Friday, 25 May 2018

Caring for Sacred Earth

Written by Rebecca Beisler
Tabea Tamaton from Kiribati talks climate change with (L-R) Scott Higgins, Thea Ormerod and Mick Pope Tabea Tamaton from Kiribati talks climate change with (L-R) Scott Higgins, Thea Ormerod and Mick Pope

One message resounded for me at the recent Inspiracy Festival in Newcastle - if we want to solve the climate crisis, it starts with a change of mind.

The Festival was held in Newcastle from 17-20 May, organised by a group of passionate people who share an interest in justice, spirituality, music and art.

Hosted at Adamstown and Merewether Uniting Churches, the Festival brought these interests together with a diverse program, including a film competition, workshops, talks, artistic installations and musical performances.

Participants travelled from across the country coming from different denominations and backgrounds.

Theologian Dr Dianne Rayson introduced the idea of the Anthropocene – a new geological age in which human activity is the dominant influence on the earth.

As we enter this new era, Dianne said, we must refocus our faith on our interconnected relationships with each other, with the rest of creation and with God.

“Not only do we belong to the world, but we are citizens of earth with responsibility for the earth’s flourishing,” Dianne said.

Dr Mick Pope, meteorologist, author and theologian, outlined what science is telling us about our impact on climate change.

Last year, Australia recorded its warmest winter on record for average maximum temperatures. Italy experienced record breaking heat, there were bushfires in Portugal and severe cyclones in Texas and Florida.

Contributing to this is the unchecked and unequal use of the earth’s resources.

“If everyone in the world had the same lifestyle as us (consuming the same amount of resources), the planet would collapse overnight,” said Mick.

“How do we share earth’s resources equally? We say we want flourishing for all but not at the expense of the flourishing.”

As Christians, Mick said the Bible guided us to love our neighbour and care for all creation. This meant learning to live alongside the planet and making significant changes to lessen our impact on the earth.

Tebeio Tamaton from Pacific Calling Partnership spoke about living on the frontline of climate change in Kiribati where rising sea levels threaten the future of the tiny nation.

Kiribati faces regular drought and flood, the loss of infrastructure to damaging tides, contamination of fresh water and food crops and a decreasing fish population, a major source of food and income for the people.

Despite the difficulties they face, Tebeio said the people of Kiribati do not want to relocate because of their deep connection to the land. Leaving the island would mean leaving behind their ancestors buried there.

Thea Ormerod, of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, emphasised the importance of listening to people living with the reality of climate change.

“People need to be listened to. If we really listened to the voices of people in Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and our own Indigenous people, if really allowed ourselves to be moved, it wouldn’t be that difficult to make the changes we need to. To take the train, instead of the car.”

“It also gives a great sense of purpose to our lives, to be able to stand there and challenge ourselves as strongly and radically as we need to.”

The Festival provoked all who attended to consider what it would take to rethink our systems, re-evaluate our priorities, rediscover our faith and recognise our own responsibility to care for the earth.

At the conclusion of the weekend, Adamstown Uniting Church was presented with its third Five Leaf Eco-Award, an ecumenical program that rewards faith communities for taking environmental action to become more sustainable.

Adamstown Uniting Church won the award for its environmental outreach, including fundraising for UnitingWorld climate projects in the Pacific, working to increase the sustainability of their Pudding Kitchen and for its part in organising the Inspiracy Festival.

Five Leaf Eco-Awards Director Jessica Morthorpe said of the festival: “It was so awesome to hear about climate and sustainability from so many creative angles and to be able to really connect with the emotional and human impact elements of the climate crisis through art, poetry, video and music."

At the 15th Assembly meeting in July, the Assembly will consider a new statement on Climate Change and proposals which call the Church to listen to others, to advocate and to act. The Statement encourages us to delve deeper into our understanding of faith in this new era and our Christian calling to respond.

Read the Statement "For the Whole Creation" in the 15th Assembly Proposals.