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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Young Adults Make a Difference for God's Creation

On Saturday 27th of March the ACT Uniting Church Young Adults Group descended on the Greenhills Camp and Conference Centre on Cotter Road with gloves, hats and sunscreen. We had come to worship God by tending and keeping his creation.

We had come to battle with the weeds which had sprung up after the recent rains and were overwhelming the revegetation area. At first, the task seemed overwhelming, but the team jumped in with enthusiasm. We fought hard against wild mustard, thistles, African lovegrass and anything else Vernon, our dedicated weed expert, said had to go. We have no idea how Vernon managed to keep these weeds under control single-handedly before his stroke!

The area we were working on is a native revegetation project, an area that is part of the chapel environmental walk that forms part of Greenhill’s environmental education project for visitors. We needed to remove the weeds to protect the growing trees and enhance the educational value of the site.

It was nice to get away from the city for a bit, to hear the sounds of the bush, feel the sun on our skin and the dirt in our hands. The mustard weeds in particular were quite difficult to pull out, and there was a sense of victory in defeating them. We had come from a variety of churches around Canberra, car-pooling to reduce our carbon footprint, and although some of us had never met before there was a camaraderie in fighting a common enemy and we all worked very hard.

After an energy-reviving morning tea of delicious mini-muffins and sausage rolls we visited the Connie Christie chapel for a brief service. The outdoor chapel, overlooking the Murrumbidgee River corridor and the Bullen Range Nature Reserve, was the perfect site to praise God for creation and ask for its protection. Surrounded by bush, the chapel is overhung by a large eucalypt which still shows the scars of the January 2003 bushfires and the lectern and cross used are made from the remains of the originals which were burnt in the fire. We discussed Greenhill’s remarkable recovery from those fires and the signs from it that are still in the landscape, but also the hope and renewal all around us, symbolised perhaps by a small Kurrajong tree growing at the foot of the scarred Eucalypt.

After the service we passed around a small snow gum for prayer before planting it in memory of the day. Once it was in the ground and we had promised to come back and visit it we eagerly returned to weeding, determined to make a dint in the mass of weeds surrounding us. By the time we finished the whole revegetation area was free of weeds – quite a feat. Tired but happy, we finished with a delicious lunch and lots of chatting.

We are already planning another working bee at Greenhills and are interested in helping out churches with environmental projects.

A big thank you to all the young people who participated and to Rev Myung-Hwa Park and the Greenhills staff for helping us to organise the event and for providing our yummy free morning tea and lunch.

If you would like to be involved in the ACT Uniting Church Young Adults group or your church would like to propose a project for us, contact Jessica Morthorpe.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stones and Colts

Today in church we looked at the Bible passage in Luke 19:28-40, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I thought I might share some thoughts with you about this passage from a creation perspective.

Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.... (Matt 21:5)

Many people talking about this passage focus on how it convey's Jesus' humility and the incongruity of a king riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey instead of a magnificent horse.

Listening to the verse, it occurred to me that this was also an interesting choice for another reason. In Luke Jesus specifies that his disciples are to bring to him 'a colt that has never been ridden'. Jesus specifically asks for a colt that has not been broken yet. I don't know if donkeys are more placid, but generally unbroken horses are difficult to deal with. They wouldn't usually be your first choice to ride through a noisy and excited crowd of people throwing cloaks and palm fronds beneath its feet. This would be a challenge for any horse, but for an unbroken colt? It's a potential recipe for disaster, and it would be somewhat embarrassing if Jesus had fallen off the donkey. Yet this doesn't seem to concern our Lord. Why is this? I would like to propose it is because as the Word and the Lord of Creation, Jesus had a unique bond with all creatures which enabled him to calm and guide the colt through the challenging situation. Like a shepherd, and free of sin, he understood his flock (including all creatures) well enough that he could create a relationship of complete trust with the colt. It was unnecessary for the colt to be broken, and indeed, Jesus asked for a colt who had never been ridden because his relationship with the colt was one of innocent trust, like a child who has not been 'broken in' to the reality and horrors of the world yet.

The stones themselves would shout
We discussed the idea of stones shouting in church. At first it seems unusual and thoroughly miraculous. It makes some more sense though if we consider the first creation account in Genesis in terms of God singing creation into being. God sung to the stones, and ever since they have been echoing back that song in the form of praise, and resonating with the power of that song. The Psalms (65:12-13; 69:34; 96:11-12; 98:7-8; 103:22; 148; 150:6; cf. Isa 42:10) tell us that all creation praises God. Creation is shouting and praising the Lord all the time, so to make the stones shout, all Jesus would have needed to do was make that song audible to the people there.

This passage also indicates that when the people and disciples fail to praise God, creation will fill the gap. We see this soon after when Jesus is hanging on the cross and the crowd that shouted 'Hosanna' less than a week earlier has now changed their tune to 'Crucify him', and most of his disciples have scattered. Yet creation recognises what is happening, and speaks through a failing of the sun causing darkness and an earthquake.

So when we, the people of God, are struggling to praise him, we should turn to creation for inspiration. Could we but hear it, the stones are shouting.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Discussion Question: the five pillars of a Christian Theology of Sustainability

According to Berry (2007)*, there are five pillars of a Christian Theology of Sustainability:
1) God is creator and sustainer [and redeemer]
2) Covenantal stewardship – The earth is God’s not ours, so we must be its stewards. We have a covenant with God to do this.
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 physical bodies as Jesus did
5) New creation = renewal – end times will bring an earthing of heaven and renewal of the world, not the destruction and recreation of the earth.

Is a belief in these five pillars essential to Christian environmental action? Do you think theological education of Christians in these areas would create a desire to act for the environment?

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

When Enough is Enough: Some notes I took while reading

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

2 Peter 3:6 says “the first world was destroyed by the water, the water of the flood”. But obviously the world is still here, so if, at the end of the world, the world is purged with fire that will make it a ‘new world’ without actually destroying it. Heaven will come down to earth rather than us going up to heaven.

In Calvin’s comment on Genesis 2:15 he said:

“Let him who possesses a field so partake of its yearly fruits that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated… Let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.” P17

It talks about having two books –one of words and one of works.

Oliver O’Donnovan (1986:55) says:

“the redemption of the world and of mankind does not serve merely to put us back in the Garden of Eden where we began. It leads us on to that futher destiny to which, even in the Garden of Eden, we were already directed. For the creation was given to us with its own goal and purpose, so that the outcome of the world’s story cannot be a cyclical return to the beginnings, but must fulfil that purpose in the freeing of creation from its ‘futility’ (Rom. 8:20)… The eschatological transformation of the world is neither the mere repetition of the created world nor its negation. It is its fulfilment, its telos or end.” P33

Triple bottom line – environmental, social, economic. “In practice, the economic dominates, because it provides the easiest way of measuring value; how else does one measure the value of a rainforest, or the value of a contented community? A Biblical understanding of sustainability turns this on its head. Economics can never be equated with the social or environmental aspects of sustainability; it is merely a servant of the other two. Wealth and money are only tools for the service of society, and should have no value independent of the greater good they create. In the context of environmental sustainability, money and the human economy should be set within the wider context of the earth. True value lies not in measurable monetary wealth, nor i9n usefulness to human beings, but is intrinsic to being created by God. Thus every object and every creature must be respected, not simply as resources, but as unique repositories of God’s wisdom.” P42-43

There are five pillars of a Christian Theology of Sustainability: God is creator and sustainer, covenantal stewardship, 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), bodily resurrection(we will rise with bodies) and new creation(earthing of heaven). P43 on.

“According to Scripture only human beings were made in the divine image (Gen. 1:26-27). This has sometimes been taken to mean that we are superior and are thus free to lord it over all other creatures. What it should have been taken to mean is that we resemble God in some unique ways, such as our rational, moral, relational, and creative capacity. It also points to our unique ability to imagine God’s loving care for the world and to relate intimately to God. And it certainly points to our unique planetary responsibility. The same pattern holds true in all positions of high status or relationships of power…. Unique capacity and unique power and unique access create unique responsibility. Being made in God’s image is primarily a mandate to serve the rest of creation (Mk 10:42-45).” P63

Isaiah 55 promises the new earth will mean having harmony with all creation, we have to trust in God to bring this about.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Basking Sharks in Danger

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fish and Wildlife Service Removes Endangered Species Act Protection From Arizona's Desert Nesting Bald Eagles

Blogs on animals:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reflections on Ryan Bolger's Blog

I was doing some research on creating social change modelled on Jesus (with a view to using the information to help the environment) when I stumbled on a rather interesting blog - Check out the following posts:
This second part made me begin thinking about how we might 'move past the gate keepers' with the environmental movement. Actually, in many ways, I think that is what the work I am doing is about. After the CPRS arguments and the Copenhagen disappointment, it is obvious we can't look to the government (the gate keepers) to lead environmental change. Instead, I am working with churches, individuals and communities to help them to make the changes needed on their own, and to reach a tipping point where the government has no choice but to act or to become irrelevant.
These blogs about continuing the work of Jesus and working towards the Kingdom as the primary work of the church reminded me about how I feel about the environmental movement within the church. You see, for me, caring for creation is not a side issue for churches or a distraction, it is about bringing about God's kingdom on earth, and thus central to our mission. I believe that as the children of God, we are commissioned to work as God's hands and feet in restoring creation and bringing about an end to her groaning and pain. We are to work towards a new earth, so that God might finish our labours through the earthing of heaven. Thus we must not grow weary of working for the Lord and caring for his creation.
Again, the church can be this group outside the media and political establishment who can be mobilised to create change.

I hope you have fun looking around the site and I'm sure you will find it useful.

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for Today

Winners of the Low Carbon Communities Challenge (UK) have been announced:

· The West Oxford Community Renewables Industrial & Provident Society has been awarded £1.6 million for a range of renewable projects to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050

· The Ellen Macarthur Foundation is to receive funding to bring the village of Chale Green, Isle of Wight, out of fuel poverty and to reduce consumption of carbon emissions by social improvements, behavioural change and solar PV installations

· A Norfolk County Council project will allow the village of Reepham to reduce its CO2 emissions by 127 tonnes a year through energy efficient renovations, renewables, transport, behavioural changes and food initiatives. This scheme is well supported by the wider community and is replicable throughout Norfolk.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Christian Ecology Link Prayer for today

Father, we have not been good stewards of the world that you gave us to tend. We confess and repent of the ways in which we have misused your creation. Teach us to treat all your creation with care, compassion and dignity as the wonderful work of your hands. Amen.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

'Extinct' frog species found alive after 30 years

A species of frog has been found alive in the New South Wales Southern Tablelands, more than 30 years after it was thought to have become extinct.

New South Wales Environment Minister Frank Sartor announced this morning the discovery of a population of yellow-spotted bell frogs.


Aborigines 'exploited over nuke dump'

ABORIGINES should not be forced to trade their country for housing and education, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says.

Rarest marsupial back from the brink

The world's rarest marsupial species will soon start up its third breeding colony thanks to a $750,000 fence.

I don't know about back from the brink, but this is definately exciting.

Aussies get marine research gongs

Three Australian scientists have each received a prestigious award for their work in marine research.

Geothermal energy strike is close: Panax

A geothermal energy company is just weeks away from striking what could be the environmentally-friendly equivalent of oil in South Australia's southeast.

It is expected that Panax Geothermal's drilling rig at its Salamander-1 geothermal well in the Otway Basin near Penola will hit steam in just two weeks.


Wildlife park operators fear sands of mine

The largest free-ranging wildlife sanctuary in NSW could be under threat from a proposed sand mine that will operate less than 40 metres from its boundary.

Local fears as US backs bluefin tuna trade ban

Australia's lucrative but imperilled southern bluefin tuna fishery has come under scrutiny with moves towards a ban on trade in its northern hemisphere cousin.

Well they should ban it here too.

Japan faces threat to sushi from US vote

JAPANESE hopes of keeping open a prized fishery suffered a severe blow yesterday when the US announced it would vote for a total ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Yay, go the US!

Methane bubbles stir Arctic warming fears

Large amounts of a powerful greenhouse gas are bubbling up from a long-frozen seabed north of Siberia, raising fears of far bigger leaks that could stoke global warming.

A push to establish large marine sanctuaries

A new report has found there would be significant economic benefits associated with the creation of large marine sanctuaries in Western Australia's south.

Conservationists reject report questioning marine park

National conservation groups have dismissed a Marine Queensland report challenging the scientific case for protective zoning of the Coral Sea.

I told you it was nonsense...

Scientists Studying Ocean Acidification

Scientists from all over the world are collaborating to put ocean acidity and its effects under the microscope - before it's too late, writes Megan Johnston.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

$25 a kilogram for rice?!

My corporate sustainability lecturer mentioned in a lecture the other day that a study found that if you factored in the cost of the water, producing rice in Australia costs about $25 per kilogram. Which is insane. I don't know anyone who would be willing to pay that much for a kilogram of rice. Of course, this is not what rice costs in the supermarket, which is a beautiful illustration of the externalities (an economic term for "The side effect on an individual or entity due to the actions of another individual or entity." eg. pollution) involved in something like this. Growing rice in Australia is economically viable because rice growers don't have to pay enough for the water they use, and the impact of that water use on the country is an externality - one the environment and animals are paying for, not the consumers.

Examples like this are a great argument for the importance of internalising externalities and having prices that truly reflect the cost of the production of a good for everyone - including society and the environment.

It also begs a question - why do we have such blind faith in the 'invisible hand' when it allows crazy things like this make economic sense? In the driest habited continent on earth, I think it is fair to say we should not be growing rice.

Dick Smith on Population at the Canberra Club

Last year Dick Smith came to the realisation that population growth will ruin this country for his granchildren. He has adopted the population cause with gusto, and is currently preparing a TV documentary on the subject. Dick's support is an incredibly important development, giving the lie to the notion that those who oppose population growth are by definition anti-business, and lack knowledge of the "real world".

He will be talking to a joint meeting of SPA and The Australia Institute at the Canberra Club on Wednesday 10 March. His talk "Population: the elephant in the room we have ignored for too long", will be at 5.30 for 6.00pm. The Canberra Club is at 45 West Row, Civic, not far from the main Post Office.

Admission is free. Venue hire and catering will be generously provided by The Australia Institute, so no donations are requested on this occasion.

The teeming life hiding under British feet

Unnoticed by Britons a transformation has been happening beneath their feet. In the first study of its kind, scientists have analysed the soil the country depends on and in just the top eight centimetres, they estimate there are 12.8 quadrillion (12,800 million million) living organisms, weighing 10 million tonnes.

The study further revealed the number of these invertebrates - some just a hair's breadth across - which means the soil has increased by almost 50 per cent in a decade. At the same time, however, the diversity of life in the earth appears to have reduced.

Passages about topics we have already covered

Leviticus 20:22-25 See "Lest the Land Vomit you out" 25/2/10
Leviticus 22: 5-8 See "Clean and Unclean Animals" 10/11/09
Leviticus 23:3 See "Sabbath Laws" 6/3/09
Leviticus 23:10 See "Festivals" 9/2/09
Leviticus 23:22 See "Leaving something for the poor and the animals" 26/2/10 and "Sabbath Laws" 6/3/09
Leviticus 25:1-12 See "Sabbath Laws" 6/3/09

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peter Garrett under fresh attack over Coral Sea,1,26798497-3102,00.html

If you read the last article I posted along with this one you will see that something weird is going on here. A study by Marine Queensland is claiming that the science that led to Peter Garrett naming the Coral Sea a conservation zone is flawed because it was funded by the Pew environmental group who are pro the conservation area. Except that Marine Queensland who did the study is against the conservation area, so isn't this really the pot calling the kettle black?

As for the claims that the methods used have been discredited in the literature, I don't know. But as someone who personally supports the conservation zone passionately, I fear that this is a bit of a low attempt to try and get the minister to cave to pressure and not create the conservation zone. This would be a disaster for a diverse range of biodiversity, particularly sharks and I hope and pray it doesn't happen. I hope you will join me.

Funding shake-up prompts fears for research centre

This can't be aloud to happen. Prayer point people.

Rees's plan to save redgums faces the axe


More green lights for eco-friendly buildings

River choked for 700km with algal bloom

It might be good to pray about this one...

France builds biggest ever solar plant

Go France! Of course they have tonnes of nuclear power too....

A rare plant species found only in south-east Queensland's South Burnett region has been declared critically endangered.

And another one heading for the dust...

AUSTRALIAN farmers will be told to grow olives, jojoba, pomegranates and other hardy crops in a bid to foil the impending climate change threat.

With wheat and cattle farming likely to take a battering regardless of anti-warming measures, the agriculture industry must turn its attention to new areas, the New Rural Industries for Future Climates report says.

It will be interesting to see how farmers react to this one...

AUSTRALIA is to spend $30 million to protect forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, to tackle climate change.

Reflection on the fig tree that didn't bear fruit

Reading: Luke 13: 6-9

In a faith group meeting today we were reflecting on the verse above. I thought I would share my thoughts.

The first thing I thought about the story is that it makes sense from an agricultural point of view. If you have a tree in your vineyard that refuses to bear fruit you should get rid of it because it is sucking up resources like nutrients, space, sunlight and water which could be used to feed a plant you can actually benefit from. At the same time, it makes sense to try everything before you take the plant out, so it should be dug up and fertilised as suggested in the parable. The fact that this parable makes sense in these terms reflects the fact that Jesus grew up in the country, and he understood farming and the environment. Some have suggested this is why Jesus often refers to nature in his parables, but there are few specific teachings on how to treat the environment in the New Testament. Jesus's background means that he would have understood our relationship deeply from both the sources of scripture and experience, as would most of his audience, making it unnecessary for him to talk about this relationship extensively.

Another thing I thought about the story is that it is a relief to know that if we don't produce fruit, God will make an effort to dig us up and shake us through life's trials and fertilise our faith to give us a chance to start producing fruit before he decides to cut us off. We are given a second chance. Some other members of the group suggested that the story is about not giving up and trying different ways of getting results.

Finally, I began to think a bit further on the applications of the story, picturing God as the vineyard owner who is tired of wasting resources on this tree (us) that doesn't produce fruit, and Jesus as the keeper who pleads with him on our behalf for us to be given a chance and to be given the Holy Spirit as fertilizer. Then I was thinking about us here in the west, using up many times the resources it is fair for us to have. We have excess food and clothing, we have access to dozens of churches and the freedom to worship without persecution, we have access to Bibles and Christian books and the internet. Basically, we have been provided with bountiful resources for growth. Yet for all these resources we are being given, are we producing sufficient fruit? Are we using those resources to help others, to make the world a better place and to give it a future? If we are not, perhaps it is time God gave us a shake up and some fertilizer; because if we won't use the resources responsibly, I'm sure there are many developing nations who would like to try.

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+