In 2015, on a trip around Europe with my husband and our young son, we visited the Norwegian Glacier Museum.
Our then six year old was hugely impacted by a powerful display around global warming. As we left the museum I made him a quick promise that we would do something to respond when we got back to Australia, such as writing to the Prime Minister.
Our son at the Norwegian Glacier Museum in 2015.
On our return to life in Sydney, I forgot that promise . With the busyness of life and the constant demands on our time, we moved on with our lives and didn’t speak again about our experience at the Glacier Museum. And, as far as we knew, our son had forgotten about the experience also.
When we heard from Common Grace about the Community Climate Petition, we knew that as a family we should get involved to collect petition signatures from the people in our neighbourhood of Newtown. The Community Climate Petition is the largest faith-led, nation-wide, pen-and-paper petition in Australia’s history. Around the country hundreds of people have become petitioners in their local community, collecting thousands of signatures from residents concerned about climate change.
Our family signed up together, with myself as Principal Petitioner, and went out petitioning for several weekends on King Street in Newtown. We joined with other petitioners from all faith backgrounds in our electorate of Sydney to collect in churches, in schools and on the streets. Wearing our matching “There is No Planet B” t-shirts we talked to local people about our concern for God’s creation and the impact of climate change. While many we spoke to were supportive, we heard the compassion fatigue of a community tired and frustrated by the lack of action on this issue. In this we felt our visible presence brought encouragement to others to continue to raise their voices. People were also surprised that Christians in their neighbourhood were passionate about caring for the environment.
Together with the broader electorate team we collected 1,481 signatures, and arranged to meet with our local Member to deliver the petition.
Meeting with our local Member Tanya Plibersek to deliver the 1,481 signatures we'd collected from our electorate.
Our meeting with local Member Tanya Plibersek was a really positive one in which we were able to thank her for her voice on this issue. We shared the concerns we had heard in our community, handed her the petition signatures and asked her to present them to Parliament. When Ms Plibersek asked our son why climate change was important to him, he said he really didn't know. His answer led to us having a laugh as a group, with Ms Plibersek sympathizing with him that her own children often went along with her to public events too. Rather than be embarrassed I was pleased she knew we had not specially prepared him for the meeting. My motivation for being a part of the petition is both motivated by my faith but also in wanting a good future for my son and other vulnerable people. As an eight year old his experience and understanding of our involvement in the petition has had a different and delayed meaning.
Just a few days ago we were discussing climate change in the car when I mentioned global warming. My son exclaimed, "Just like glaciers melting, Mum!" Bang! There it was – the forgotten promise made in Norway two years earlier to take action as a family. My son had not forgotten his Norwegian glacier experience. It turns out that while he understood “global warming”, he hadn’t connected “climate change” as part of the same issue.
Like others in our world our son is not the major contributor to climate change, yet he understands the need to respond and speak up – just remember to call it global warming and talk about glaciers!!!
We were moved by Ms Plibersek mentioning our simple story in Parliament last week. We hope that in our meeting full of thanks, presence and encouragement she was reminded of her passion and will continue to speak to the injustice faced by the voiceless neighbors in our region who are already dealing with the impacts of climate change and who need us to act.
Just like my nearly forgotten promise in Norway, I am reminded that we all find our priorities shaped by the immediate more than the important. As Christians right across our country continue to meet with their local members delivering the Community Climate petitions in the next few weeks, I would ask you to take a small but important step of your own. Could you write an email to your own local Member, telling them why climate change action is important to you, and ask them to take seriously the call of the Community Climate Petition? Common Grace has pre-written an email to help you get started, but I encourage you to customise it and tell your own personal story about why caring for God’s creation matters to you.
Together, we can share our collective stories with political leaders and others in power so that strong voices of compassion, grace and justice for all of God’s creation are heard in the halls of Parliament House and in our communities.
Jo Huntington is a Common Grace supporter from Newtown Vineyard Initiative in Sydney. Jo was the Principal Petitioner in her electorate for the Community Climate Petition, Australia's largest faith-led, pen-and-paper petition calling for climate action.