Written by Kylah Lohnes
When I was helping draft the Faithful Climate Conversation guides I was often focused on the intellectual pieces of the conversation, getting in the facts and stories and providing the tools so that people would come out of these conversations knowing more about the climate crisis and how to best respond to it. What I didn’t understand until I began participating in these conversations is that knowledge is only one piece of the strategy towards climate justice. As important as it is to ensure that people have the right information and compelling statistics, it seems to me that numbers don’t often change people’s hearts and lives. Instead, we need compelling stories of the past, present and future, both experienced and imagined, that invite us to see ourselves in connection with all of creation and use that connection to foster mutual wellbeing.
In my experience leading three “Creation, Climate and You” conversations, the greatest strength of these conversations is connection and imagination. Each of the conversations that I have led happened online and connected people from across Turtle Island. Coming together to share about our experiences of loss, worry, exhaustion and fear was cathartic for many. We identified with one another in these feelings and experienced comfort in the reminder that we don’t carry those burdens alone.
However, even greater than this blessing of sharing our grief was the joy of dreaming of a better world together. The final activity of “Creation, Climate and You” is brainstorming together about a better world, one that is more just and carbon neutral. At first people aren’t always sure what to do with such a wide-open activity, there’s so much that we wish was different but we often don’t take the time to dream about the alternatives. But slowly, people begin to build on one another’s ideas and we move from generic principles to embodied practices of justice for all of neighbours, human and non-human. My favourite conversations are about just and sustainable food practices like community gardens, buying directly from the farm, and learning to eat according to local seasons. But our ideas are bigger than that too, we’ve talked about renewable energy production, changes to transportation systems, the role of education and storytelling, the importance of honouring Indigenous people and cultures, and ways to pressure governments and businesses to adopt more just practices. The image below includes pieces from the brainstorms in each of the conversations in which I participated. As you can see, there’s no end to the creativity and scope of our imagining a better world.
To some it may seem that this dreaming acts as a distraction from the reality of climate change and the various forms of injustice in the world. However, in my experience, this dreaming has not led us to run away from the problems in the world but has strengthened and encouraged us to face those problems with new hope and inspiration. As we dream about planting gardens, changing our transportation methods, building better relationships with Indigenous people, and more just government legislation, we begin to imagine ourselves taking on these roles and committing to this work. This imagining becomes action because we have taken the time to remind ourselves that a better world is possible and that we’re not alone in building it.
I have seen the Faithful Climate Conversations facilitate this shift from isolated concern or despair, to imagining a new world to acting for justice. I know it has happened in others and I have seen it happen in me as I’ve moved from concerned uncertainty to passionate conversation and multi-level action as I write to politicians, continue the conversation about climate change, and invite my family into seasonal eating through a community shared agriculture program. These acts have been inspired by the Faithful Climate Conversations and the space they provide to imagine a new world and build it together.