Sandy Plett of Morden, Man., is the new climate action coordinator for Mennonite Church Canada. Having started the half-time role on Nov. 28, Plett shared some thoughts with Canadian Mennonite correspondent Amy Rinner Waddell. This interview has been edited for length.
Amy Rinner Waddell: How did you get into climate work?
Sandy Plett: I grew up loving the outdoors, being a thrifty shopper and a gardener. In recent years, my passion for the church and growing concern about the climate crisis led me to begin exploring what my personal role in the struggle for climate justice might be. It began with simply opening myself to learning about the realities of the crisis. I say simply, but really this was the hardest part.
I knew that, in order to find efficacy in the struggle, I’d have to face the difficult realities of not only the crisis but of the challenges facing those who are working for change. I began looking for ways that I could lend my gifts and skills to the work.
I started leading Faithful Climate Conversations, which are guided conversations designed to help participants move through surfacing emotions and experiences of the climate crisis to exploring ways that they might take action. This work led me to get involved with the MC Manitoba Climate Action Working Group in 2021 and, most recently, to this work as Climate action coordinator for MC Canada.
ARW: What authors have influenced you?
SP: Jim Antal’s Climate Church, Climate World was one of the first books I read about how the church must engage in advocacy for climate justice. Shortly after reading Antal, I discovered the work of Katherine Hayhoe, a climate scientist and also a Christian. Her book Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, is an inspiration for me.
ARW: What are you most excited about in this new role?
SP: My task is to facilitate connections between the regions. Across the country, groups within our church families are working at this in different ways. The challenge of bringing up the themes and threads of this work into the light and sharing them across the country is very exciting to me.
ARW: What do you see as major challenges?
SP: Hmm. I haven’t been on the job long enough to see these yet.
ARW: From a Christian standpoint, why do you think climate action is important?
SP: The climate crisis/emergency is all around us. As followers of Christ, as people who have committed ourselves to doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly, we have so much to contribute and also so much to learn as we open our eyes to the devastation that we have wrought on the planet. Love calls us to the work of serving our sisters and brothers in the web of life, around the world and in our own backyards. God cares, and therefore we must care.
I think the gifts of the Spirit are essential ingredients for the sustained work of climate action. From the richness of our faith we can bring tones of joy, hope and love to the work, as we join those around the world and in our neighbourhoods who are taking action.
ARW: What have you sensed from fellow Mennonites on environmental issues?
SP: In my circles close to home and in conversations with folks from Mennonite churches in Manitoba, I sense a deep concern regarding the trajectory that we’re on in terms of climate instability (“global weirding”), and the devastating impacts of the changing climate.
I also hear words like “helpless,” “overwhelmed” and “anxious” when I ask groups to identify feelings related to the crisis. A task of this moment in the church is to attend to these responses and to join the struggle, moving into a place of confident and effective action together. This is a significant undertaking, but one I believe we are equipped as a church to approach with joy, hope and love.
I am looking forward to hearing different articulations of the call from across our denomination as I learn more about how people in each region are taking action on climate change.