Sarah Werner, climate justice intern for Mennonite Church USA (MC USA), presented a seminar focused on climate anxiety on July 5, 2023, during the denomination’s national convention, MennoCon23. The seminar, titled “Got Climate Anxiety? Strategies for Hope and Resilience”, centered around ways to live rooted in hope and gratitude in a time of great uncertainty, while also addressing the phenomenon of climate anxiety.
Werner began the seminar with a time of sharing, and attendees broke out in small groups to introduce themselves and discuss questions about how anxiety impacts their lives. After several minutes of group discussion, Werner then shared some of her thoughts on climate anxiety and her own personal experiences with the phenomenon.
“I think the danger of getting stuck in climate anxiety is that it makes us feel really fragile,” Werner said, “There are lots of people who are living on the edge and so I can’t afford to get stuck in fear and anxiety when there’s a lot of things that I can do in the world.”
- Werner then shared a quote from Joanna Macy, an ecological activist who does work with climate anxiety: “Hope is something that you have to continuously nurture.”
- Identify what we hope for in terms of direction or movement of values.
- Taking steps to move ourselves in that direction.
Werner led the group in a second breakout session and asked attendees to discuss what they are grateful for and how they honor their pain. She then shared more of her experiences around climate anxiety and how she finds gratitude in her own life. Werner said, “There’s something really special about just going outside and being able to pick something from the ground that I grew myself. That is a really small thing … and it feels like a gift every day when I go out there and see my little tomatoes growing … and that keeps me going.”
The attendees then participated in a third and final breakout session, where Werner asked them to share
about their greatest hope for the future and what they feel called to work for a better world. Werner shared about the progress that has been made in climate justice and called for compassion as we continue in this work. Laura Pauls-Thomas, communications director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), East Coast, and an attendee of the climate anxiety seminar said, “Sarah’s session provided a useful and optimistic framework for individual and collective climate action. She assured us that the small things we do matter.”
Pauls-Thomas added, “The small group discussions were like a healing balm, just knowing that others are feeling the same anxieties. And more importantly, that we also share hope and gratitude from being in community with likeminded people.”
The seminar wrapped up with sharing time and a grounding exercise. Werner’s upcoming book, “Rooted Faith Practices for Living Well on a Fragile Planet” is available for pre-order on MennoMedia’s website and will be published in September 2023.
By Christle Hain for MC USA