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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Command against crossing animals, plants and materials

Reading: Leviticus 18:19

This verse intrigues me. This Israelites are told not to let their animals breed with different kinds, not to sow their fields with two different kinds of seed and not to wear garments made of two different materials. I am not sure what God intended by these laws, but it is clear our modern society does not follow them.

If we followed the first there would be no such thing as the mule or the liger/tigon (a cross between a tiger and a lion). Our impacts on the environment have also lead to the creation of more hybrid individuals in the wild, as species who previously never would have come into contact with each other become able to breed. For example, there have been examples of crosses between Polar Bears and Brown Bears because these two species are closely related but until recently geographically isolated enough that they did not cross. Recent changes in temperature and range have made this possible. This does not mean the two species will become one because the offspring of a cross are infertile, but hybrids can experience 'hybrid vigour' ie. they might be stronger or larger than the parents.

These days in the first world we almost do follow the second rule, planting large areas of monocultures for agricultural production. Perhaps this rule was intended to prevent hybridisation of two species as might occur if fields were planted with species. It is interesting however as there is a host of scientific evidence about the fallbacks of monoculture systems and the value of instead mixing species in a polyculture or mixed agriculture system for biodiversity, productivity and disease and pest control. Monocultures are still favoured in large scale operations however as they are simpler to manage and harvest.

As for the final rule - I challenge you to find the single fibre clothing in your wardrobe. Unless this is something you look for, or you spend a lot of money on your clothes, almost everything you own is likely to be a blend of a couple of different fibres. Some people do endeavour to find pure cotton or pure wool clothing, but I think this is more from a dislike for some of the newer fibres and their properties than any belief that single fibre clothing is best.

Does anyone have any clues why God might have made these laws? I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Finally, I have to mention that these laws have interesting implications for the use of Genetic Engineering/Genetic Modification. I imagine when these laws were written the idea of putting the genes of an Antartic fish into a tomato to protect it from frost were far away, but surely this would not have been counted as kosher?

Friday, February 26, 2010

My New Books

Those of you who know me will know that books are one of my biggest weaknesses. I spend far too much time and money reading and buying books. This is something I occasionally try to do something about.... unsuccessfully.

I got caught yesterday because the ANU has a new book stall at its weekly market. A new stall which, unfortunately for me, had a very interesting selection. So here is a list of the books I now own:

1. Habitat Garden: Attracting wildlife to your garden, by Peter Grant (ABC Books, 2003)
This book is full of tips on how to increase the biodiversity in your garden. This is a topic I am really interested. Not so much, as you might suspect, for my own garden (I don't have the fortune to own one) but because I think learning to live with other creatures in 'our space' is vitally important to building a sustainable future. You may have notice that here in Australia we don't build UP we build OUT. Just take a look at our urban sprawl. Not only does this mean houses are taking up valuable agricultural land, but they are also driving out our native species. In our manicured, often remarkably similar gardens, they rarely fit in. After all, if there is one thing I learnt in my biodiversity conservation in modified landscapes it's the importance of heterogeneity (variety). Our suburbs don't tend to have a lot of that, and neither do our gardens. Especially as many of us don't have the time for them. But while there are some species who will never be happy to live in modified landscapes, there are a surprising number who could live in our gardens with minimal extra effort on our part. Not to mention the education value of teaching us to share our space with animals - much like we should be sharing the planet with them. So I bought this book as a reference text to help campaign for a change in our ideas of what our gardens, our cities and our societies should be about.

2. Gliders of Australia: A Natural History, by David Lindenmayer (UNSW Press, 2002). I couldn't walk past this one. David works for the ANU and I've had him for a few lectures. He is a pretty great guy. He works on some really interesting science (including some incredibly valuable long-term, large-scale projects), but best of all, he makes an effort to communicate that science to others through books and educational materials - all of which he writes in his own time. Gliders are one of the groups he has done a lot of work with, plus they are sooooo cute!

3. William Wilberforce: The life of the great anti-slave trade campaigner, by William Hague (Harper Perennial, 2008). I already have a biography of William Wilberforce (he is the star of Amazing Grace, which I highly recommend), but I mean, the guy ended the slave trade and slavery in the British Empire, and he started the RSPCA. He is my hero. You can't ever read enough about your heroes.

4. Buyology: How Everything we believe about why we buy is wrong, by Martin Lindstorm (Random House, 2008). This book talks about why we buy what we buy. It's interesting from both a marketing point of view and because if we can understand why people buy what they do we can help them to break free from the trap of consumerism.

Happily, two of the books are printed on FSC certified paper, so my guilt is a little assuaged.

I'll keep you updated on anything interesting I learn during my reading.

As always, if you would like to borrow any of my books, just let me know on

Leaving something for the poor and the animals

Leviticus 19: 9-10 and 23-25

I love these verses. God commands that when the Israelites take possession of the land they must not reap the harvest to the very edges of the land or vineyard, and that when fruit trees are planted the fruit may not be eaten for the first five years. Right from the very beginning, God wants to establish an economic system that is fair not only to the people, but also to the poor and the animals. By leaving some of the harvest in the field, the farmer provides the capacity for the poor to survive with dignity and for the animals to have what is left over. Faith in God prevents the Israelites from feeling the need to squeeze the last drop of water from the stone, but rather, they know he will provide sufficient abundance that they, the poor, and the animals will all be able to get enough.

While most of us don't have fields anymore, I believe there is still something to learn from the spirit of these laws. If you have a fruit tree in the backyard and animals come to take some of the fruit, don't begrudge them the treat. And have enough faith to always share with others, even when it seems like the times are lean.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Lest the land vomit you out

Reading: Leviticus 18:24-28

It's an interesting concept isn't it? The Bible says that if we commit sins against the Lord and defile ourselves by sexual immorality or sacrificing our children to other Gods, we defile the land, which will vomit us up. This is a continuation of the idea from the fall where the sins of humanity cause the earth also to suffer, but this time the earth can fight back by vomiting us up. One can only imagine what is meant by this - perhaps a volcano, a flood, a cyclone maybe even salinity or desertification. There is a link here being made between the sins of the people and natural disasters and barreness in the land. This link can be taken too far - I would not suggest for a moment that the people of New Orleans were more sinful than other cities who were not visited with a cyclone, but there can be a link between sin and natural disasters. The most obvious contemporary example is the fact that our sins of greed, selfishness and consumerism are causing the earth to 'vomit us up' through climate change and its increase of natural disasters, and through declining fertility in the land.

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

Lithium ion batteries are likely to be the best choice for a new generation of electric cars, but they are expensive and have a limited life. Nissan has initiated a scheme for leasing the batteries for its new LEAF 2EV (zero emission vehicle) and taking them back eventually for further use has load-levellers for the grid. They can afford to keep the monthly lease at a low rate, knowing that the batteries will have a high residual value in the renewable energy sector.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

According to the Head of Sustainability at Virgin Atlantic, growing algae in large ponds could provide the aviation fuel of the future. “An algal pond the size of Belgium could meet all of aviation’s current fuel needs.” But at least half of the greenhouse gas emissions of aircraft come from water vapour (contrails) emitted at high altitude and from nitrogen oxides, and would be largely unaffected by the use of biofuels. So, in the absence of any breakthroughs in technology, we have these alternatives:
· Other sectors will have to make deeper cuts to compensate for rising aviation emissions
· We will have to place our faith in carbon offsets on a huge scale
· We will somehow have to learn to fly less and travel more slowly.

Environmental Defenders Office Seminar on Biodiversity Law - Melbourne

Biodiversity law update

2010 is the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity.

In Australia, laws intended to protect and conserve biodiversity are under review at both the Commonwealth and State level.

On Tuesday 2 March you are invited to hear a critical overview of these developments, and an analysis of what the future is likely to hold, from the EDO lawyers working on these issues.

Topics will include:
· the Hawke review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
· the Victorian government’s Land and Biodiversity White Paper and its recommendations for legislative reform
· the Victorian Auditor General's report on the Administration of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
· the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission’s review of environmental regulation
· the Bushfire Royal Commission’s examination of planning laws, native vegetation clearing controls and public land management.

BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL: EDO Victoria office, (03) 8341 3100 or

Tuesday 2 March 2010, 5.45 for 6pm start
60L Green Building, Carlton

There is no charge for this event however donations to support our work are much appreciated. Visit to make a secure online tax-deductible donation.

Visit our website for further details (PDF, 330KB)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Along a Trail with Ants on Mount Majura

Join ANU myrmecologist Dr. Ajay Narendra for a glimpse into the fascinating world of one of the most dominant animals on the planet.
Ants play a leading role in the environment as predators and scavengers. Their highly social organization, effective communication and amazing navigation skills have been the object of research for generations. Mount Majura has a rich diversity of ants including several species of bulldog ants.
Ajay Narendra is part of the research team studying navigation strategies in Jack Jumpers (Myrmecia croslandi) in Hackett. Find out about Jack Jumpers and other ants on Ajay’s website at
When: Sunday 28 February, 4.30 to 6.30 pm
Where: Meet at Mackenzie / Grayson Sts Nature Park entrance, Hackett
Bring: Sun protection, sturdy boots and a magnifying glass if you have one.
Children (with adults) are especially welcome; suitable for kids aged 8 years and older.
RSVP Essential: Limited places! For booking and enquiries phone 6247 7515 or email

Festival of the Forests 2010

Canberra International Arboretum Open Day - Sunday 14 March
Last year, an estimated 5,000 people enjoyed the first Festival of the Forests. The highlight of the day was the organised bus tours around the site. The public enthusiasm generated by the tours was clear: over half of attendees at the Festival went on tours and that this was the most important reason people gave for coming on the day. If you missed out last year, here's another opportunity.
The Friends of Canberra International Arboretum and Gardens have joined the 2010 United Nations Year of Biodiversity. The United Nations has declared this Year to increase worldwide awareness of biodiversity and its importance, and to engage more people in its conservation. This year will be a celebration of life on earth and of the value of biodiversity for our lives. For more information go to:
In 2010, the Festival of the Forests is linking with the Australian National Botanic Gardens’ Footprint on the Gardens event and is running a connecting bus service between the two sites.
Activities include:
Family Fun Run; tree planting on Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Project (STEP); classic and antique car parade; kite flying; Tree Games; indigenous games; guided bus tours – hop-on hop-off for tree talks, etc;
environmentally sustainable exhibits; train rides and games for the children; walking tour around expert tree talks for rolling program of tree talks; the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection display; live entertainment on stage.

FREE Waterwise Gardening Workshops

Better gardens, less water
In conjunction with ACTEW, local independent specialists are holding workshops to help you learn about how to have a healthier garden which uses less water.
At the workshop you will learn about:
designing and installing an irrigation system that is right for your garden; the benefits of drip irrigation; irrigating the smart way; mulching and drought resistant plants; and how to use a 'whole of garden' approach to water saving.
Places are limited so please call the ACTEW Water Conservation Office on 6248 3131 or email to book your place.
Explore other water efficient ideas whilst attending the workshop at:
Grass Roots - the turf and irrigation research project
Rosary Primary School
Fleming Street, Watson (parking off Higinbotham St)
Upcoming workshops:
Saturday 13 February 8am and 10am Rosary
Tuesday 16 February 4pm and 6pm Rosary
Thursday 4 March 4pm and 6pm Rosary

To book your place in one of these workshops or to put your name down for future workshops please contact the ACTEW Water Conservation Office on 6248 3131 or email

Consumers drive green demand

Unexpected greenie steers city's future

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Check out Earthwatch's new one day research expeditions in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

Melbourne Microbat Research One Day Expedition - Earthwatch

19th February: Coral Sea Dreaming - Awaken Film

‘Coral Sea Dreaming: Awaken’ a documentary filmed by Emmy Award-winning cinematographer David Hannan and Lucy Trippett, shot on location in the Coral Sea, Papua New Guinea and the Indian Ocean will have a special screening at Redlands Performing Arts Centre (Qld), 2-16 Middle St, Cleveland, on Friday 19 February, 7.30pm. Tickets are only $15 each – visit to purchase tickets or call (07) 3829 8131. Visit for more info about the film.

Climate change puts ecosystems on the run

Rapid investment needed to protect biodiversity

EPBC Act review calls for better protection of our natural environment

Get Active for Nature workshop

Be inspired by the wonderful ways in which individuals and community groups are looking after their patch of bush, local rivers, creeks and wetlands.
From tree planting to bird watching, weeding and even poetry writing, there are hundreds of ways ordinary Victorians are "getting active for nature".
This workshop is part of the 2010 Sustainable Living Festival and has been organised by the Victorian National Parks Association and Victoria Naturally Alliance.
The workshop will be held in the 'The Feel Tent' on Saturday, 20 February, at 1pm. For more information visit the VNPA website.

Act up for nature

Victorians are being urged to sign up to the Act4Nature campaign, which encourages people to protect the state’s precious animals, plants and ecosystems.
Launched by environment and climate change minister Gavin Jennings last week, the campaign asks people to make a different pledge every month for one year that in some way helps protect the environment.
This month’s theme focuses on how harsh washing detergents can place many of Victoria's frog, fish and platypus populations under threat.
Read more

'Defence Strategy' needed to tackle environmental crisis

Organisers of the Linking Landscapes Summit 2009 have presented federal environment minister Peter Garrett with a 'natural defence strategy' for Australia's environment that would focus on the creation, protection and restoration of major ecological corridors across the country.
Delivered to the minister in December last year, the communique came out of the Linking Landscapes Summit, which looked at the future of land use in Australia.
The summit is seen as the first step in developing a co-ordinated response to the conservation of Australia’s ecosystems in the face of climate change, bringing together Indigenous people, private landholders and the busiess sector.

For more info about the summit see

10,000 voices needed to help keep VEAC alive

The Victorian National Parks Association has launched a statewide campaign to stop the Brumby Government from axing the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council.
The VNPA says plans to abolish VEAC would put future habitat protection at risk, and is instead calling on the State Government to strengthen the council with more powers and resources.
VEAC is an independent, science-based body that looks at the ecological value of habitats and advises government on what to protect. It was instrumental in the creation of Victoria’s new River Red Gum national parks.
The campaign needs 10,000 people to sign a petition that will be presented to Victorian Premier John Brumby by June 5, World Environment Day.
Sign the petition at

Free forum: Saving Victoria's Nature in a Changing Climate

The Victoria Naturally Alliance is kicking off 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, with an important forum at this year’s Sustainable Living Festival.
Featuring Professor Will Steffen from the Climate Change Institute, the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dr Paul Sinclair and Victorian bush regenerator Karen Baker, the forum will take a close look at the implications of climate change for the state’s biodiversity.
The forum, Saving Victoria’s Nature in a Changing Climate, is being held at the BMW Edge Theatre, Federation Square, on Sunday 21 February, 1-2.30pm.

Small is beautiful, and bountiful, for endangered grasslands

Victorian researchers have warned that plans to extend Melbourne’s urban growth boundary could destroy important conservation areas.

Camels to rescue in ecosystem

This is an interesting debate....

THE much maligned feral camel may eventually be tolerated in Australia's red centre, albeit in lower numbers, as a "proxy" for the giant marsupial herbivores that went extinct about 50,000 years ago. That's if ecologists seeking to "rewild" Australia get their way.

Uranium mine leak '5400 times normal level'

Contaminated water seeping from a mine in Kakadu National Park has a uranium concentration more than 5,000 times the normal level, a Senate estimates committee has heard.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The 10 Solutions to Save the Oceans

New Guidelines: How Sustainable is Your Seafood?

So Much For Fish & Chips: Greenpeace List Of Most Over-fished Species

5 Stories About Overfishing & What Can Be Done to Stop It

Extinction threatens 'world's ugliest fish'

Just because he is ugly doesn't mean than God doesn't love him and he doesn't have value. This is another example of the crime of bycatch which is threatening so many of our fish species. Something must be done!

'Fewer than 50 wild tigers' left in China

Abbott's tree-change 'will soak up les than half a per cent' - scientist

Gen Y opting for greener cars

Community partnerships outdoing national parks in NT conservation

Fish face end of the line, says director

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

A Soil Association report “The role of livestock in sustainable food systems” quotes IPCC findings that storing carbon in soils could decrease agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90%. In the last 60 years most arable soils have lost over 30 tonnes of carbon per hectare (equivalent to 110 tonnes of CO2) through intensification of agriculture. Since 1945, UK agricultural policy has discouraged arable/livestock mixed farming and encouraged farmers to specialise in either livestock production or arable cropping. Yet the only proven method of storing carbon while maintaining productivity is to incorporate a ley/arable rotation into all croplands, where half the land is under grass with legumes such as clover while the other half is under arable cropping. To achieve this requires a change of Government policy and better information for consumers that would enable them to make sound choices when buying food.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Six Cultural Trends That Are Not Saving The Earth

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Discussion Question

What do you think would be the best policy to help Australia achieve a sustainable level of population? How big do you think this would be and why?

A Question About Naming

Random question: I was thinking about how I call myself a 'Christian Environmentalist' the other day and I suddenly thought something like 'Eco-Christian' might sound better. It's partly just an academic question, but the names we give to things are important, and the names we give to new movements help people to picture what they are about and decide whether or not that is something they want to be. What do you think? Which name is better? If you are a Christian who also cares about the environment - what do you call yourself?

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

Recognising that consumerism is a major problem for ourselves and the planet, the Christian network Breathe declares that the Moloch of consumerism is not a great giant that must be fought, but a simple lie, a dream, a false promise. When it is named for what it is and exposed as a sham, its power over us vanishes. The promise is happiness, the reality is emptiness and a dissatisfaction that can only lead to the next purchase. Like a dangling carrot, contentment is always one purchase away. Yet nothing defuses the power of consumerism like generosity, which pops the over-inflated promises of consumerism. The orientation of our hearts changes from ourselves towards God, his people and his Creation. Generosity is Moloch’s Achilles heel.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

According to the US Geological Survey, the Arctic might contain around 10% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and up to 30% of its undiscovered gas. Gold mines have opened in the south and west of Greenland and diamonds have been found at several locations north of Nuuk, including a 2.39 carat specimen. Rare earth elements, which are needed for missile guidance systems, flatscreen TVs, cigarette lighters and low-energy light bulbs, provide (in the words of prospectors) “a unique geological entity with extraordinary resource potential”, especially since China controls 90% of global production and has imposed rationing on the international market in rare earths. In addition, Alcoa is to build the world’s biggest aluminium plant in Greenland, though the alumina providing the raw material will come from distant regions such as the Caribbean. Abundant uranium also occurs in Greenland, but the Greenland government has so far banned its extraction.

The Christian Environmentalist Virtue of Patience

Corinthians 1:13 says love is patient. This Christian virtue is also very useful to environmentalists. It takes patience to be green and to reduce your impact on the planet. Here are some reasons why:
- It takes patience to grow food in your backyard garden
- It takes patience to grow plants organically
- It takes patience to cook from scratch
- It takes patience to find products with as little packaging as possible
- It takes patience to learn about and buy ethical products
- It takes patience to learn how to reduce your environmental impact
- It takes patience to gently shepherd an insect out of your home instead of killing it
- It takes patience to work with animals
- It takes patience to walk through the bush
- It takes patience to participate in weeding your local reserve
- It takes patience to convince your church to become greener
- It takes patience to find the best deal on solar panels
- It takes patience to read books about environmental issues and keep up with the news
- It takes patience to wait for the government to act on environmental issues like climate change
Patience is an indispensible virtue for the Christian Environmentalist.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

Canada’s tar sands hold 176 billion barrels of oil - one of the world’s largest deposits – but 2 tonnes of the sands produce just 1 barrel of oil. Forests covering an area half the size of England have been torn down. Extraction requires huge amounts of water which is then too toxic to return to nature, so it has to be stored in giant holding ponds. These have been blamed for a rise in cancers among local people. Alberta’s oil mines are the biggest source of carbon emissions in North America – and the reason why, in 2006, Canada dropped its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and now faces international condemnation and calls for it to be thrown out of the Commonwealth.

Building for the Future

I went to a sermon on Sunday night that spoke about building for the future. It was an interesting sermon, with two illustrations I particularly liked. The first, talking about the way we can sometimes find it hard to think and plan for the future because we are so stuck in today, was the movie “Back to the Future 3” where Marty has to drive the Dolorien (car converted into a time machine) off the edge of a ravine to get back to his own time. When he gets there, a bridge will have been built so he won’t crash, but in the time he is in at the moment it looks pretty scary and Marty has trouble getting his head around it when Doc tries to explain.
Actually, it’s a little like climate change. I am sure that if we were to time travel into the future and see the devastation it is likely to cause, we would be desperate to get back to 2010 and do whatever it takes to fight the devastation. But here and now, without that perspective, the idea of spending the kind of money it will take to do something real about climate change is more immediate and more terrifying (for many) than the enemy itself. I think war, under a strict commander might be like that. I mean, you would be afraid of the enemy who are actually out to kill you, but the fear of the commander who can punish you for failure or cowardice would be more immediate and perhaps more motivating.

The other story he told was about a Sunday school teacher who worked diligently for the Lord for many years, but felt like a bit of a failure at the time of his death. Before he died though he talked to a cobbler’s apprentice and brought him to Christ. That apprentice was D.L. Moody, who went on to become a famous evangelist who converted another evangelist who created another, all the way down to Billy Graham. That poor man who thought himself a failure, through one action, begun the conversion of millions of people. It just goes to show that we will rarely know the true impact we have on the world and the people around us. Only God really knows what results will come from the work He gives us to do. All we can do is listen to His will, act on it and do our best, then leave the rest to Him. This is a teaching I am trying to apply in my own life.

I have been discussing with a friend how short-sighted we humans tend to be. It’s strange, especially in the current generation. Scientists like to tell us that we are the only animals with the ability to plan for the distant future using our imagination. That might be so, but then why aren’t we very good at it? Yet the Bible tells us that the founders of the faith had a lot of foresight. After all, they found the promise of descendants as abundant as sand on the seashore exciting, and they were happy with their descendants inheriting the land in which they lived as strangers. I think if Abraham had lived in my generation he just would have bought as much of the land as he could and then schemed to get more, perhaps with a low interest loan he didn’t have the ability to pay off. Then it would be that debt he would leave to his descendants.

One of the interesting things about listening to this sermon was the fact that I was sitting there, excited, thinking about building for the future by caring for the environment and setting 100 year sustainability goals- yet this was not what the minister meant at all. For him, building for the future was about getting more people into his church. It’s funny, isn’t it, how even when we do get around to trying to prepare for the future, we all have such different ideas of what we want that we can’t agree on a way to get there. A lecturer told me once that everyone wants to conserve something. It’s just that they may not want to conserve the cassowary, because they may be more interested in conserving the community, the rainforest, another species, their lifestyle, their ability to drive around etc....

Important Lessons from the Bible

Why Jesus came:
"that the world might be saved through him"
John 3:17

Who Jesus is going to use to save the world:
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God."
Romans 8:19

Our role on earth:
"The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden to take care of it and to look after it."
Genesis 2:15

The Five Pillars of A Christian Theology of Sustainability

1. God is the creator, sustainer and redeemer of creation.

2. Covenantal Stewardship (we have a covenant with God as stewards of the earth).

3. The creation-fall-redemption paradigm (God made a good world; human failure broke the relationships between god, man and creation; Christ provides hope for all creation).

4.Bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies, not as spirits)

5.New Creation (a new Heaven and new Earth refers to a renewal and an earthing of heaven, not starting over).

Adapted from When Enough is Enough: A Christian Framework for Environmental Sustainability, Edited by R.J. Berry, Published by Inter-Varsity Press, 2007, Nottingham p43+