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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

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.

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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+