by Chief Executive of A Rocha UK, Andy Atkins
The climate and biodiversity emergencies will not now be solved quickly. We need to change fast but also sustain momentum for more changes over the next decade at least, if we are to leave a livable world for today’s younger generation. Campaigning will be a critical part of what we need to do – speaking up to influence local and national authorities, and possibly business and church leaders too, to use their greater power to hasten action on the environmental crisis. Campaigning can be exhilarating and rewarding but it can also be tiring and frustrating. So how can we sustain ourselves for the long haul? I suggest two ways.
Rest by drawing on the gift of nature that God gives us.
Few people can keep anything up for too long without an occasional break. We get tired, stale, and lose perspective. So remember to take a rest from it now and again. And a good way to do that, I have found after three decades of campaigning, is to get regular time in nature and remind ourselves of the beauty of God’s creation. Go for walks – perhaps with a book or app on bird or plant identification. If you don’t have ‘countryside’ nearby, explore local parks or plan a regular day out to a more nature-filled place within reach of your home by bicycle or public transport, say.
You may also find it restful to do something very practical with nature. It’s a great antidote to all the words, issues, politics and thinking involved in campaigning. I love those things – but they can wear my brain out sometimes. But getting your hands in the soil now and again is very ‘earthing’ mentally. If you subscribe to a local ‘green’ newsletter or Facebook group you can keep in the loop about any volunteering opportunities, such as work parties for tree planting for example; or, if you have a garden, just get out in it more and convert a section to be better for nature.
Join and participate in a like-minded community.
The second way to sustain ourselves is to go forward in company. It is so much easier to go on a journey which will have unexpected twists and turns as well as exciting adventures, with others you know and trust. Ask yourself and pray about who you can travel with. Then seek them out and join them, learning together, sharing challenges and victories as you go. This could be a local community campaign, the local branch of a national charity like the Wildlife Trusts. Or it could be one of the A Rocha UK own national communities, Eco Church and Wild Christian, which also have campaign components. You may think of these as an ‘award scheme’ or an ebulletin, but they are much more.
Eco Church, our programme for churches, has grown beyond a toolkit and award scheme to help churches to go green and address the environmental crisis; it’s now a community of 4000+ churches who can learn from each other and speak up together. We will increasingly be flagging relevant campaigns for Eco Churches to participate in as a congregation, such as the focus on Climate Sunday during 2021 in the run up to COP26.
Wild Christian, our programme for individuals and families, is not just a monthly email full of ideas on how to enjoy, nurture and protect nature; it is a growing on and offline community of people sharing what they learn, so we can go faster and further together in the years ahead. Every month we flag a campaign option, and we’ll be organising more on-line live campaign events in 2022.
The decade ahead will be critical. We must all think, pray and then act on what God is calling us to do by way of speaking up, campaigning for rapid action on the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. But to keep that up, we’ll need to rest now and again as well as find good people to campaign with. That will not only give us endurance – which we will certainly need – but make our campaigning more effective and enjoyable too. And, it is quite OK to have fun and enjoy the company while campaigning on serious issues. It’s helped keep me going campaigning for 35 years.
This blog was written for A Rocha UK’s Wild Christian email, November 2021. Sign up here to receive future Wild Christian emailsand join this vibrant, growing on-line community.
Explore Eco Church: ecochurch.arocha.org.uk
Explore Wild Christian: arocha.org.uk/wildchristian/