Why I care about climate change…
Why I care about climate change…
Recently the Uniting Climate Action Network held an on-line workshop inviting Uniting Church members to write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urging stronger action on climate change.
As part of the workshop Bec Reidy, from Bidwill Uniting Church, shared why responding to climate change is important to her as a person of faith.
Bec has been part of the Uniting Church her whole life and has always been involved in various movements seeking justice for people and the planet. For the last 20 years she has worked in the community sector with groups experiencing disadvantage, with the last six years devoted to working with public housing residents in Mt Druitt.
I grew up in the Uniting Church and as I entered my teenage years, I really grew to understand and deeply appreciate the way that the Uniting Church works and its emphasis on social justice and care and concern for the whole of creation. As I grew up studying the stories about Jesus, what stood out for me was his compassion and empathy, his courageous willingness to stand up and challenge unjust systems that oppressed people.
I’ve always understood this quest for social justice as an integral part of my Christian faith, in fact for me, they are one and the same and I can’t separate them. The prophets all through the Old Testament speak about how much God hates it when corrupt, powerful people oppress the vulnerable and behave as though they have no responsibility to contribute to the good of the world and ensure a sense of fairness.
Also running all through the Old Testament are many passages about the wonder and majesty of creation and again, it seems to me that my Christian faith is inextricably linked with the care for the whole of creation, not just people. As long as we continue to deplete resources, emit pollution with abandon and carelessly cause animals to go extinct at an incredibly alarming rate, we are the selfish, corrupt, powerful people who are oppressing the vulnerable in creation.
I believe that God is love and that showing love and care for creation means that we need to care for every part of the ecosystems that support life on this planet. It means loving all animals, insects, plant life, ocean life and so on. It means having a deep appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life, and an understanding that in caring for all things, we actually care for ourselves. Our First Nations peoples already have a profound understanding of this and have done so for thousands of years. We still have a lot to learn from them. Caring about climate change encompasses all these things for me- it means that we embody God’s love for all things and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night or call myself a Christian if I did not consider it a part of my theology and action.
There’s a great passage in James 2 that sums up why I think it’s important to act on climate change. The verse says that there is absolutely no point in saying to someone, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” if you don’t do anything about the problems indicated. And there is a great quote/prayer from Sir Thomas More that says “The things, good Lord, that we pray for, give us the grace to labour for’. Again, it’s this idea that there is no point in praying for something as an abstract problem for God to fix. Whatever we pray for, we have a responsibility do something about in real life.
Having said that, I really struggle with ongoing depression and a constant sense of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problems that we face and the injustice in the world, so I can totally understand that sense of paralysis that many people feel- of not knowing where to start or what you can do, and often a sense of hopelessness. There are a couple of great songs with incredible lyrics that I think about regularly to remind myself that I need to keep working despite feelings of being overwhelmed or hopelessness.
The first one is “Hands” by Jewel. The key phrase in the chorus is that “These hands are small I know, but they’re not yours, they are my own.” She’s expressing a deep sense of personal agency- that no matter how small I feel, I can contribute, I can do something. And whatever small thing I can do contributes to the larger work.
The second song is actually about Climate Change- it is by the Cat Empire. It is called “No Longer There”, and there are some lines towards the end of the song that really help me on a daily basis:
To deny or to despair
It’s really just the same
It means we have to change
It expresses this idea being that if I throw my hands in the air and walk away from the work because I am so full of despair, then I am no better than the climate change deniers, and the corporate fossil fuel industry. Wherever we sit in between denial and despair, we have an absolute responsibility to change ourselves and our world. I find it incredibly challenging but it keeps me on track and reminds me why it is so important to act no matter what.
Bidwill Uniting Church