Young people in Australia are reporting alarming levels of anxiety about the growing impact of climate change. As Christians working with young people, how well do we understand the problem of climate anxiety, what is our pastoral response, and how do we go about sharing the Christian hope in this challenging context
In October 2022, Tearfund brought together a range of researchers, practitioners and leaders in the field for an event to explore these important questions.
Watch it below.
Children and young people around the world are reporting alarming levels of worry and concern about climate change, with implications for their daily lives and long term health.
Concern about climate change has climbed to an all time high, and in 2021, Tearfund commissioned the most comprehensive research to date on Australian Christians' views on climate change. This in-depth study explores and compares the views of young adult Christians, church leaders and the wider Australian community.
According to Tearfund’s research, more than 3 in 5 young Christians in Australia are either very or extremely concerned about climate change. The younger the Christian, the more likely they are to be extremely concerned.
In their own international survey of young people and the anxiety they are experiencing relating to climate change, Lancet Planetary Health study in 2021 of over 10,000 young people aged between 15-26 found that 75% of respondents said that “They think the future is frightening and 83% said that they think people have failed to take care of the planet”.
The Lancet findings point to the need for greater research in this area, whilst underlining that their initial study highlights that “Climate change, climate anxiety, and inadequate government response are all chronic stressors that could threaten the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people around the world”.
The majority of the Australian community, and especially its younger members, are concerned about climate change and want to see Australia playing its part to address the problem. As Christians, we have an opportunity to step into the conversation and bring a much-needed voice of hope, one that is grounded in God’s great love for this earth and all who live in it.
Problematic anxiety is about avoidance, whereas functional anxiety leads to action. So when people are involved in action towards making positive change in dealing with the issues they are fearful of, they have a much greater confidence than they would otherwise.
Giving a space and a voice for young people is really important. I had this dream of a dystopian world - there was land sinking and fires all around - it was probably one of the most vivid dreams I’ve had. I woke up from it in a sweat and tears and I just felt so hopeless, but later that week I had a small group and I brought it up with one of my youth leaders and that was the first time I heard the term ‘climate anxiety’. So for me that was the beginning of me tackling that issue and confronting those emotions in a productive way… So naming it as a reality and having leaders validating those emotions is really important.
There are far too many people who have been suffering for decades without the opportunity to talk about their climate anxiety because it wasn’t widely accepted enough in society… younger people need to be able to share what they are feeling and get advice. Basically we need to talk about it enough that it becomes normalised.
Tearfund's landmark report on climate, young Christians and the Church in Australia. It's the most comprehensive research to date on Australian Christians' views on climate change.