On Thursday we focus on the environment. We seek to discover and promote new ways of sustainable living as an expression of our caring for God's creation.
My passion is treading lightly on this sacred earth - particularly with regard to our use of what we call the earth's resources: living soil, minerals, air, water, biodiversity (the vast collection of plants/animals/life on earth).
I want to leave the planet in a better way than when I arrived.
Born in 1971, I have arrived on this planet at a time when human population and ways of living have become utterly unsustainable. Our dominant economic system is based on growth theories that ignore the fact that our planet is finite. We are quickly using up resources like oil, which have formed over millions of years. I try to think globally and act locally.
Have you heard of the ecological footprint calculator?
If you answer some questions about energy, food, transport, waste and water you can estimate how much land your lifestyle requires.
If everyone on the planet lived like an average Australian we would need 3 or 4 planets.
Have you noticed the terrible habit we humans have of thinking the earth is made just for us?
It is interesting in the Hebrew scriptures in Genesis, we hear stories the Jewish people told to make sense of the where the world came from and our relationship to God and to each other.
There is much in Genesis that is blamed for this 'subdue the earth' way of thinking. They did have a very different understanding of the world.
The creation story that speaks to me the most is the one where humans are made from the earth. The word human is from the Latin humus - which means “earth”. As a composter and organic gardener I can tell you that humus is the best stuff. I have run workshops about composting called 'getting a sense of humus'. It is full of life and goodness.
In Genesis 3 and 4 there are many punishments handed out - to the snake and the woman, Eve and the man, Adam (Hebrew for earth I understand). Cain is punished for killing his brother. [This reading does not sound like the God that I connect with.] It makes God sound mean and vengeful. Humans also have an unhealthy habit of creating god in our own image don't we?
The part that speaks to me in this reading from Genesis is that foundation statement - often read at funerals - “you are dust and to dust you will return”. It is a very humbling reality. Our physical body will return to the earth. We are “food for worms”.
David Suzuki in his book The Sacred Balance explains powerfully and scientifically how we are 'of the earth' - we literally are what we eat - we are a mix of elements. Our physical body is largely water: Hydrogen and Oxygen. When we eat we take in vitamins and nutrients that have come from the earth and from the soil. Everything we have comes from the earth. It is this basic concept that I try to teach children. It is the reason I am passionate about waste avoidance. “We have one planet earth. Don't waste it.” Is written on my waste wise excursion note book.
I teach children and adults about compost, worms and avoiding waste.
I am trained as a primary school teacher and Earthworks trainer.
Earth works is a community course in 'living with less waste'.
I have been involved since 2003 in the development of a community garden in Kariong www.kariongecogarden.org.au
Eco - logos - the root words of ecological mean 'caring for where we be'.
Rev Penny Jones blessed the garden when it first began. We are connected to the earth - in a physical and a spiritual way. We can't live without what the earth provides. Yet, in our modern affluent lives we are so unconnected with the earth - climate control, microwaves, electronic stuff, mobile phones, plastic products, fashion, clothes, food that travels miles and miles to get to us. We have invented the concept of “disposable”. We use things we don't know how to make or fix. We bury our waste in the ground.
We poison the air and the water - what we do to the earth we are doing to ourselves.
IN NATURE NOTHING IS WASTED.
We are the only living things that have this waste problem - how embarrassing. We need to change. We are reaching a crisis point.
All the dead unwanted things are put together and transformed by micro-organisms and earth worms, earwigs and slaters to become something beautiful and life giving. There is no death in nature - eternal cycles of elements. Water we drink today has been going around since life began on our planet. When it all seems too much I sometimes think of this.
Maybe earthworms are like God. Transforming all our mess and chaos into something beautiful, this kind of compost theology gives me hope to keep going with my work. God will work for good through the things we do.
"How necessary it is for monks to work in the fields, in the rain in the sun, in the mud, in the clay 'in the wind. These are our spiritual directors and our novice masters. They form our contemplation. They instil us with virtue. They make us as stable as the land we live in."
Thomas Merton - " When the Trees say Nothing"
"Australians are looking to ways of bringing the Australian landscape into their spirituality: to come home to this land's spiritually and so to complete the sea crossing they or their ancestors have made form other homelands. It is only to be accepted that they look to Aboriginal spirituality in their quest. This was a spirituality (the Law, the Dreaming) which evolved in the landscape, over thousands of years, and which was expressed in practice, in story, in art and in ceremony by those who were part of the landscape. There is no question of appropriating the Dreaming but rather of taking up the cue from Aborigines themselves that the Law can be read from the landscape."
Eugene Stockton - "Mysticism in the Australian Environment" p. 13-14
Readings and Prayer
The Simple Life - stars, poor are closer to earth and God… St Francis.
The Lorax by Dr Seuss,” Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot..”
The Sknuks by Colin Thiele
Uno's Garden by Graeme Base - one day the people realized thee were no trees left
'You are the Earth' by David Suzuki and 'The Sacred Balance' for grown ups.
Buy or borrow these books and read them with children - talk about them - be inspired and change your lives to tread lightly on the earth.
I believe we are made to be in relationship
with our creator and the earth
and we are not whole until we do this.