An anxious climate
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night worried about the future climate change is going to create? Worried about your children, your house, the collapse of civilisation?
On February 8 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’ve seen the emotional pain this creates – the sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the pure exhaustion.
These psychological impacts of climate change are not just individual but affect people all across our society as they dread the future and what it might bring. For example, a recent survey of over 6,500 women by the Australian Conservation Foundation and 1 Million Women found that for “women between 30 and 39 years, 22 per cent said they were reconsidering having children or more children because of climate change”.
We can also see this anxiety in the actions of the children and teenagers leading the School Strikes for Climate Action. An estimated 15,000 students left their classrooms to attend major strike events around Australia on November 30, 2018, in every capital city and many regional centres.
The original inspiration for these strikes, Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg – who’s 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 11, 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.”
Mental health researchers around the world are increasingly concerned, with reports being released by the American Psychological Association and the UK medical journal The Lancet.
Australian psychologists are also recognising that this is a growing area of need for people searching for hope and support, and it’s essential that churches and clergy are also prepared to provide the pastoral care people need in these difficult times, and those to come.
In response, Uniting is organising a Climate Pastoral Care Training day for clergy, religious leaders and pastoral care providers on Tuesday May 28. This training, with experts from around Australia, will be an opportunity to share experiences of climate anxiety you’ve 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! More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2084393374975689/
Jessica Morthorpe is Uniting Earth Advocate with Uniting NSW/ACT.