It was the survey we conduced of our church members a couple years ago that got me especially interested in this topic. 95% of our congregation agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement: “Climate change is real and is mostly human caused.” Yet, despite this, I know that most of the people in my congregation go about their daily lives more-or-less as if climate change does not exist. I’m sure we are not unique in this respect -- I have observed this routinely. Based on those survey results, I concluded that there was little point in hosting more presentations at our church regarding the science of climate change. Instead, what we needed was a way to get more of our congregation “unstuck”. By that, I mean that they translate their understanding and acceptance of climate science into positive actions that are integrated into their daily lives to whatever extent their personal time constraints allow.
With that in mind, my minister and I recently co-facilitated a two-session discussion course which we called “Who Asked for Climate Change, Anyway?” We limited attendance to 15 in order to allow everyone a good opportunity to contribute to the discussion. Here is the course description we came up with:
Our daily life is difficult enough as it is. We really don’t need climate change added on top of all that! Awareness of climate change triggers uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, guilt, sadness, and helplessness. In this course, we will discuss and share these feelings. Then we will envision a new cultural norm that, in many ways, is far more health-giving and fulfilling. The goal is to accept our feelings, adopt a hopeful outlook, and translate those feelings into constructive actions that help make life better for ourselves, our loved ones, and the world community. Wednesday, April 15 and 22, 7-9pm, Room 10. This class will be facilitated by Douglas Taylor and Wes Ernsberger.
The course was based on articles, book excerpts, and videos that I have collected over the last couple of years. Here are links to the course materials and additional references: http://www.etmsolar.com/gsuu/gs/pcc_apr2015.htm
We felt that the course went quite well. The majority of those attending were already environmentally-oriented but we also drew a number of people from our congregation who are not generally involved in environmental issues. As it turns out, this course was pertinent to everyone because our environmental activists haven’t focused much on the psychological aspects either. I don’t know if the course resulted in anyone getting “unstuck” but a number of participants said that they appreciated a chance to talk in a group setting about the uncomfortable emotions that the climate change problem elicits. So perhaps its main value was of a “support group” nature. We intend to offer something like this again.