The following messaging principles, pillars and tips were developed by cross-commission staff and clergy across the Anglican Church Southern Queensland (ACSQ) as part of the Resource Churches project, in consultation with a Christian climate scientist and other consulting Christians. The document has been specifically developed to assist ACSQ clergy, lay leaders and other staff involved in climate and creation care related communications, so that hope; agency; humanising and respectful language; solutions and shared values; and, Christian mission and identity are emphasised and encouraged.
There are four key parts to this document
- Suggested messaging principles (table and summary of principles) for climate and creation care communications and conversations.
- Sample messages to replace and embrace (based on the messaging principles table).
- Sample pillars for campaigns, communications or conversations (tailored for a Southern Queensland Anglican audience and based on messaging principles).
- Tips for climate and creation care communications.
Application for other faith groups and Christian organisations:
We welcome other denominations, Christian organisations and faith groups to use and adapt the contents of this document for non-commercial purposes in order to tailor these messaging principles, pillars and tips for their respective audiences.
1. Suggested messaging principles for climate and creation care communications and conversations
To sum up, these are the messaging principles:
- Use local examples (as much as possible)
- Use tangible terms and jargon-free language
- Appeal to shared values
- Emphasise human agency
- Be solutions focused
- Use positive framing
- Emphasise Christian mission and identity, including the interconnectedness of all life in our theology
- Be discerning about scripture choices
- Tailor messaging for a local context and for the given audience
- Be respectful.
Important: The content of this table is intended to be a messaging principles guide, rather than a prescriptive script or exhaustive list. Any messaging needs to be used with the specific audience, purpose and communications channel in mind (for example, formal policy documents may require scientific and legal jargon and references to international agreements).
|Replace this kind of messaging||With this kind of messaging||Because|
|We are bound by international treaties; we need to listen to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change / IPCC; the Paris Agreement says that; the COP at the UN decided to; in Europe they are…||It’s good for Brisbane / Queenslanders / Australians if we…||Referring to international bodies and using associated legal terminology can alienate the audience and appear condescending.
Whereas using local examples engages the audience better than overseas examples.
|Climate scientists agree that||The Lung Foundation Australia (or similar) says that outdoor air pollution is a contributing factor to…
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians says that reversing damage to the climate may simultaneously reduce the environmental impacts and improve health outcomes for Australians and New Zealanders
|Australians who think climate science is up for debate may trust a well-respected local charity that promotes lung health and researches pollution or a medical organisation.|
|Technical terms like CO2 emissions; greenhouse gases; biodiversity/ecosystems; biosphere; marine stocks; global warming; ecological; anthropogenic; status quo; methane; carbon; fossil fuels; species; decarbonise||Pollution; the air we breathe; wildlife; plants and animals; fish; koalas; damage to the climate; nature; the Great Barrier Reef; bees; caused by human activity; warmer temperatures; changing weather patterns; balance; is a contributing factor to rising sea levels||Scientific and technological jargon can stunt conversations, appear condescending, confuse and alienate people and make it difficult for people to connect to the issue.
Whereas tangible terms used in everyday use help conversations flow and foster understanding and engagement.
|Climate change; climate crisis; global warming; climate justice||Damage to the climate; pollution; rebalancing the climate, balancing the climate; return the climate to balance||‘Climate change’ and ‘climate crisis’ have become politicised, polarising and abstract terms for many and undermine people’s agency. ‘Justice’ often does not resonate with those audiences who associate the term with ‘the left’. ‘Global warming’ is technical and confusing.
Whereas ‘damage to the climate’ has a preventative connotation and underscores human agency, while more specific examples like ‘pollution’ are more politically neutral and tangible. ‘Balance’ is a shared value that resonates widely.
|Renewable energy; green energy||Clean energy; locally-created energy; new energy; investing in sustainable energy builds stronger communities; comparing solar power purchase options online is easy||‘Renewable energy’ is abstract and ‘green energy’ is often associated with ‘the left’.
Whereas ‘Clean energy’ invokes the shared values of health and safety and ‘locally-created energy’ suggests local income sources and is more tangible. ‘New energy’ emphasises comparable technology, cleverness and the choice to upgrade. ‘Investing in sustainable energy builds stronger communities’ is effective as ‘sustainable’ is more politically neutral than ‘green’ and adding ‘builds stronger communities’ underscores a positive outcome. And, ‘comparing solar power purchase options online is easy’ is tangible, positively framed and solutions focused.
|In the Northern Hemisphere, where snow typically accumulates, global warming from greenhouse gases causes reduced snowfall, which leaves reservoir levels at crisis point after winter||Water is precious; drinkable water; clean water; we can preserve water; farmers and food producers in regional Queensland [such as, insert name and parish, if possible] care about safeguarding water security.||Metro and regional Queenslanders get that water is a precious resource and that our farmers and food producers are doing it tough in the drought. Referring to tangibles rather than abstract concepts, using local examples and solution-focused language, and referring directly to people where possible engages the audience.|
|Crisis; emergency; catastrophe; extinction, we are doomed if we don’t…||If we all work together, we can create safe and healthy communities; we can create locally-made clean energy; every Queenslander doing their bit in the COVID-19 period shows what we can achieve when we all work together to keep our communities healthy and safe; we can adapt our learnings from the COVID-19 environment long-term, including embracing Zoom instead of travelling long distance for short meetings||Panic-inducing and negatively-framed language can foster denial, paralysis or a sense of hopelessness, which typically lead to inaction.
Whereas solution-focused alternatives, for example with ‘we can’ and ‘work together’, emphasise hope and agency. Drawing upon examples of successfully working together shows what can be achieved and is aspirational and affirming. ‘Healthy’ and ‘safe’ are shared values.
|Humanity is doomed||We love spending time outdoors and enjoying fun in the sun…; we can protect our outdoor lifestyle, sporting culture, kids’ sport, Queensland tourism industry, family BBQs, holidays by the sea, where our food comes from, etc; Tennis Australia gets that our outdoor lifestyle is important and has introduced energy saving initiatives, such as…||Catastrophising language typically disengages persuadable people.
Whereas, the idea of protecting our way of life is a shared value and resonates strongly and tangibly across diverse demographics. Referring to well-respected sporting (and other) bodies normalises the conversation.
|Climate change causes; the drought is caused by climate change||Damage to the climate contributes to / amplifies / is a supercharger of /
Droughts are becoming more severe due to drier, hotter conditions
|It’s best to avoid language that can be construed as exaggerations.
It is better to embrace language that people see as realistic and which ‘creates space’ for conversations and to build rapport.
|People must stop; we must mitigate||We can protect/create/save; we can increase; we can choose; we can invest; we can embrace sustainable practices||‘Stop’ and ‘mitigate’ are negatively framed and problem focused, whereas ‘protect’, ‘save’, ‘create’, ‘invest’ and ‘embrace sustainable practices’ are positively framed and solution focused. ‘We can’ and ‘We can choose’ underscores agency, whereas ‘must’ can disempower and disengage people.|
|Switch; change; transition||Upgrade||‘Switch’, ‘change’ and even ‘transition’ can be threatening to people who don’t like change or are tired of rapid change.
Whereas ‘upgrade’ indicates a positive choice and resonates with Australians as smart, innovators, early adopters, and used to upgrading phones, houses, cars, etc.
|Moral obligation||Moral responsibility, for example:
In the context of Genesis, we are called to share in the nurturing of creation and to participate in God’s providential care of creation, ensuring its fruitfulness and protecting its beauty. We thus have a moral responsibility to care for and cultivate God’s good earth.
|‘Obligation’ can undermine individual agency, while ‘responsibility’ is more empowering.|
|Earth’s limits; natural limits||Protecting God’s creation; care for creation; observant and faithful Christians respect all things in creation; care for creation, including the people and the earth we live on||‘Earth’s/natural limits’ invites debate about what they are and does not resonate with people who could lean towards believing that God will always provide an unending bounty.
Whereas ‘God’s creation’ directly engages Christian identity and teaching. Caring for both people and the planet is more ethical and personal.
|We are disobeying God if we don’t stop pillaging the earth’s natural resources||Human beings are part of creation, for example:
As part of the whole of creation, human beings sing the praise of the Creator whom we are made in the image and likeness of. This entails a special position of the human being within the created order – given by God for the good of all creation.
|It’s important to speak about human beings as part of creation, and in a way that doesn’t accidentally reinforce the idea that the earth is essentially a ‘resource’. This emphasises the interconnectedness of all life.|
|The cosmos/nature/universe is calling us to||We are called ‘to do God’s will on Earth as it is in heaven’; the Bible is like a handbook and the scriptures tell us that we need to ‘keep’ the earth, which means keeping the earth clean and healthy; the Bible tells us that the earth also needs to Sabbath and rest; in the context of Genesis, we are called to share in the nurturing of creation and to participate in God’s providential care of creation, ensuring its fruitfulness and protecting its beauty||Grounding the call to care for the Earth in scripture resonates more strongly with many Christians rather than referring to terms like ‘cosmos’ and ‘universe’, which have possible New Age and whimsical connotations.|
|‘I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruit and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.’ (Jeremiah 2.7)
“You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” (James 5.5)
|“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24.1)
“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2.4)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6.21)
|Rather than using scripture as a guilting weapon, it is more constructive and respectful to connect creation to the creator and emphasise our associated stewardship role and responsibility; to encourage other-centeredness and care for neighbour; and, to encourage a heart’s conversion towards care for creation.|
|Destroying the earth is a sin; destroying the earth goes against my faith||As a Christian/Anglican I respect all things in creation because…; God gives life to us through the earth, which is one reason why I take care of the earth and the creation on it; respecting God’s gift of creation is another way of respecting God; God calls me to be a good steward of creation; As an Anglican, I strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth by||‘Destroying the earth is a sin’ and ‘destroying the earth goes against my faith’ (and similar) are negatively framed and problem focused and judgemental.
It is easier to shift people and start conversations with solutions-focused and positively-framed language, including using words like ‘respect’, ‘I take care’, ‘steward’, etc. ‘To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth’ is an Anglican Communion Mark of Mission and is positively framed.
|All people should stop driving cars; God wants us to give up all comforts||Begin with little things, such as recycling and installing solar panels on your roof at home – before God, all things matter||Asking people to give up the impossible encourages a culture of denial, while emphasising the possible underscores agency and encourages people to take initial steps.|
|Good for the national economy||Good for Queenslanders / western Queenslanders / people in Brisbane / people in Bundaberg / people on the Gold Coast / people at home; attracts new local business; by embracing sustainable practices and switching to clean energy you can save money; clean energy to power our lives at home and work||‘Good for the national economy’ tends to be too abstract.
Whereas localised references and practical examples demonstrating direct benefits engage and motivate people better. Concern for other people, especially the most vulnerable, resonates strongly with Christians.
|Better for us / everyone||Better for families; better for our children, grandchildren; better for farmers and food producers||‘Better for us / everyone’ is abstract, while ‘better for families, our children and grandchildren. ‘Better for farmers and food producers’ resonates as people care about where their food comes from and also care about farmers.|
|Creates jobs (standalone)||Saves money and creates job; as more people use solar and hydro energy it will become cheaper and create even more demand for jobs||People often care more about saving money than about new job creation, although the latter is also important.|
|Creating renewable energy sector jobs||Creating solar and hydro energy jobs for Queenslanders||‘Renewable energy sector’ is abstract, while ‘solar and hydro energy’ is tangible. ‘Queenslanders’ resonates as it grounds the example in a local context.|
|Status quo; imbalance; dirty energy; hopeless; doomed||Balance; healthy; clean energy; safe; Australian innovation; inventiveness||Using everyday positively-framed language that is centred around shared values engages people.|
|Climate deniers; climate sceptics; flat earthers; right-wing eco-terrorists; fossil fools||People who think differently on the matter; people who are unsure where they stand||Using offensive labels does not build rapport and trust and is disrespectful and unaligned with Christian values. Using ‘people who…’ builds rapport with the audience and is humanising, respectful and aligned with the Gospel message.|
|Queenslanders are addicted to coal||Queensland is leading the world in solar energy; Queensland is rich in natural resources, including sun, wind and hydro; Queensland is the sunshine state; Queensland can lead Australia in clean energy||It’s much more effective to use solution-focused, positively-framed and aspirational language.|
|The Government’s isolationist policies; activists and advocates say that; climate activism; the problem is the plutocracy; rampant capitalism; the greedy few||We can work together to create healthy and safe communities; we can protect the health of our families; we can reduce pollution in our communities; we can work together to pass on a positive legacy to our children and grandchildren||Using jargon or terminology often associated with ‘the left’ can lead to confusion, polarisation, alienation and, thus, disengagement. Leading with shared values and being solution focused are more likely to lead to understanding, unification, inclusion, and, thus engagement.|
|We must campaign for climate justice; justice||We can create a better environmental legacy for our children and grandchildren; we can be good stewards by; do unto others; as Anglicans/Christians we are called to treat others as we would like to be treated||Words like ‘justice’ and ‘campaign’ are often associated with ‘the left’ while ‘legacy’ and ‘good stewards’ resonate across the theological spectrum. The Golden Rule of ‘do unto others’ and ‘treating others as we would like to be treated’ all resonate broadly, while using ‘Anglican’ connects with our specific audience.|
|We must divest; we must boycott||We can choose superannuation funds that invest in clean energy; we can support clean energy companies, sustainable businesses, responsible policies, etc||‘Divest’ and ‘boycott’ are often associated with ‘the left’ and secular ‘activist’ groups. ‘Choose’ emphasises agency, while ‘invest’, ‘clean energy’ and ‘support’ are positively framed.|
|Our politicians have failed us; the Government has left it too late, etc||We can create healthy and safe communities; we can create locally-made clean energy; low-cost and reliable solar and hydro power are here now; we want our elected representatives to…||‘Our politicians are failing us’ and ‘the Government has left it too late’ are politicising, undermine the agency of local people and problem-focused.
‘We can create…’ is empowering and solution focused. ‘Locally-made’ engages a local audience. ‘Low-cost and reliable solar and hydro power are here now’ emphasises choice and the ability to act now.
‘Elected representatives’ reminds both us and them about their role and our relationship, while ‘politicians’ distances them from us. Positioning government as a partner in solutions (instead of the problem) helps rebuild faith in democracy.
|Older generations are to blame; farmers are to blame; motorists are to blame, etc||We can all work together to…; farmers and food producers care about the land/water/wildlife and have been excellent stewards of creation for a long time; increasing public transport use will; switching to public transport for work commutes will…; walking and cycling are good for the environment and good for health and fitness||Scapegoating is unfair and disingenuous and, thus, undermines trust and rapport. Tribalism undermines the potential for a collective response.
Instead, saying that we can all work together, suggesting workable solutions and affirming people like farmers for their efforts are sincere, solution focused and empowering, and thus engendering of trust.
|We must all eliminate red meat from our diets; farmers are key contributors to climate change||Farmers and food producers are working hard to take care of the land/water/wildlife; farmers and food producers in our Diocesan community care for God’s creation and are great stewards; we need to support our Queensland farmers||We need to be sensitive to, and respectful of, all people in our local congregations, such as graziers in regional Queensland who have been doing it tough in the drought for a long period and who take care of the land, water and wildlife and who provide us and our families with food to eat.|
|The poor||People who are vulnerable or vulnerable neighbours, for example:
Damage to the climate disproportionately impacts people who are vulnerable. People who live closer to the land, such as subsistence farmers, are most affected by damage to the land. Likewise, people who live closest to the water are most affected by rising sea levels and by pollution in rivers and oceans.
|‘The poor’ is condescending and defines people by what they are perceived to lack.
Whereas leading with ‘people’ is humanising and respectful. The term ‘neighbour’ is well understood in Christian audiences. It’s helpful to connect people who are vulnerable, such as subsistence farmers, tangibly to the effects of damage to climate.
2. Sample messages to replace and embrace (based on messaging principles in the table above)
i. Replace: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that because we are not complying with our international obligations that the climate crisis, caused by anthropogenic global warming, will lead us to extinction. We are doomed if selfish climate deniers and politicians leave it too late. Furthermore, Australians are increasingly addicted to coal when what Australians really should have done is decarbonise. To eliminate CO2 emissions, Australians also need to fight against the government’s isolationist policies.
Embrace: We can work together to help bring the climate back into balance by investing in clean energy and supporting locally-made solar and hydro energy. As well as creating healthy and safe Queensland communities now and into the future, these initiatives will also create a sustainable legacy by fostering jobs, while helping Queenslanders to save money where they can.
ii. Replace: Killing the planet is against my religion. We all have a moral obligation to engage in environmental activism. The universe demands that we stop threatening our biodiversity and stop breaching the earth’s limits. We must fight against the rampant right-wing capitalism that harms the poor and helpless. We also must eliminate red meat from our diets because of methane emissions.
Embrace: God gives life to us through the earth. So, we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of the earth and to create a sustainable legacy by caring for God’s creation. As my family lives on the Sunshine Coast, we are caring for the coastline, protecting koalas and eucalypts and embracing sustainable choices like reducing waste and installing solar panels on our house. Water is precious and we all need to eat, so it’s also important that we work together to protect groundwater and support local farmers and graziers.
3. Sample pillars for campaign, communications or conversations (tailored for a Southern Queensland Anglican audience and based on messaging principles above)
- Together, we can help rebalance the climate by:
- investing in clean energy
- supporting locally-made solar and hydro energy.
- Together, we can care for God’s creation by:
- protecting oceans, creeks and rivers
- protecting creatures, rainforests and plants.
- Together, we can safeguard water and food security by:
- keeping groundwater and rivers clean
- supporting our farmers and food producers.
- Together, we can create a sustainable legacy for our children and grandchildren by:
- fostering solar and hydro jobs while saving money
- embracing sustainable choices.
4. Tips for climate and creation care communications
- Use narrative:
- For example, by beginning with a personal anecdote, introducing the problem, articulating a vision and then offering collectively achievable solutions (e.g. via the ‘self, problem, vision, us’ framework – please contact Michelle McDonald via email@example.com for more information).
- e.g. by writing/speaking about specific successful and replicable initiatives you have implemented as an individual or organisation, with demonstrable outcomes, such as re how embracing clean energy saves money and cares for creation and how collaboration builds community and cares for creation.
- Use uplifting and encouraging local examples, stories/anecdotes and information to encourage your audience and normalise the conversation.
- Aim to engage Christians as Christians, as such faith-based engagement needs to be tailored for our unique audience.
- Ensure your messaging is respectful of, tailored for, and sensitive to your particular audience.
- Tailor and frame your messaging for those in your audience who are ‘persuadable’, rather than merely ‘talking to your base’ (i.e. ‘preaching to the choir’) and accept that people vehemently opposed may never shift.
- Replace scientific jargon, ‘left-wing’/’activist’ language and abstract terms with easy-to-understand and tangible language.
- Replace heavily fact-based, negatively-framed and problem-focused conversations with shared values, positive framing, achievable ‘asks’ and solutions.
- Replace catastrophising and doom and gloom language with solution-focused and positively-framed language.
- Replace critical and offensive labels with respectful language, shared values and a focus on working together.
- Replace politicised references (e.g. ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘green’, ‘capitalist’, etc) with shared values and a focus on working together.
- Ask ‘unusual suspects’ and local people who are directly affected to speak/write, provide quotes and lead discussions.
- Instead of saying that climate change ‘causes’ something, say that it is a ‘contributing factor to’ or ‘supercharger’ or ‘amplifier’ of something.
- Replace references to international organisations, places and people with ‘unusual suspect’ Australian/Queensland organisations and local places and people.
- Combine job creation and saving money where possible, telling local stories about how people are saving money now.
For more information or if you have any questions, please contact: Peter Branjerdporn in the ACSQ’s Justice Unit via firstname.lastname@example.org or Communications and Community Engagement Specialist and anglican focus Editor Michelle McDonald via email@example.com