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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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reflections by Caroline Foster (28, Canada)


Kaitlin on Day 4




Water Hyacinth


The Dam

On the way to Inanda

Youth for Eco-Justice Day 4

Today we had our exposure visits. I went to both and they were incredible. It was so amazing to meet some of the people involved in fighting eco-injustice here even though they come from such "disadvantaged" circumstances.

My first trip was to Inanda, a reasonable drive from the city and up in the hills. On the way there we saw a boat trying to clear some water hyacinth from a river chocked by it. I've often heard about this issue, but seeing it was something else. Where the water hyacinth had not yet been touched you couldn't tell there was a river there, it just looked like a patch of lush vegetation. And they were only even trying to clear channels, leaving much of the river still covered in the weed. It was interesting though to listen in on a conversation between Lungelo from Durban and George from Kenya after someone lamented the waste created by the removed hyacinths so George told how in Kenya they use the hyacinth to weave eco-friendly coffins. It was one of those moments where the value of getting people from different countries together in one place becomes really clear.

Also on the way, we saw a big dam. Built before the end of Apartheid, this was apparently achieved by simply telling the black people living in the valley that they had to move. They were provided with tin houses (having experienced Durban's heat I can imagine how well that worked) and not given any way of transporting their goods so many had to leave them all behind. :(

Reaching Inanda, we had a chat with a Women's Self Help Group they have set up there, which collectively saves small amounts of money from each member for emergencies in the group. They also sell jewellry to raise money for the clinique (my group bought multiple items. I got a necklace) and grow fresh vegies in their community garden for those sick with HIV. The church also encourages condom use and they hope to prevent teenage pregnancies. This can be difficult as the government provides a grant of 270 Rand per child, encouraging people to have kids. Oh, and that is a grand total of around $34 in Australian money!

The government also gives out free condoms for HIV prevention, but apparently they are the cheapest and crappiest condoms you have ever seen so they break constantly. And sometimes health notices are stapled to them so that there are holes in the whole packet. Well done guys!

Also complicating things is a culture where women are not expected to say no to sex - something my western feminist sensibilities found very hard to swallow.

The biggest problem in the area though is unemployment, and while this particular clinique had sufficient stock, they still had issues with the sick not coming forward for treatment.

Next I went to a project in Clermont which started in 2009. Here, mostly unemployed young people were given work collecting rubbish, weeding and cleaning up their local river.

They collect the paper from churches in the community for recycling and are setting up a community garden and a walkway along the river. They are hoping this walkway will attract walkers and cyclists and create enough revenue to hire some people permanently to keep the area clean, as well as instilling a sense of pride in the local people.

They would also like to cut down the non-native trees and sell the wood to the paper company.

The government pays the group a stipend of 80 Rand (about $10) each per day for removing weeds as part of their water program, however this comes on and off, and there are often large periods without payment. Their only other income is around 1,400 Rand ($175) raised from selling the scrap metal they collected which is used to upkeep a phone.

Barriers include the need for more tools and the need for funding for the walkway project.

I really enjoyed meeting and talking to these wonderful young people. They were an inspiration.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kaitlin on Day 3


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 3

Today we talked about the Triple crisis and climate and water issues.

We began with a talk about the Triple Crisis by Joy Kennedy: the Poverty, Wealth and Ecological Justice Coordinator of the United Church of Canada. Joy spoke about Eco-Justice as visioning the next "new normal".

My notes:

Some quotes:
"Systems created by humans can be re-created by humans."
- a reflection on the way we need to stop seeing systems like the economy as immutable and set. Not that long ago they didn't exist. We created them to serve us, not the other way around, so if they aren't serving us well then we have to change them.

"Bloom where you are planted."
- a reflection on the fact that the most effective actions are usually completed locally within your home community and the context you know best - not on a more international scale.

"The cracks are how the light gets in."
- a reflection on the opportunities that these triple crises give us.

Free, prior and informed consent for the use of indigenous people's land.
Common but differentiated responsibilities
The World Council of Churches is working on a 'greed line' to accompany the poverty line.

Some things to look up:
Book: 'Jesus and Empire' by Richard A. Horsley

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Reflections on the Interfaith Rally by Kaitlin Bardswich from the United Church of Canada - Another participant in the Youth For Eco-Justice program


Youth for Eco-Justice Day 2

Today we had our orientation and then went to the Interfaith Rallye. Although attendance was disappointing, the rally was very interesting. Our signs ended up on the news and there were some interesting speeches. The most exciting and random thing though was that as Archbishop Desmond Tutu walked past me there was a brief break in the crowd of the media scrum so that he could see me and he smiled at me! I couldn't believe it.

It was also amusing to hear Archbishop Tutu speak - he has the most incredible sense of humour. I was intrigued/disturbed a bit though by the tendency of some of the speakers to be a bit fire and brimstone about the rich and their sins. While developed countries certainly have a lot to answer for I am not sure if this was constructive.

After the rally and the concert - good music- we had some trouble finding our bus so we all got drenched, which was a bit funny.

For more on Archbishop Tutu's speech and the rally see:
Video of the interfaith rally made by participants of the WCC-LWF Youth for Eco-Justice training coinciding with COP17

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Youth for Eco-Justice Day 1

Today I eventually arrived in Durban and met the first of the participants which was nice. Otherwise there was no program. Probably a good thing since I am exhausted.

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+