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Plans afoot for walk to save the planet

A group of church people is taking steps to organise a hikoi to raise awareness about the state of the global environment and the need to heal ourselves, our communities, and creation.

The idea for a ‘Walk for the Planet’ grew out of discussions on global warming and the greening of the church at the Methodist Church’s South Island School of Theology in March.

While the initiative has come from Methodist Church, organiser Rev Mark Gibson sees it as an ecumenical movement and one that people outside the churches will support.

Mark says walks to create political and social change have a worthy tradition in both Christianity and New Zealand. Jesus made the long walk to Jerusalem to challenge the soul of his nation, while notable walks in NZ include the 1975 Maori Land March and the 1998 Hikoi of Hope.

As in the Hikoi of Hope, organisers want to see two processions take part in the Walk for the Planet. Both would end up in Wellington, one after walking the length of the South Island and the other the length of the North Island.

A group in Christchurch is organising the South Island leg of the walk, and they hope a group will emerge to organise the northern leg. "Those of us in the south on the waka challenge the north to walk from the tail of the fish to the mouth!" Mark says.

The current plan is for the Walk for the Planet to take place in October.

Organisers say it will symbolize the step of faith we all need to take toward a healthier future.

"In terms of healing ourselves, walking strengthens our bodies. Walking is a sign of liberation from the reign of the motor car.

"But it is also an act of liberation and healing for the earth. New Zealand has the second highest number of motor vehicles per head of population in the world. Our over-reliance on motor vehicles contributes hugely to climate change and resource depletion. If more of us walked instead of drove, the air in our cities would be much cleaner.

"Those who walk can truly celebrate the beauty and goodness of the land. Walking is also a powerful symbol for building healthy communities. Those on the walk will be able to engage with local communities and emphasise the importance of the local in the face of the global," Mark says.

The proposed route for the South Island leg of the walk is from Bluff to Picton up State Highway 1. It is hoped that other groups will converge on the route from other centres such as Nelson and the West Coast.

The organisers want the Walk for the Planet to be a grassroots initiative. They say previous hikoi had a hardcore of walkers who were there for the long-haul. Others joined this core in small towns and cities along the way. A lot of help from local committees will be needed for the walk to succeed.

"Accomodation on route is very important. The Hikoi of Hope relied on hospitality from Christian communities. Walkers stayed in homes and church halls and occasionally on marae," Mark says.

"Nurturing a strong spirituality within the life of the Walk will be vital to its message. And we will have large events to mark the beginning and end of the journey to convey our messages loud and clear."

For more information or to get involved in the Walk for the Planet contact Mark Gibson at 03 332 0699 or stmarks7@clear.net.nz.