The latest “interview with an activist” – this time with Hannah Malcolm
1. Who are you? (background, education, whatever you think is relevant)
I live in Moss Side/Rusholme (Moss Side for voting, Rusholme on Google Maps!) with my spouse and our dog called Apple Juice. For my day job I coordinate a national education project called God and the Big Bang. We run workshops for students and training for teachers on improving dialogue between science and faith. My background is in studying Theology, but before I moved to Manchester I lived in an Anglican-Franciscan community in Dorset called Hilfield Friary where I managed a (large) kitchen, supported the environmental education/outreach project and did a lot of digging!
2. There have been a lot of efforts over the decades to get churches generally more active on climate change – I’m thinking of Operation Noah, the Pope’s encyclical and doubtless many other things I’ve not heard of. What can we learn from those efforts, what seems to you have worked/not worked? What should people of faith be doing differently?
There are lots of Christian organisations who have worked incredibly hard to change church culture around climate change, biodiversity, and environmental justice. The most successful work has been done by getting to the heart of what motivates people by
talking directly to the stories of faith that we share. I often come across the perspective (held by both religious and non-religious people) that faith is something private, apolitical, and personal, which belongs behind closed doors or in places of worship. The problem with this is that many faiths, Christianity included, are public and political at their historical core, and it is hard to tell those stories without seeing their social consequences! For me, helping fellow Christians tap into the world changing love on which our faith is built is vital for helping sustain movements for climate action. When we act out of love rather than guilt or fear we are less vulnerable to burn out or feelings of bitterness.
3. You’re giving a talk at the Eco Fest in Whalley Range on 18 May with the title “Climate Change, Solastagia and the Church”. Without too many spoilers, what is solastalgia, how does it connect to the Church and climate change?
The word ‘solastalgia‘ was coined by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht to name the feeling of “homesickness when you’re still at home” – the grief associated with climate breakdown and negative changes to the places we live. I will be talking about the ways we need to understand and communicate that feeling. Lots of us are experiencing it without much outlet, and the most politically and economically marginalised around the world are already dealing with the trauma associated with this grief on a massive, overwhelming scale.
4. Have you signed the “Climate Emergency Manchester” petition? If so, how do you think people who have signed it could encourage their friends and acquaintances to sign? And what should organisations be doing to get more signatures?
I have signed it. A frustrating reality of online petitions is that even a very minor barrier (like having to register to sign) can put people off. In this instance I suspect that having people sign a physical piece of paper might get more signatures than sharing a link: it makes it easier, makes people more accountable, and makes them feel part of something bigger since they’re being invited to sign in the presence of others.
5. Anything else you’d like to say
I am in the process of setting up a Manchester branch of the Christian Climate Action movement, which will aim to support other groups like Extinction Rebellion who are carrying out non-violent direct action (NVDA) as well as helping churches to think through NVDA in the context of our faith. Get in touch if you’re interested! My twitter handle is @hannahmmalcolm.