From the ways that global warming is making bushfires worse, to the way that Indigenous people are affected by climate change, to the way to talk to children about ecological destruction, the 2020 Climate Pastoral Care Conference covered a range of valuable material.
The conference ran from Thursday 30 July to Saturday 1 August online via Zoom. It featured keynote addresses from Merle Conyer, Brooke Prentis, Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson, among others.
One of these keynotes was delivered via Merle Conyer on Friday 31 July.
Ms Conyer is a psychiatrist and author. She spoke on the concept of how to help children deal with climate anxiety.
Young people, she said, often tell her that their main worry is that older people don’t take their concerns seriously.
In such cases, she recommended people develop toolkits to help them discuss and work through their concerns, including drawing or spending time in nature.
“The key definition of trauma is when we lose the ability to respond,” Ms Conyer said.
She highlighted how fight, flight, or freeze were the responses to trauma, and that climate responses involving climate action would be a source of hope.
Another point was that children need to engaged about climate change in age appropriate ways.
To some age groups, Ms Conyer suggested not talking about climate change unless it was brought up by them.
“For primary age children, I think it becomes appropriate to [begin conversations],” she said.
“Let young people know that you want them to live in a beautiful world.”
“By the time we come to early teens…going into research together is a wonderful way to steer young people towards reliable information sources.”
“This action reduces an aloneness that young people feel [when dealing with the subject].”
“There is a role for young people…to claim their agency and act.”
The conference also featured a number of engaging workshops.
In one of them, Common Grace CEO and Wakka Wakka woman Brooke Prentis took attendees through the intersection between climate justice and the lives of first nations people.
The workshop asked participants to consider a number of questions. These included, what hope was to them, as well as what grief is, what whiteness was, what Black Lives Matter meant, and how Black Lives Matter related to climate justice, among others.
This, she said, was so participants could self-reflect on where they sat in relationship to indigenous Australians and climate justice.
The workshop articulated a number of struggles that indigenous peoples were engaged in in their countries for climate justice.
“This is why we acknowledge country.”
Ms Prentis pointed participants to how the Torres Strait is already affected by rising flood levels.
She referred to the Nylah Burton article, ‘People of colour experience climate grief more deeply than white people’.
Ms Prentis said, during the recent bushfires, indigenous people were looked to so as to teach their fire management, but that there were much more that they had to teach.
“We feel the pain of all of the country,” she said.
“Country was all of those animals.”
The session challenged non-Indigenous Christians to truly work alongside Aboriginal people for “truth, justice, and love.”
This, she said, meant meaningfully partnering in a way that properly considered indigenous people.
For instance, she observed that Indigenous climate activists had felt the need to boycott the 2015 people’s climate marches because they had felt marginalised in the planning of the events.
“The government and the church structures in this country don’t want to listen to us.”
Ms Prentis said that Common Grace was, “walking the talk” by appointing her as CEO earlier this year, making her the first leader of a national church organisation.
She also pointed to the work of NITV as giving indigenous peoples a media voice.
Ms Prentis called for indigenous people to credit indigenous people when they learned from them.
The conference saw some 175 people attend online via Zoom. They included climate activists, ministers, counsellors, and former Moderators. They interacted in break out rooms and via the chat function.
The conference was a joint venture between Uniting, Common Grace, and the Five Leaf Eco-Awards.