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We are increasingly, and quite reasonably, worried about our environment. News and education agendas focus on environmental degradation. Policy debate explores options to reverse environmental decline. It is likely that environmental issues will be key in the Federal election. 

All of this focuses on the ‘physical’ environment – and rightly so. Part of the cultural mandate found in Genesis is for humanity to responsibly and sustainably steward the non-human creation with which we have been entrusted. 

But what about our social and relational environment? Have we, as it were, ‘polluted’ our societies and our relationships in ways that make us ‘sick’ and ‘weak’? 

These are the issues which Professor Patrick Parkinson, the executive director of Publica, raises. Publica, launched in February 2022, is an organisation that focuses on relationships and the social environment in which younger generations are being raised. It identifies these issues as vital to our present wellbeing and the future of Australian society. In the same way a healthy physical environment contributes to human flourishing, the social climate has great bearing on the wellbeing of its citizens. 

Trends such as the increasing isolation and ensuing loneliness have been amplified by the COVID pandemic and lockdowns. We have, to a large degree, counted the economic cost of the pandemic, yet the loss of social capital is much more difficult to quantify. It is a crisis which, compared to more popular issues, flies under the radar. 

The Bible, and Christian wisdom from which flows from it, has much to say about our created need for social connection. Publica seeks to raise awareness about these issues and to speak positively to the media, government and the community about steps we can all take to enhance and build the social environment in which we live.  

The GS&C’s Amy Butler spoke to Patrick Parkinson about Publica, its aims for the future and how people can become informed and engaged. See the video interview here (17 mins). Discussion topics include: 

  • The concept behind Publica, including the origins of its name and a description of its mission;

  • The positive voice of Publica speaking into contexts where much of what Christians say appears to be negative;

  • Identifying issues which Publica will prioritise, such as what has been described as a ‘loneliness pandemic’ for the 18-24 age group; 

  • Practical and specific ways church communities and individual Christians can think and act constructively in a way that enhances and builds the social environment.

For more information, visit the Publica web page.


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