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World Environment Day wake up call for churches

Why should environmental injustice be a concern of the Church? Climate change is the most severe problem we face, more serious than the threat of terrorism.

In the words of the late Pope John Paul II “the world’s peace is threatened not only by the arms race, regional conflicts, and continued injustices among peoples and nations but also by the lack of proper respect for nature, the plundering of natural resources and a progressive decline in the quality of life.”

Trinity Methodist Theological College student Philomeno Kinera has a special concern about getting churches involved in defending the earth. In addition to her personal commitment, Philomeno is attached to Greenpeace for her student project placement.

June 5th is World Environment Day, and Philomena believes we should ask how we as individuals or churches can be stewards of the land and care for nature for the sake of the future. How can we promote human flourishing and ecology in a sustainable world?

Philomeno says the earth’s climate has changed over the last century and we have seen evidence of that drastic change through heat waves, floods and rising sea-levels. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) 2005 report, the Himalayan glaciers are fast retreating due to global warming, and this will result in water shortage for millions of people. Changing weather patterns will lead to famine and massive losses for farmers.

“There is now stronger evidence that human activities are causing green house gases to accumulate in the earth’s atmosphere. The Climate Change report of May 25, 2005 states that the chief cause of rising global temperature is carbon dioxide emitted when fossil fuels are burnt.

“We cannot ignore that in the rush for profit multinational companies are foisting technology upon us without a clear knowledge of consequences for the environment and human health. There are also threats to the ecosystem and human health from the release of toxic materials into the environment yet chemical industries continue to produce and release thousands of chemical compounds every year.”

According to Greenpeace forests are the lungs of the planet. They are under threat as an area the size of a football field is destroyed every two seconds. Thousands of ancient trees are cut down in South America, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia to make paper wood products which are used only once and then thrown away.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Margaret Crozier says there is a spiritual dimension to the environmental movement.

“When we destroy our environment, we cut ourselves off from the very things that make us human that give us a spiritual life. Young people are seeking answers to the big issues posed by the modern world.

“Greenpeace strikes a chord with young people in calling for action. Early supporters were impressed with an ancient legend of the North American Indian. ‘When the earth is sick, and the animals disappear, the warriors of the rainbow will join together to protect the wildlife and heal the earth’,” Margaret says.

Philomeno says we live in a materialistic and extravagant world. This greed and wastage is causing the crumbling of the ecosystem of our planet earth and its rapid environmental degradation.

“The harmony and integrity between humanity and the ecosystem ought to be respected and maintained. This harmony is often seen in many Asian traditions and mythology.

“According to Indian traditions and mythology creation and humanity are interdependent. A subtle ecological relationship exists between human communities and the forest community of trees, plants and animals. The basis of this relationship should be the recognition of the rights of the trees, forest-dwelling animals and plants to a life of their own, free from exploitation by humans.”

An image of governing with wisdom and love is displayed in the creation story where Adam and Eve were called to share in the unfolding of God’s plan of creation. This call established a fixed relationship between humanity and the rest of creation. This harmony and relationship was destroyed by rebellion against God’s plan. The consequences is the uprising of another imagery found in Romans 8:20-21 ‘creation is groaning as in the pains of childbirth waiting to be liberated’ right up to this present time.

“We have to learn to live more effectively with Nature, respecting it and caring for it. The reason we protect nature is because it enriches us. It enriches us economically recreationally, culturally and spiritually. I believe that God reveals himself to us through nature. There is certain spirituality between nature and humanity.

“Other religions affirm this. Buddha had to go into the wilderness to experience self-realization. Mohammed had to go the wilderness of Mount Hira and wrestle with an angel. Moses had to go to the wilderness of Mount Sinai to get the 10 commandments. Christ had to spend 40 days in the wilderness to discover his divinity,” Philomeno says.

Originally from Singapore, Philomeno and her husband Jeff now make New Plymouth their home.