Changing Landscapes, Changing Climate: How my Faith Informs my Climate Action
My name is Erin, I’m in my fourth year of a Bachelor of Speech Pathology at Australian Catholic University. I worship at Leichhardt Uniting Church, where I live in community at Epworth House with other students and young adults.
As a child, I spent many of my school holidays travelling rural New South Wales with my family. I have early memories of long car trips, fields of yellow green with a Crowded House soundtrack, and squeals of delight whenever a kangaroo was spotted. Warm country towns greeted us on the road from Newcastle through the Hunter Valley and out towards the North West Slopes. I got to know the roads well, and I loved feeling at home on those long country drives.
I was probably around six or seven years old when I noticed things changing. It would start with a housing development – a seemingly innocent clearing where trees once watched over the highway, now filled with empty lots ready for kit homes. Then the roads would change – large scale roadworks to build freeways that would divert traffic around small towns. Our trips changed slowly, and even as a child I felt the undertow of ‘progress’ – something bigger than me, beyond my years and understanding.
The most memorable change happened on one particular trip after a lunch break at Muswellbrook. As we drove out of the town, the ground beside our car seemed to fall away. As if overnight someone had taken a bite out of the countryside. A gaping hole was left – ugly, open cut wounds in the earth.
I felt a deep overwhelming sadness that day, though I couldn’t explain why. My souvenir was an unnameable grief that I didn’t yet understand.
As a child I was blissfully unaware of the deeply entrenched coal industry in my country. However, I was very aware of a Divine presence I had seen moving in the world around me. And although I didn’t understand it fully, I somehow understood. I recognised that the destruction I saw happening to the landscapes of my youth were at odds with the presence of a creator God. I watched the physical world transform around me, trees disappearing and developments growing.
I now know that the environmental impact of clearing large areas of trees in regional settings for new housing developments is significant (especially when magnified on a national scale) and the high greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture of building materials and highways is one of many contributing factors to climate change.
I am concerned that as I get older I will feel less and less connected with that little girl and her humble understanding that something just wasn’t right. I am disheartened daily by the choices made by our governments and leaders. I am heartbroken by a mining empire that continues to thrive, by uncharacteristic and devastating fires in the Amazon, by the cries of our Pacific sisters and brothers that continue to be silenced. It all feels too complex, too intricate and unstoppable to even begin to fathom an alternative.
And yet, we march.
We march because this natural world is good and was created by a sustaining and abundant God. We march because we believe there is enough for all – despite what the loudest voices claim. We march because we follow a man who walked alongside those who had the least; people deeply and personally impacted by the injustices in our world.
The Global Climate Strike is an opportunity for the Uniting Church to publicly recognise our commitment to climate action. I will march because I owe it to that little girl, and to all the little ones to come. I owe it to them to share the care for creation and the hope for a sustainable future that I find in Christ. Why will you march?
Register for the Sydney Climate Strike here.