Climate anxiety is real

Editorial by Dr. Chris Elisara, WEASC Co-Director, in the current issue of the Pollinator Newsletter:

Climate anxiety is real. I personally feel it, and it’s growing stronger. In the US, for example, we’ve just had five 1000-year rain events in five weeks - Dallas, Kentucky, St. Louis, eastern Illinois, and Death Valley. Conversely, water flows in the Colorado River are running so low there is now serious risk of the unimaginable - Lake Powell and Lake Mead dead pooling behind their dams. If that happens, and make no mistake that’s the direction it’s heading, the loss of electricity will have dire ripple effects through millions of people’s lives in the Western US, but that will only be most recent impact of a cascade of serious negative impacts. For anyone paying attention this pushes all the anxiety buttons.

Perhaps my angst would be alleviated if the bad news was only coming out of the US and the rest of the world was doing fine, but that’s not the case. Photos this summer of rivers drying up in Europe are shocking, while yesterday’s news and images of raging Monsoon flooding in Pakistan are heartbreaking. I could go on with the inventory, but I don’t need to. Everyone reading this can point to examples in their own lived experience. As my anxiety rises, which I agree with Bill McKibben “makes good sense,” how do I deal with my apprehensions from a Christian perspective?

I am going to suggest several things, all of which will be familiar, but are nevertheless worth reaffirming.*

The first is going deeper into prayer and honestly expressing the anxieties and concerns we have with God, and in ongoing prayerful conversations work on those concerns by seeking God’s perspective, truth, and actions to take. In this Season of Creation lets also avail ourselves to the various opportunities to pray with others mentioned in this month’s Pollinator.

The second thing I suggest, and I’ve been doing this a lot lately, is listening to the new Climate Vigil Songs album. Listening and mediating on these songs--which have breadth to them from lament songs, to praise songs, to marching out songs buoyed with courage, imagination, and hope--has kept my heart and mind focused on God and faithfully doing the work at hand.

Third, as Amos reminds us, our songs of worship are an afront to God unless we also “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like and ever flowing stream” (Amos 5: 23-24). So keep doing your “silver buckshot” climate and creation care work, because as Dr. Katharine Hayhoe encourages us in What Would An Effective Solution to Climate Change Look Like, “There’s no one silver bullet that will fix it for us: but there is a lot of silver buckshot . . . we need all options on the table and all hands on deck.” In addition to all the options we can find to do through Pollinator partners, another helpful resource, especially for those in the US, is Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s new newsletter.

Finally, lean into your Christian community, including, but not exclusively your creation care community. Talk to them about your anxiety, ask for prayer and support, and offer the same for others who are feeling the same way. I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one feeling a pit in their stomach about our multiple ecological crises. As McKibben also points out there’s “solace in solidarity,” which is a poetic way to say don’t try and face this alone when we’re members of Christ’s church.

With appreciation and prayers for all you do,

Chris Elisara, WEA Task Force

*For an article on climate anxiety from a psychological perspective here’s a recent example: How Psychology Can Help Fight Climate Change—And Climate Anxiety.
Or check this article from the Washington Post (of all places) on why climate anxiety requires more than science.

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