Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ethos Environment: Christians and Earth Hour

Ethos Environment: Christians and Earth Hour

This is a very good article on Christians and Earth hour - discussing why Christians should participate in it and what they can do during it.

I particularly liked what the article said about symbolism. I listened to a podcast for Earth Hour last year that discussed whether it was empty symbolism and whether it made a difference. And it is true that one hour won't save the planet. But as Mick Pope rightly points out the Church 'should be accustomed to symbolism'. Symbolism is important. Anyone familiar with the bible would have to agree that symbolism is also important to God.

And I think one of the reasons why symbolism is so important is that it may not make a tangible difference in the world, but it does make a difference in our hearts.

Why did Jesus ask us to partake of communion in memory of Him? Maybe it's because He knew humans need those symbolic actions. It is not the action itself that counts, but what it stands for.

The same might be said for Earth Hour. It is not the action itself that matters, but what it represents.

The article also has some very good suggestions for how Christians can take part in Earth Hour.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Judge Not

Okay, ‘fess up. Who has looked at how many plastic bags the person in front of you at the supermarket checkout is getting and immediately judged them? Something along the lines of, ‘How can they be using so many plastic bags?’ or ‘Don’t they realise that plastic bags are bad for the environment?’

Some of us even feel superior. We kind of put down our reused canvas bags with a certain smugness, as if to say ‘At least I’m not using plastic bags.’

I admit it. I’ve done it. The judgmental attitude, the feeling of superiority.

Or maybe it’s not plastic bags. Maybe it’s feeling superior because you’re walking or catching public transport, while other people are driving their cars. Or maybe it’s criticising the neighbours for using so much water. Maybe it’s looking at your friend’s shopping with disdain, wondering how much of it was just wasteful consumerism.

In today’s world, we don’t like to judge others. The idea is drilled into us that people make their own choices and we have no right to tell them how to live their lives.

But when it comes to the environment, the situation is often completely reversed. It’s almost as though we feel we have a duty to point out and to criticise any environmentally-destructive action. No longer are they free to live their lives the way they want. If they don’t toe the Green line, well they’re just not doing things right.

Jesus tells us not to judge others. And usually when I think about this, I think about all the judgmental people in the church - those who judge others for smoking or for being homosexual or for wearing revealing clothes or for not believing the right things or for not tithing properly. It’s so easy to think that others are doing the judging and forget that we may be doing some judging ourselves.

I would love everybody to make choices that respect the planet that we live in. I would love to see people take climate change seriously. I would love for people to curb their spending and wasteful habits.

But it’s not my place to judge people when they fail to do this.

Jesus didn’t tell us not to judge others on some matters but to judge them on other matters. He didn’t say don’t judge them on how much they tithe, but judge them on how many plastic bags they use. He didn’t say don’t judge them on their sexuality but judge them on their carbon footprint. He didn’t say don’t judge them on what they believe about God, but judge them on what they think about global warming.

He told us not to judge. Full-stop. And he also said that we should be looking at ourselves before judging other people. And I for one know I am not leading the perfect environmentally-responsible life. I still have so much I could do and should be doing.

And in the end, judging others does nobody any good anyway. All it does is makes people feel guilty. And guilt very rarely leads to good actions. But when I look at my own actions and my own lifestyle, I can actually make the changes that do some good. Yes, I’m just one person. But if we all stopped pointing the finger at other people and started looking at ourselves, imagine what we could do.

Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 2010

Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 2010

The message that Pope Benedict XVI gave on 1 January 2010, for the World Day of Peace starts with the words, ‘If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation’. Throughout the message he gives many valid reasons as to why Christians should care for Creation and how this will help promote peace. The message is well worth reading in its entirety, but I have copied some parts of it here. You can find the entire message here:

Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 2010


The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.

Contemplating the beauty of creation inspires us to recognize the love of the Creator, that Love which “moves the sun and the other stars”

Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.

Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God’s command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it. But the true meaning of God’s original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility.

Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it

Sad to say, it is all too evident that large numbers of people in different countries and areas of our planet are experiencing increased hardship because of the negligence or refusal of many others to exercise responsible stewardship over the environment.

Future generations cannot be saddled with the cost of our use of common environmental resources.

The ecological crisis offers an historic opportunity to develop a common plan of action aimed at orienting the model of global development towards greater respect for creation and for an integral human development inspired by the values proper to charity in truth.

There is a need, in effect, to move beyond a purely consumerist mentality in order to promote forms of agricultural and industrial production capable of respecting creation and satisfying the primary needs of all.

It is becoming more and more evident that the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our life-style and the prevailing models of consumption and production, which are often unsustainable from a social, environmental and even economic point of view.

he Church has a responsibility towards creation, and she considers it her duty to exercise that responsibility in public life, in order to protect earth, water and air as gifts of God the Creator meant for everyone, and above all to save mankind from the danger of self-destruction.

Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature.

For this reason, I invite all believers to raise a fervent prayer to God, the all-powerful Creator and the Father of mercies, so that all men and women may take to heart the urgent appeal: If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Overpopulation and educated women

StateLibQld 1 261493 Crowded beach at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, 1966

Whenever I read, listen or watch anything related to overpopulation, somebody usually comes out with the line that educated women have fewer children. Therefore, the first thing we can do to combat overpopulation is to educate more women.

It sounds good in theory. We want less people on the planet. Educated women have fewer children. Therefore, if more women are educated there will be fewer children on the planet. And so far, I probably agree with that.

However, I do suspect sometimes that it’s just said to appease the feminists. Or it’s said as just an easy fix. Because it’s addressing the problem of overpopulation without really addressing why we don’t want the world overpopulated in the first place. An overpopulated world uses lots of resources. And we don’t have enough resources to go around everyone.

Educated women may have fewer children. But my guess is they use way more resources than uneducated women do. They earn more money. Therefore, they have more spending capacity. They often live in the western world where consuming is a way of life. Also, if a woman has one child instead of buying half the things as she would for two children, she may end up just buying the same amount of things for that one child.

Arguably, this also might lead to selfish people, used to getting everything they want and unable to cope with going without. Whereas a child in a family of five may realise very early on in life that they have to sacrifice, go without and curb their spending.

I have known a few big families in my time. And with very few exceptions, they are filled with caring, generous people. I have also known a few only children in my time. And I think it’s fair to say they’re generally more self-centred. And isn’t it the case that the less self-centred people are, the more likely they are to care for people in different countries and the planet? 

In fact, I would suggest that an uneducated woman who has a bigger family may end up with children who use far less resources collectively than an educated woman with one child. I would also suggest that a child in a large family is more likely to care about the plight of the planet and the people in it than those who belong to smaller families.

I do believe that overpopulation needs to be addressed. And quite honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. I am loathe to say that we should put a limit on the number of children a person has because I believe that large families often produce the best (more likely to care and less likely to consume) people. But at the same time, something does need to happen. And I don’t expect to be the person who figures out exactly what that something is.

And of course the Christian in me disagrees with many of the methods suggested to reduce the number of babies being born. I don’t think abortion should be made illegal, but I also don’t believe they should be abortion-on-demand for any and all reasons, especially not to limit the amount of children being brought into the world. I’m also not convinced that easy access to contraception is really such a good idea. But then, I definitely wouldn’t want to see all contraception methods banned either.

And I have to say, for most of the time, my Christian me and my environmental me work in harmony together. There’s no conflict there at all. In fact, they complement each other very nicely. When it comes to the issue of overpopulation though, there is a bit of a conflict. I sincerely believe that we need to take steps to stop the population of the world growing. But I can’t wholeheartedly agree with abortion or contraception. And I don’t really see any other options.

One thing I do believe though is that the overpopulation problem is not going to be solved by educating women. It may end up with less babies being born. But I doubt very much it would result in less wasteful use of resources.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Voice of the Day - from Sojourners Magazine

I loved today's voice of the day from Sojourners Magazine. It's a quote by Archbishop Rowan Williams.

Voice of the Day: Archbishop Rowan Williams

“Our present ecological crisis, the biggest single practical threat to our human existence in the middle to long term, has, religious people would say, a great deal to do with our failure to think of the world as existing in relation to the mystery of God, not just as a huge warehouse of stuff to be used for our convenience.”
- Archbishop Rowan Williams