An Anxious Climate

Jessica Morthorpe discusses the importance of pastoral care in an age of climate change and global ecological destruction.

On the 8th of February this year, our apartment flooded.

A freak storm hit Parramatta on a Friday, forcing me to drive through floodwaters (on James Ruse Drive of all places!), only to return home and find water everywhere – the carpets soaked, books wet and wrinkled, and the couch destroyed. But it was crazy for Parramatta to get 38mm of rain in half an hour like that and it’s unlikely to happen again. Or is it? I know with climate change these “freak” events are going to happen more and more often, so I’m worried…

Chances are, you already know someone who has been impacted by recent droughts, floods, bushfires or storms in Australia. You have seen the emotional pain his creates – the sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the pure exhaustion.

We can also see this anxiety in the actions of the children and teenagers leading the School Strikes for Climate Action. An estimated 150,000 students left their classrooms to attend the 30 major strike events around Australia on November 30th 2018, in every capital city and almost 20 regional centres around the country (1).

The original inspiration for these strikes, Swedish teen Greta Thunberg (16) - who has made international headlines with her climate advocacy- describes the motivation for her protests as her sadness from looking at the inaction of world leaders. She “describes how at the age of eleven, several years after learning about the concept of climate change for the first time, she fell into a depression and became ill. “I stopped talking. I stopped eating," she explains. "In two months, I lost about ten kilos of weight (2).””

Mental-health researchers around the world are increasingly concerned, with reports being released by the American Psychological Association (3) and the British medical journal The Lancet (4). Australian psychologists are also recognising that this is a growing area of need for people (5), who are searching for hope and support, and it is essential that churches and clergy are also prepared to provide the pastoral care people need in these difficult times, and those coming.

In response, we are organising a Climate Pastoral Care Training day for clergy, religious leaders and pastoral care providers on Tuesday 28th of May, 2019. This training, including experts from around Australia, will be an opportunity to share experiences of climate anxiety you have encountered, and to discuss how best to provide pastoral care in an age of climate change and global ecological destruction. Please come or encourage your leaders to attend!

For more details view the Facebook event here. 

Tickets to the training day can be purchased here.

Jessica Morthorpe is a member of the Common Grace climate justice team, Uniting Earth Advocate (Uniting NSW/ACT), a Christian environmentalist with a passion for endangered species, eco-theology and helping the Australian church to care for creation.

Creation & Climate Justice