By Jennifer Plummer
The article below appeared in A Rocha’s Root and Branch Magazine. A Rocha is the awarding body for Eco Church. Bishop Auckland Methodist Church received the Bronze Award in 2020.
The twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change can often seem overwhelming. What can give us endurance and help us to respond with joy and hope?
The nature and climate emergencies are having an impact on our mental health. ‘Eco-anxiety’ and ‘climate grief’ are not just commonplace phrases, but a lived experience for many.
In the storm
With no outlet or quick-fix solutions in sight, eco-anxiety will become debilitating for an increasing number of us. You may have experienced firsthand the feeling of loss or grief for our planet, or supported a family or friend in coping with feeling disempowered, stressed or overwhelmed.
In 2021, Bath University led research among 16-25 year olds, questioning 10,000 young people across ten countries on their feelings about climate change. Over half (59%) of those surveyed thought that humanity was doomed; two thirds reported feelings of grief, sadness, fear, anger, powerlessness and despair.
The research concludes that taking action – even small steps – can help to defuse anxiety and bring a sense of hope. But making a difference (on any issue of justice) can be a slow burn. Sustaining ourselves is key to acting and campaigning for nature and climate. How can we do that healthily and avoid burning out?
Clearly much more could be said than we have space for here, but here are some pointers to help us address climate (and, in fact, any crisis) fatigue, and to act and speak with loving persistence over the long haul.
It’s important to stay informed, but also to take a break from information overload and distressing images. Set boundaries and limit your social media and news exposure when you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed.
Reconnect with God’s gift of nature
Creation itself is a great antidote to all the words, issues, politics and thinking involved in climate action. Spending time in nature, perhaps with a book or app on bird or plant identification, are ‘earthing’ activities that you can enjoy individually, as a family or with friends.
Returning to our heavenly Father time and time again will give us the energy, capacity and courage to bear what we know. It will ‘irrigate our souls’ and show us what to do next.
The stories we tell, the habits we form, the repetitions we make and the prayers we say matter. Focus your attention and efforts on collective positive actions and seeing change in your community.
Topics of grief, lament and hope in relation to the loss of nature and the climate crisis are explored further in our ‘Climate Grief and Pastoral Care’ webinar. Watch it in full on A Rocha UK’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dDcobTjQv0
Connecting with other like-minded people is key to coping with eco-anxiety, providing opportunities to share thoughts and feelings and take action. A Rocha UK’s Eco Church, Partners in Action and Wild Christian communities are safe spaces to learn, share and connect; they offer tools and support to address the nature and climate crises in tangible and empowering ways together. If you are concerned for, and passionate about, God’s good earth (and need a reminder to rest and enjoy creation now and then!), join us in cultivating and practising hope for a hurting world.
Jennifer Plummer is Communications Officer and Wild Christian Coordinator for A Rocha UK. This article first appeared in the spring 2022 edition of A Rocha UK’s magazine, Root & Branch, and is reproduced here with their permission.