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Philippa Rowland, President, Multifaith Association of South Australia

What has your relationship with flying been like?

For me, getting on a plane has always held an aura of excitement and adventure, bringing some sense of self-importance in setting off into the wider world like an explorer. As well as providing a doorway into new experiences, for many years, flying also gave me a means of pretending I could live in more than once place at once, overcoming the tyranny of time and distance.

How is your relationship now?

Once seen as a necessity and almost a personal right, flying is now a privilege, to be used sparingly, consciously, carefully. I'm still conflicted, trying to come to terms with my desire and existing commitments to be present as part of the global/national conversations taking place on climate change and care for the earth. However, I know deep in my heart, I can’t keep going as usual and pretend what I do doesn't matter…

What’s changed in your relationship with flying?

Two key changes. One is the clarity of my own understanding of the relative impacts and greenhouse gas emissions arising from various aspects of my own life (aided, in part, by the Living the Change graphic). The second is a growing inner commitment to model the behavior that I ask others to embrace. At this point, I'm struggling, and unconvinced by the simple tick the box solutions provided on airline booking forms. The next steps will clearly have to involve reducing my flying and finding ways to work around the consequences.

I'm in the process of investigating how on earth I can atone, redress, repay my carbon debt arising from recent flights to Europe (no repentance - my children met my cousins and their children for the first time ever...) and to New Zealand (to meet folks from across Oceania & discuss the potential for science and faith to work together to support communities facing ecosystem collapse & escalating climate impacts.

How did you come to those changes?

Reflecting, talking, listening, reading. Sometimes it is easy to replace flights with other modes of transport or replace an actual with a virtual presence.

What’s the hardest part about it?

Time and distance constraints for dealing with family legacy/responsibilities. My family currently lives in Adelaide, 1,159.0 km away from my remaining sibling with various health issues in Canberra. I'm a primary carer for our two children (now 14 & 16) as my husband recently returned to work as a remote fly-in fly-out (FIFO) medical doctor in Carnarvon, remote northwest corner of WA, 3,440.5 km away from Adelaide. On a personal level, I have conflicted duties when I feel called to bear witness, personally speak out and participate in events about the fundamental moral issues of our time related to climate change and Earthcare.

For example, I'm helping my colleague Thea run a Living the Change workshop and Grounded in Faith workshop at ARRCC's first national conference in Canberra - do I have time and is it safe to drive, when I need to be away for the minimum amount of time possible as it is the week before my son sits his Year 12 Maths exam...

What are some benefits?

Permission to slow down and consider other innovative ways of making a difference - perhaps by supporting others; by being present in writing and word instead of in person. I'm still struggling to resolve a pathway forward, to be honest.

How has your spiritual practice and / or community played a role, or supported you?

Meditation, resting on the breath, mindful yoga, exchanging self for others, and honoring all that is good and precious in the world and in each other. My practice helps bring me to occasional stillness in which I can sometimes be graced by wisdom and insight that helps carry me forward.

I have great joy in rediscovering and re-reading His Holiness the Dalai Lama's words:

Many people still consider science and religion to be in opposition. While I agree that certain religious concepts conflict with scientific facts and principles, I also feel that people from both worlds can have an intelligent discussion, one that has the power ultimately to generate a deeper understanding of challenges we face together in our interconnected world.

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