Can we talk about this, please?

Two people sitting at a table talking
July 22, 2021

Written by James Kornelsen, Public Engagement Coordinator, Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Are you concerned about what Canada is doing—or not doing—about climate change? You’re not alone. Are you unsure of what further action we should be taking? I often feel that way. Again, we’re not alone.

A lot of Canadians are stuck between concern and action.

According to new research conducted on Canadians’ attitudes about climate change, the vast majority of people are very concerned about climate change. However, while working at personal or community action, most Canadians are still not demanding greater action from their government. To compound the problem, ‘ecological grief’ is a mental health issue for Canadians that makes it even still harder to know how to act.

What does this mean for people of faith who want to see more action on climate change?

Renowned climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katherine Hayhoe has already shown us what we must do—talk about it. She also explains why. “People talk about what matters to them and are not likely to care or act on issues that aren’t important enough to talk about.”

We need to talk about it with each other to move from a place of concern to collective action.  

The question is, how do we talk about it? Just imagine yourself (in more normal times) raising the subject of climate change at a family gathering, for example. My shoulders droop. It can be frustrating. I’ve long accepted that my own family gatherings are a lost cause for this.

So, where can we find spaces for this conversation?

For people of faith, and more specifically for congregations across Canada, we have a head start on this challenge. We have spaces where we meet to talk about and practice love: love of our sisters and brothers, whether here or around the world, and love of God’s creation.

For the Love of Creation’s Faithful Climate Conversation guides were created for faith groups to talk openly and constructively with others about climate change. The focus on moving from concern to action is an important way to deal with climate grief, a very real experience of sorrow over ecological loss. Grief, anxiety and isolation are also impediments to action.

In my work at Canadian Foodgrains Bank, I have been facilitating some of these faithful climate conversations with small groups. I’ve led groups of people who are part of the same faith community, other groups with people spread across Canada, still others that included people from other parts of the world. In all cases, I have witnessed a couple of very important outcomes.

First, when people come together to talk, they share their grief, their hopes, and their visions for a better world. They learn from others who feel the same way they do, and in the process, end up feeling a little less lonely. They pray together and share some silence together. They listen to each other, and it all helps move beyond grief toward action.

Second, people share specific ideas about what kind of action can be taken. It usually begins with a variety of commitments to personal action. But participants soon come to realize that personal action is not enough. There are important actions for communities, for businesses, and especially governments. These actions happen when people share their values and ideas as citizens and then call for action.

If you’re worried that your extended family just won’t come around to talking about climate change in a meaningful way, don’t worry—there are other more productive spaces to have these conversations. We need you to take the first step and call people together.

There are people and tools ready to help you facilitate a faithful climate conversation.