Follow Jessica on Twitter @CrossAndLeaves or follow the Five Leaf Eco-Awards @fiveleafeco

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Environmental Books to Read

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The emerging Church is a part of cultural change, but it also challenges the priorities of culture in the name of a liberating and humanising grace and challenge from God that is truly revolutionary. I can see Western Christians coming to shed the straitjacket of consumerism and passivity, for instance, finding a more intentional discipleship in the way they live, work and pursue relationships. They will be assisted by transformed institutional and leadership dynamics in the Church, and their vision will be enriched and reinforced by a renewal of liturgical life."

Revd Dr Scott Cowdell in his book 'God's Next Big Thing: Discovering the Future Church', John Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave, 2004. p. 2.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Green Christmas Decorations

I'm not a crafty person, but this year I thought I would try my hand at some enviornmentally friendly Christmas decorations.

First there is our Christmas Tree:

As you can see, instead of going with a traditional pine or plastic Christmas Tree, we decided to buy a little variegated Hibiscus. Although we wanted a tree, we weren't keen on the idea of the environmental footprint of a plastic tree and had been thinking about putting a larger plant in this part of our flat anyway, so this will serve both purposes. The little beaded star is handmade, something I got in South Africa recently (read all about my Youth For Eco-Justice trip below on this blog). Beneath the tree (on the right) you can see that I like to wrap presents in used newspaper to be more sustainable

This tree could have been more sustainable if I'd used some kind of eco-tinsel (it must exist) and if I'd chosen a native plant.

Next there is my table centrepiece:

I'm quite proud of this one.
All the plant material you see was collected from the ground. I've taken several different bunches of gumnuts and slotted them together like Tetras to create this shape, and added a few more leaves.
These crazily shaped gumnuts are native here in Perth, and as someone who has just moved here I find them really cool.
As well as creating a nice balance, the three candles also symbolise the Holy Trinity.
This centrepiece could have been more sustainable if I'd used beeswax candles.

I don't think you can see it in the background, but between the fruit bowl and salt and pepper shakers/plant, there is our cute little wire chicken (egg holder) that I picked up for about $4 from Good Sammy's. One of my best finds. Tomorrow I'll also be setting the table with glasses, napkins and napkin holders all from Vinnies. Ah, the wonders of Op Shops for our sustainability quests....

Then there is my wreath:

Ok, so it's not the best wreath ever, but it's sustainable and it took me around 5mins. It's just some long strings of leaves from a gumtree curled into a circle and secured with some ties I've saved, hidden by some leftover tinsel and finished with my favourite hair ribbon. Voila!

And finally another little table decoration:

I was walking under a Banksia tree the other day and found these sprigs lying on the ground so I brought them home and put them in a vase from Vinnies. I've decided that Banksias should be the new Australian version of Ivy - something to put everywhere at Christmas. After all, most varieties have a lovely serrated edge a bit like holly, and even those that don't, like the one above, have silver undersides on glossy green leaves and a lovely leaf arrangment that makes them look great in a vase.

So that's all my little handmade eco-decorations. I hope you have a wonderful and green Christmas.

God bless. Jessica.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are humans moral beings? A reflection on a statement by Paul Watson

Last night I watched a TV special on Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd, and one of the founders of GreenPeace. It was interesting to learn a bit more about his history and to learn that the roots of the famous conflict (at least in environmental circles) between Watson and Greenpeace that caused him to leave/had him kicked out (depending on who is talking) of the organisation were essentially philisophical. Greenpeace, having grown out of the peace movement, holds a core belief in non-violent resistance. Watson, on the other hand, has since become famous for his willingness to use violence to achieve his ends. For me, the insight that allowed me to understand his approach was a comment he made along the lines of this:

"If you try to save the world by appealing to people's morality you are never going to get anywhere. Humans are not moral beings."

For Watson, at their core, humans are violent creatures. They understand and use violence to get their ends, so the best way to get a message across to them is through violence.

It's an interesting statement, and if his core assumption about the lack of human morality is true then he probably has a point about violence being the best way to ensure conservation or achieve any other goal. It's a scary world to live in though. As seen on the special, this is a world where the fastest or biggest boat wins, regardless of whose position holds the most value. It is a world where might is right. As someone without any physical prowess, it's not really a world I want to live in.

I prefer to believe that humans do have a moral capacity. Indeed, I think as a religious person I have to believe that, because our faith traditions are such important sources of our moral codes and the support we need to try and live in a moral way. I think we can make moral choices and we can do things that are right because they are right, and even if they are not in our own best personal interest. I can see how some people might despair and decide we are not capable of such high-mindedness though. Whaling is something of a classic example. The majority of the world made the moral decision that hunting a group of highly intelligent species threatened with extinction was wrong, but a few countries (Japan, Norway and Iceland) decided, for whatever reasons, that they can get away with whaling so they are going to, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks about the moral status of the activity. You have to respect their guts. One of the most powerful tools in the world for ensuring moral behaviour is the strength of peer pressure, but these countries decided to throw it in our faces that they don't care what we think, they are going to do what they want anyway. It does make one wonder about morality. And then there are all the other instances of clear corruption and *evil* conducted by people around the world with no consideration for the effect on other people, let alone the environment and God's creatures. It would be easier to simply believe that humans are incapable of morality and find another way of ensuring what you want is done - eg. the use of violence. The easiest solution is rarely the right one though, so I suppose we have to struggle on trying to believe that people are capable of morality and moral actions. I pray God we begin to show it more often in our interactions with other species.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not a criticism of Paul Watson or the Sea Shepherd. I feel better knowing there is an organisation working so hard to actually implement environmental laws, particularly on the sea. It is sad that violence has to be used, but sometimes I feel like using violence myself when I note how rarely the laws made to protect the environment are enforced enough that they actually do so.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Youth for Eco-Justice Day 15

And just like that this incredible experience is over and I'm on my way home. I'm sad, but I have a lot of work to do back in Perth launching the Five Leaf Eco-Awards and my new Churches for Conservation project so I suppose I won't have too much time to miss everyone. Besides, I don't believe this is the end. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with my new friends around this world to try and bring some of the hope and light of our faith into our future.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Other COP17 and Y4EJ related blogs worth checking out:

Final night party

 Myself and my room mate, Raquel Kleber from Brazil

From left: Claire (Aus), Tamar (Georgia), Claire (UK) and me

 Maike and I
Njideka and I

 Kristi (US) and I
 From left: Caroline (Canada), Kaitlin (Canada), Njideka (Nigeria) and I

Youth for Eco-Justice Day 14

Today we completed our presentations, completed a recap, wrote each other a bunch of nice letters and then had a final night party. Having trouble believing that I have to go home and leave all my new friends.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day 12: Africa Roars

Photo by Wolfgang Noack

Youth for Eco-Justice Day 12

Today some friends and I left our lodgings early and headed to the Victoria markets to finish shopping for family and friends. We had heard that the markets could be a little dodgy so I was a bit wary, but we were early enough that there were few people there and it was lovely and cheap compared to other places. I had fun picking out a bunch of presents made from the beautiful beadwork and phone wire sculpting that they do in this area.

Then we headed down to the beach for 'Africa Roars'. This was a protest involving hundreds of school children making the shape of a roaring lion on the beach to protest the lack of action on Climate Change. A nice idea. In practice though, I soon had some qualms.

Durban gets hot. Really hot. Those poor kids had to sit on burning sand (it was making me yelp every time I had to walk somewhere) in the sun for something like 3 hours without enough water and apparently many hadn't eaten yet. My friends and I were taking refuge in the shade of what seemed to be an empty tent when suddenly fainting children started flooding in and we realised it was a medical tent. We hastily exited, watching the medic shake his head in frustration.

It made me really angry. These poor kids had to suffer (they kept being begged to be brave, but they are children, they shouldn't have to be brave!) because the stupid adults a few kms away in the big, fancy, airconditioned buildings didn't have the guts to do what needs to be done. I don't know what to feel but disgust.

PS. It does look really cool though doesn't it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Y4EJ participant Claire Barrett-Lennard (25, Perth) tells Bishop Geoff Davies (Executive Director of the South African Faith Communities' Environment Initiative) about the great work she does in Perth with the Anglican Eco-Care Commission

Photo by Wolfgang Noack

Kaitlin on Days 9 and 10


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 10

Today was the first of our 'immersion days' participating in the civil society events around COP17. So I headed to the Diakonia Centre with some friends for some events there.

The first event was a panel related to women and development. This was made exciting by the presence of Ghandi's granddaughter.

- Many women are forced to marry men because they can't look after themselves (water drawing, keeping house etc.) so they force you girls to live with them.
- If women get sick or need help they encourage their husbands to take another woman - increased AIDs risk
- Ancient oak trees in Texas are collapsing from excessive heat.
- "After 2020 it won't matter anymore because we will all be burnt."

I snuck out of the meeting at 10:30 (getting within a metre of Ghandi's granddaughter who also had to leave to attend another event), and headed to another meeting hosted by the South African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI). Here I met Gleynis Goynes, one of the founding members of the group, and we had a wonderful chat about the organisation.

SAFCEI was launched in 2005 with a week long meeting of representatives from all the major faith groups in South Africa. They then formed a representative steering committee and had their first AGM. SAFCEI is driven by Bishop Geoff Davies and his wife Kate, who also heads up Eco-Congregation in South Africa and is doing a masters on environmental education in the faith structure. This program is based on the UK model but adapted to this context.

One challenge was that the poor illeterates in SA are often close to the earth byt they don't necessarily understand the significance of sustainable management. Eco-Congregation SA tried giving churches a handbook but found that most people couldn't read it and it gave a lot of power to whoever held the book, so instead they developed a poster for use by rural people which requires them to only read a sentance at a time maximum.

They have found that the grassroots work has not spread as well as they would like.

They have some urban clusters, each of which has grown around something that was contextually significant for them. For example the Jo'berg cluster is interested in consumerism.

They usually operate top down through advocacy and lobbying but next year plan to focus on bottom up and particularly Eco-Congregation which they want to spread from SA out into southern Africa.

They also have 14 Christian and Muslim Youth Ambassadors. These completed two training workshops and are working as volunteers to raise awareness in their local communities around COP17. They were also delegates to the negotiations and staff the SAFCEI stands.
This has been so successful they want to make the Youth Ambassadors a seperate permanent program.

I got to meet two of these ambassadors - Cindy from Durban and Patrick from a rural area. Cindy became interested in environmental issues when the community newsletter she was writing for asked her to do some articles about them and Patrick had been involved in environmental things since primary school and this was  a big part of his rural life. We discussed the difference between their two contexts, with urban congregations often having less youth and being less vibrant than their rural counterparts who are also more intrinsically involved in environmental issues.

There is a Muslim community in the Western Cape that is planting trees, recycling cooking oil and recycling waste.

We also discussed how a lot of indigenous knowledge has been lost in South Africa so it is necessary to learn what to plant where because Apartheid prevented the knowledge exchange that other African countries often had.

The final session I attended today related to why faith groups should get involved in negotiations like COP17.
- Nations are currently challenged to defend self interest and think of the global good. Faiths are used to thinking about the global good.
- The Rio Declaration idea of sustainable development was developed by the Peace, Justice and Creation meeting in LA first.
- Otherwise the WCC doesn't have a lot to show for the last 30 years of engagement
- The majority of SA's 16 million Christians are impoverished.
- Conservative/prosperity/consumerist theology is creeping into faiths other than Christianity
- faith = librating the self from injust systems etc.
- Self interest is so powerful that the UN seems to be dying
- Indigenous and faith movements can join as moral movements for change
- Rio+20 is a blank slate we could use to bring about paradigm changes
- Rural people all know the effects of Climate Change, if not the science
- Faith communities have the opportunity to represent and mobilise faith communities because we are present in every town or village.
- Japan is the number 1 importer of ivory from endangered elephants in the Congo basin
- Lots of countries have good environmental legislation but they don't implement it.

This was a great day and I learned a lot.

To look up: Wangari Mathai, who won a nobel prize for environmental work in Kenya.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day 9: Outside the Church

Photo by Wolfgang Noack

Kaitlin on Day 8


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 9

Today was Sunday, so we started the day by going to the local church of one of the South African members of our group. The singing was incredible - I wish I had understood more of the words. I was also intrigued to sit through an almost hour long lecture on HIV/AIDs and how to avoid it (the previous Thursday was World AIDs Day). I thought this was a nice example of how churches can be used to disseminate important information within their communities.

After lunch a smaller group of us went to the Botanic Gardens. We saw a host of animals and plants and I really enjoyed it. Stanislau even got chased by some monkeys when he got a bit too close. They also had these amazing little half fluro orange and half black finches I couldn't help wondering over and a display called the Beehive, which was a dome of recycled materials with plants inside and out - very cool.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day 8: Photos from the Global Day of Action March

Photos by Wolfgang Noack

Read what Brian Konkol had to say about Youth for Eco-Justice after meeting us in Durban


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 8 : Global Day of Action March

Today's march was a pretty incredible experience. I have never been part of such a huge march, where even at high points you couldn't see anywhere near the end as we marched for k's through the city of Durban, past the ICC and to the beach. I also got to hold my first placard - pictures of an old lady and a younger man (one each side) with the text "Climate Change kills me". I also helped carry both the Youth for Eco-Justice and Polluters Pay banners at different points in the march.

One thing that made an impression on me was talking to a girl who came to help with our banner. She was from one of the African dictatorships and was quite excited to be protesting because if she tried the same at home she would be beaten up. This reminds me how lucky we are in Australia and makes me almost wish we had a bit more of a culture of protesting. For vitally important issues like Climate Change, perhaps we should all get off our couches a bit more often to show that we care.

Youth for Eco-Justice Day 7

Today we discussed theological and ethical perspectives on eco-nomy. Michael Schut, Environmental Officer for the Episcopal Church USA, was our guide.

We began by reviewing the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert (Matt 4: 1-10), and paring back the core of the three temptations to the following:
1. Turning stones to bread - the temptation to prove who you are by demonstrating your abilities.
2. Angels will bear you up - the temptation to prove who you are by how others react and respond to you.
3. All will be given to you - the temptation to prove who you are by what you have - your status, power and wealth.

As you can see, each of these temptations is part of the temptation to prove who we are, which is why the Devil taunts Jesus in each line by saying "If you are the Son of God", when clearly the Devil knew who he was.

This constant need to prove ourselves makes us slaves to sin by becoming an entrapping cycle and not allowing us to simply rest in our identities as the beloveds of God.

We can see the outworking of these temptations and our falling to them in the way our economy is currently set up. In contrast to this "God's interest is in building a world where all creatures can have abundant life" (Doug Metes, God's Economy).

You will note that advertising is usually based on one of these three temptations and triggering our need to prove ourselves in one of these areas.

We then discussed which of the temptations resonate the most with us and which communities in our lives help us to resist these temptations (hopefully our churches, but not always).

Next we discussed the circular nature of Nature's Economy, where "waste" becomes food, the system draws on local resources that have limits, the system is essentially closed (excepting solar energy) and unique communities of place are created. In contrast, the current dominant human economy is more like a line, where labour, resources and commodities go in, advertising is added and waste and negative externalities are created in the quest to make stuff. In this system communities are only valuable as sources of resources, consumers or somewhere to dump waste.

Question for thought: What are the theologies of these two economies?
This is really quite an interesting question as you delve into it deeply. Let me know what you think.

Thus, the aim for a more sustainable economy is to move towards a circle from the line. We can do this by bending the line (eg. Cradle to Cradle design) or by moving to support economies that are already circular.

In a circular system perhaps money has to be tied to something real.

And we might need to work towards something like a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) instead of the GDP. This would, for example, put a monetary value on parents caring for their children at home instead of this causing a reduction in GDP as opposed to someone else being paid for childcare.

We also discussed how we have turned faith into insurance policies on salvation and sources of entertainment. We have become goal minded about our faith instead of focusing on right relationships.

To look up:
Book -"Money and Faith: the search for enough"

During the afternoon session we developed our visions for what we want to achieve and shared these with each other.

Here is mine:

"So, we have finally done it. Every church in the country now has at least a Basic Certificate level Five Leaf Eco-Award (for more info on the program see the pages section of this blog). Five Leaf has become a large organisation with solid funding, many staff and a range of divisions. We hold national awards ceremonies for all faiths each year. Also, we have managed to green all Christian venues, theological colleges and Christian universities as well as all church organisations.

We have taught all churches in Australia to care about the environment and everyone is familiar with Creation Care Theoloogy and tries to love sustainably at home and church. We have new creation hymns, youth green groups, and big ecumenical outdoor festivals areound the Season of Creation. Everyone does their bit for social and environmental justice and the Australian church has become a credible and powerful advocate for environmental issues both nationally and internationally.

Especially exciting is that churches around Australia are now involved in species conservation and wildlife rescue. In addition, they regularly buy land containig important habitats to protect it. We have taught the people of Western Australia and all over the country to love their unique biodiversity and landscapes and to protect them. Finally, these actions have made the church once again relevant to our society and congregations are growing and expanding rapidly."


After dinner we had a panel discussion with some members of Ecumenical organisations about the progress at COP17.

Youth for Eco-Justice Quotes Day 7: "Our theology and worldview really do express themselves in the way we live in the world"

Michael Schut

Youth for Eco-Justice Quotes Day 7: "I don't think that living compassionately is fundamentally about following a list"

Michael Schut

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 6: Simulation game

Photo by Wolfgang Noack

Check out this blog by Youth for Eco-Justice participant Maggie Mwape (27, Zambia)


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 6

Today we played a simulation game where we all had different roles and we had to try and negotiate and advice a council around the change of water supply from public to private in 'Kolkata'. I was one of the people representing the Ecumenical Council of Churches of Kolkata. It was quite fun and interesting because we were able to take a leadership role within the civil societies by developing a list of demands for the company before they could go ahead with the privatisation to ensure that the poor and the environment would get a good deal. We thought we had done quite well, but after the game finished it was revealed that we had failed to secure any promise from the company not to fire the workers currently employed in providing the water supply. It was a real 'doh' moment and it was educational because I think we should have been more suspicious about how easily the company agreed to all our demands - something to keep in mind for future negotiations.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Youth for Eco-Justice Quotes Day 5: "Our beliefs influence our interpretation of the world, rather than the other way round".

Day 5: Learning about theological and ethical perspectives

Photo by Wolfgang Noack

More of Kaitlin's reflections


Info Hub on creating Eco-Justice by Youth for Eco-Justice participant Claire Morris (23, UK)


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 5

Today we had the chance to talk about some of the theology and ethics related to creation and justice. For example, we tried to define "justice". It's hard.

We began with a lecture by Dr. Ernst Conradie, a South African theologian from the Department of Religion and Tehology at the University of the Western Cape.

  • "Environment" is an anthropocentric term because it is concerned only with what surrounds you.
  • To describe or ascribe the world as God's beloved creation is to interpret it.
  • Creation is not the world, but the world is creation.
  • Thomas Berry saw animals eating each other as intimacy not enmity.
  • Different ways to see creation:
    • Creation as God's fountain of life: light from light. In all its fullness, fecundity and vulnerability.
    • Creation as God's home - the household of God.
    • Creation as God's work of art - a drama or song
    • Creation as God's playgroun - child's play
    • Creation as God's own body - and thus sacred
    • Creation as God's beloved child - good and beautiful like a newborn
  • The Garden of Eden is a vision for the future that as been thrown back in the past as an idea of what God intended.
  • Eden is a critique of the present.
  • Greed is bad but desire can be good.
  • Animals pass on knowledge and experience through DNA but humans can also pass it on through language, even if only one person has the experience - much faster transmission.
"Stragely, in a world that always talks about vision, we lack a compelling vision to take us forward."
- we don't have many true visionaries, and those that are usually become world famous.

Things to look up:
Ernst's book 'Climate Change: A challenge to the churches in South Africa"
Coming soon: his book "Creation and Salvation"

I also purchased Ernst's book 'Christianity and Earthkeeping: In search of an inspiring vision', which covers 19 of the major reasons why Christians are interested in caring for the earth - both good and bad

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+