despair into collective action. The conference has grown in scope and scale in response to the increase in climate anxiety and the increasing demand for climate action.

The 2020 Climate Pastoral Care Conference, sponsored by Uniting, Common Grace and the Five Leaf Eco-Awards, brought together over 200 people from across Australia as well as from New Zealand and the US. Conference presenters and participants gathered online to share stories, listen to wisdom, and to generate hope and action for a just and sustainable future for all.

Experts in the various fields of education, medicine, psychology, communication and theology, generously gave their time to share current research and best practice regarding climate pastoral care, climate communication, and church climate action and advocacy. Their words fell on appreciative ears.

Participants engaged enthusiastically and were moved by the power and authenticity of presentations such as those given by Brooke Prentis, CEO of Common Grace, and Rebecca Huntley, climate activist and social researcher, Stephen Robinson, Chaplain and National Disaster Recovery Officer, Byron Smith, ecological ethicist and Christian minister.

Brooke Prentis. Photo: Common Grace

The research evidence presented at the conference suggests that many people, young and old, struggle with climate anxiety. Grief and depression seem to have become increasingly pervasive as climate events increase in intensity and frequency.

It was clear that Christian groups represented at the conference are responding to these challenges and opportunities and exploring ways to offer pastoral care and support. The commitment to walking alongside those most in need was demonstrated as was the desire to enable and empower collective action.

An inspirational highlight of the conference was the presentation by youth leaders from School Strike 4 Climate. These young people have channelled despair into action and agency, and like other youth leaders from around the world remind us that the time for climate action is now.

For further information:

Dr Cathie Harrison is a subeditor at the SSH, chair of the South Sydney Uniting Church congregation, early learning consultant, and advocate for children and the Earth.


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