by Kate Strathdee
Inhale, exhale. The air of spring is upon us. It is warming up. I am alive and the season indicates new possibilities, new life. I burst into tears. I was not confused or sad. What suddenly changed?
Months later, the toxicity of air, the warming of the planet became apparent to me. My tears were a sign of our broken world.
Destruction of ecosystems. Polluted water. Toxic air. Sinking cities. Deserted farmland. Yet, I see people walking down the street as if nothing is wrong. As if our entire planetary ecosystem is not under the brink of collapse.
O God, why have you forsaken us? My tears do not compare to many I see on the screens of my TV: the groans of the poor, or the Indigenous, those of the Third World. Still, even with the privilege that I have, I remain worried for my future.
Oh Christ, why have you been far from us? We are getting sicker and more alone. New viruses spread and food is less nutritious. People trust each other less.
Oh Spirit, why have you been so quiet? We need your power to rise up against the powers and principalities of this world. So that justice can roll down – down like a river – washing us from our sins of complicity and apathy.
Redeemer of this world, breathe on us your breath of life so that we may fulfill your will.
Inhale, exhale. As I rise, tears come. I let them fall and then wipe them away. There’s work to be done.
It was only when I was 15 that I started to understand what climate change has brought and will bring. In elementary school, I was taught about the greenhouse effect–how the earth was getting warmer and how an array of renewable energy sources might address this. In both school and church, I was taught about the importance of taking care of creation and not being wasteful.
At that point, I had not put together the fact that the increasing number of endangered species was connected to the warming of our planet. Reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate opened my eyes to the fact that climate change went beyond heat waves and wildfires and that this would lead to flooding of cities, more frequent natural disasters, and food shortages. I felt immense grief yet simultaneous hope at the same time since the power of people coming together has already led to wins for a healthier planet. These include the citizens of Hamburg, Germany, voting to put their utilities under community ownership and President Obama cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline due to public pressure.
Even though there is a lot of hope, much has already been lost and some things are likely to be lost in the future. It ranges from smaller things such as the seasonal allergies I suffer from becoming more common to much larger things such as entire countries being flooded by sea-level rise.
I recognize that I have immense privilege as someone living in the Global North. Climate change is affecting me already, but likely will not be life-threatening to me for a while. As I grieve the losses and future losses, I’m comforted by the resurrection of Jesus. Despite my grief, I know that God is here and that Christ will come again. While some may say this belief may prevent me from action, it actually gives me the strength to take action. God is working through us to bring about a new world.
Kate Strathdee is an undergraduate fourth-year student at Carleton University studying Global and International Studies, and is planning to work in elementary education in the future. She was also an intern with Mennonite Creation Care Network in 2021. Kate was raised in the Mennonite tradition and currently attends Ottawa Mennonite Church. Kate is passionate about education, music, environmental justice, food justice and Jesus.