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Monday, December 5, 2011

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.

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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+