Thursday, December 1, 2011

Katherine Hayhoe on her book

Katherine Hayhoe talks about being a climate scientist and a Christian and about the book she wrote with her husband, an Evangelical pastor. Book review to appear in Zadok Perspectives next year.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

She's Alive... Beautiful... Finite... Hurting... Worth Dying for.



I found this quite interesting and moving. I'll let you draw your own conclusions. A couple of things for the theologically sensitive. Theologian and ethicist Michael Northcott claims that some in the early church referred to 'mother earth' so it isn't necessarily pagan. Secondly, it is true that people poach in order to make ends meet, and that the income from poaching is often greater than they can earn any other way, yet killing other humans to protect this trade crosses a line that should not be crossed.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The frustrations of an eco-prophet/eco-missiologist

I sometimes struggle to define myself. Words are slippery things, labels doubly so. One might argue they don't matter. I'm a meteorologist and educationalist in business hours, outside I don't quite have the bits of paper for a label. My undergraduate theology comes from a currently unrecognised institution so I have a Scholar in Theology Certificate but it is everything a BTh is. Time and money means I haven't started my MTh thesis yet. To a close friend of mine this would mean I can't really call myself a theologian, but I think and write theologically, so who knows.

My deep interest in environment/creation care, its missional and apologetic role, to say nothing of the need for urgent action. So am I an eco-prophet, an ecotheologian or eco-missiologist? A green prophet? I dunno for sure. One for certain is I am frustrated.

On one side I keep meeting sceptics within the church, those who latch on to every Andrew Bolt rant, or claim the IPCC is part of the new world order, or bemoan it isn't run by Christians. There are those who deny, don't know or don't care, those for who evangelism is all that there is. As I noted on Facebook today, "dualism - a disease that infects much of the modern church, making real mission impossible". Yet many are so dualistic without even realising it, looking past our createdness, or earthy-ness and creaturely-ness; that we are saved with and not from creation.


And then there are green activists I am trying to dialogue with. Of late I've been following Ecological Internet on Facebook and Twitter. Most recently there has been a stream of anti-religious bile, and its been hard to ignore. Now I am well aware the church has been tardy in the extreme, damaging and distracting in caring for creation (or environmentalism but I'm not going to enter into the debate language raises right now), but this person is totally unaccepting of 'greener traditions' either in the past (Celts) or now (A Rocha, Ethos Environment, Au Sable, Catholic Earth Care to name a few). Too little too late is the cry, despite most of the destruction being wrought by godless capitalism (well money as God) and atheism (look at former USSR for example).


So on one side I am godless because I dare to raise warnings about what we are doing to creation because it isn't the business of the church and I'm courting paganism and on the other side I am abused for superstitious beliefs and almost denied the role as an ally in the fight against evil in the world.


So whatever label I apply, frustration must be the first. A frustrated eco-prophet. I guess that is the lot of any prophet.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Deep Future

I can't say too much as I am reviewing this book for Zadok Perspectives, the quarterly of the Zadok Institute, but I wanted to plug it here as I think it is an interesting and important book: Deep Future, by Curt Stager. It is published in Australia by my good friends at Scribe.

When you read IPCC reports, they deal with what scientist Tim Lenton calls the political timescale, events involving our grandchildren. All of the scenarios and reports look out to about 100 years or the end of the 21st century. But what about beyond that? By considering paleoclimate and the physical processes that govern the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Stager is able to show humans will effect the climate for tens of thousands of years, effectively avoiding an ice ages for half a millennia, turning the seas acidic and so on. It's interesting to pursue the scenarios well out into the future and consider the problem of global cooling and retreating sea levels will have on harbour towns.

For a Christian of course, the whole issue of when the resurrection occurs and how the creation will be redeemed (Rm 8:19-25) comes in to play. Yet a) given we don't know when this will happen and b) the long timescale throws the impacts of what we are doing into even sharper relief I think it is an important book.

It is also well referenced from the scientific literature, and I'd used it already in my teaching.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Climate Change - Cultural Change

A one day symposium of papers, panels and workshops, from scholarly, faith community and grass-roots presenters on climate change, the need for cultural change, and religious responsibilities and responses. 

Date: Saturday 29 October 2011, 8.45am–5.00pm
Where: Centre for Theology and Ministry
Address: 29 College Crescent, Parkville, Victoria, 3052
Keynote address: Professor Norman Habel will present 'Eco-wisdom and Climate Change'
Cost: $55 full, $45 concession (cost includes lunch and refreshments)

For further information go to Trinity College website.

Do Christians concerned about 'the environment' risk becoming pagans? Part 2

In part 1 I discussed more the value or otherwise of labels, missiology and so on. Now let's deal explicitly with the label itself. Changing the focus a little (given what I wrote last time), let's consider the closely related issue of idolatry. Are Christians who are involved in 'environmental' issues or more properly creation care guilty of or in danger of idolatry?

Well I know and have known plenty of middle class Christians who idolise career, the rites of passage European trip, their minister/pastor, denomination or systematic theology, even the bible itself, to say nothing of sex, money, etc. So to point the finger of idolatry (paganism) at so-called 'green' Christians is a non sequiter really.

The key issue is are we at more risk of idolising creation than anyone else is of idolising anything else? I don't think so. Creation declares God's glory (Psalm 19), points to his divine power (Rm 1) and wisdom (Ps 104). Caring for creation itself is an act of worship - so long as we see past the creation itself. More Christians I suggest fail to do this with wealth than they do with trees.

Note none of this excludes human rule - hence Gen 1:26f, but also proper use - tilling and tending (Gn 2:15). However, even the strong language of Gen 1 is moderated by being made in God's image (is God ultimately destructive or creative?) and by creation being God's temple (c.f. Is 66:1). One doesn't descrate God's temple nor reflect his character by destroying what he says is very good with humans in their proper place, yet good even without humanity.

It is also worth noting (I say this so often I am repeating myself) that divine care extends to that which is useless (pre-eco tourism) or otherwise harmful to humanity, so our priorities often shouldn't come into the picture.

So we shouldn't worship church, our ministers, the music, the cute girl we want to date at church, or even the bible itself but God,. Yet we care for all of these things. Why is creation itself any different

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Do Christians concerned about 'the environment' risk becoming pagans? Part 1

As someone who has suggested Christians become active in caring for 'the environment' or more theologically correct 'the creation', even if it means being involved with, following information from and copying those who do not share our faith, I have been labelled a pagan. Is this fair?

In a second part I'll deal with the issue itself - i.e. is creation care itself a pagan practice or do we at least risk becoming so, I want to deal with the biblical critique of idols and what pagan means.


A major part of the Old Testament is a critique of idols and idolatry. It was what sent Israel into exile; idolatry led to an ignoring of the Torah and its emphasis on ethical monotheism; which included sustainable land practices and a reliance on God's provision. A classic example of this is the story of Ahab, Jezebel and Elijah. Ahab followed his wife in idolatrous practices (1 Ki 16:30-34). In 1 Ki 21 is steals another man's ancestral land, his source of livelihood, to make it into a vegetable garden. In 1 Ki 18 Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal, mocking them about their god - is he perhaps on the toilet or asleep (1 Ki 18:27). Such a theology is carried into Romans 1 by Paul - declaring that sins (plural) are the result of idolatry, and indeed are a sign of its punishment.

Modern paganism is on the rise it seems, and some kind of Eco-spirituality undergirds a number of green groups. So what should our approach be?


Firstly, regardless of what we think about environmentalism, pagan should not be a slur. Treat people with respect - we live (for better or worse) in a pluralistic society.

In particular, be slow to label someone who is a brother or sister in Jesus with pagan as a slur. As I'll point out in another post, a thorough biblical theology of creation shows it is something to be valued as coming from the creator for what he says about him, for the gift of its use and for its own sake.

Secondly, it may well be worth reflecting that one of the reasons people turn to paganism in whatever form is that Christianity has often failed to show any value for life in this world, be it peace and justice or regard for our material setting. Blow back perhaps.

Thirdly, Paul shows us the way forward in dealing with those whose beliefs we might find difficult. To be thoroughly mission minded we do not avoid but engage. I think Jesus' principle of being in but not of the world means we can engage in creation care (though more later). When issues of implicit or explicit belief come into play Paul in Acts 17. Paul was provoked (to anger?) at the idols in Athens (v16), yet engages his hearers. He notes that they are very religious, or fearful of gods (v22) and goes on to draw a link between the creator God (v24f) with their poets. Paul builds bridges. Accusations and false denunciations of other Christians, to say nothing of a poor attitude towards those with green sensibilities does not achieve the aims of Christian love or mission.

Next post, what theology do we have to turn to, to engage in green mission without falling pray to syncretism (religious innovation or merging of beliefs).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ecomission and the AAMS


I’ve just been to the Australian Association for Mission Studies conference in Sydney. This was my first experience of a conference on missiology. I have to confess that missiology was one of those subjects I did during my undergrad theology studies rather reluctantly as I didn’t see myself as a missionary, i.e. as someone who was going to go overseas into another culture to witness to Christ. I’d been through the years of guilt, the thoughts of possibly going and the final realisation that I wasn’t gifted for it or called to it (for now at least?!).

However, if Christians don’t think missiologically, then they are not being true to their calling to be disciple makers (see the end of Matthew’s Gospel). My interest in missiology in particular is ecomissiology, the idea that we have a mission to creation – sent out by God to till and tend creation (Gen 2:15) and to rule over it as the image of God (imago Dei; Gen 1:26-28). This mission is not separate to the Great Commission, and it forms part of the Great Omission of those who do not understand the necessity to live in accordance with kingdom principles now, particularly those of peace and justice, especially for the poor.

Ecomission therefore carries with it both the sense of ecojustice (caring for creation for the benefit of both the global poor and future generations – indeed for all of us) and mission to creation in the form of creation care for the sake of the creation itself. Psalm 104 is a wonderful illustration of divine care of the creation, and as his image we should imitate this as far as is humanly possible.

It was personally great for me to meet and network with Clive Ayres and Norm Habel among others, and I look forward to further dialogue and collaboration.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Objections to global warming: how can we know anything?

Some of what people worry about when they look at the science of global warming all comes down to a matter of being a virtuous knower. Kant said 'dare to know for yourself', but with over 600 scientists involved in the IPCC assessment report, to say nothing of the endless blogs online, who do we trust? How can we individually challenge the science?

Christians are dedicated to the truth. Jesus claimed to be the truth and only path to the Father (Jn 14:6), the truth that sets free (Jn 8:32). In all affairs we are not to give false witness (Ex 20:16). You'd think Christians would be keen on following any inconvenient truth where ever it led.

Yet some might claim that the minds of scientists are darkened, most of the IPCC not being Christian. Paul notes that people suppress the truth about God (Rm 1:21). Yet Paul also acknowledges his own knowledge of God is limited and provisional (1 Cor 13:12), so it is kind of ironic that some Christians are most dogmatic in their denial of science they don't understanding. This is not to say that every aspect of climate science is understood 100%. Science is provisional in its understanding, but understanding can and does convergence about the 'truth'.

When we accuse non-Christians of bad motives in their science - consider how many of your doctors, nurses, mechanics, tradies, etc we all rely upon are also not Christians. Do they not possess wisdom and knowledge in their areas of expertise? Why do we deny the same to climate scientists, both Christian and non-Christian? Note the close parallel between Egyptian and some Hebrew wisdom literature (some of the Psalms and Proverbs) and it becomes harder to maintain that those who do not share our faith do not have real understanding of the world.

In assuming they bring non-science to their science, are we not doing the same? Dare we follow scientific 'truth' to its inconvenient implications?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The costs are real - the Caretet Islanders


Local solutions on a sinking paradise, Carterets Islands, Papua New Guinea from UNUChannel on Vimeo.

The factors in this case are complex, which may include land use, water use, and some have also suggested tectonics. Regardless, the final cause of the progressive abandonment of these atolls is entirely consistent with sea level rise produced by global warming.

Images of climate change

Just been re-doing some lecture notes on evidence of climate change and found World View of Global Warming, with some compelling photographic evidence.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Four Degrees conference

A conference was held in Melbourne in July on the consequences of four degrees of warming by the end of the century.

For those of us who didn't get to go, the presentations and audio are online here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Carbon dioxide sources

It is apparently not unusual among global warming skeptics to assert that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than human activities. However, a recent review of the literature in EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Society show this not to be the case. Present day volcanoes emit about as much carbon dioxide annually as states like Florida, Michigan and Ohio.

Degassing by volcanoes forms part of the natural CO2 cycle, returning CO2 lost by weathering (turning CO2 into rock), formation of carbonate rocks and organic deposition (creatures dying). Rock that is subducted below plates eventually emerges in volcanoes which burp periodically (paroxysmal volcanic explosions) as well as the regular outgassing in sub-aerial and submarine volcanoes.

There is a range in annual emissions between 0.13 and 0.44 billion metric tons (gigtons) per year. Compare this to anthropogenic (human) sources in 2010 of 35 gigatons per year and you get the idea. These sorts of figures compare with countries like Pakistan (0.18 gigatons) or South Africa (0.44 gigatons). The most widely quoted and likely accurate study has the volcanic emissions at 0.26 gigatons per year. So what is the difference between anthropogenic and volcanic sources? A mere factor of 135!

The paroxysmal emissions sometimes match the human rate - so for example the 9 hour duration of Mt St Helens and Mt Pinatubo reached 0.001-0.006 gigtons per hour, compared to the 0.004 gigtons per hour from anthropogenic sources. While the rates are similar, the timescales are very different.

What is more, to blame current global emissions on volcanoes would require a startling amount of activity. The amount of magma that would be required to match the amount of carbon would be some 40 times the annual mid-ocean ridge amount of magma production. Another way of looking at it would to ask how many volcanoes would be required to account for 2010 CO2 emissions. The number is about 9500! One could deliver the 35 gigatons per year via paroxysmal eruptions, it would only take about 700 Mt Pinatubos per year.

Perhaps it really is easier to believe fossil fuel burning, land clearing etc are responsible.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Everything you know about electricity is wrong

Interesting opinion piece on the ABC website here about energy vs fuels.

Quotable quote:

"People ask 'do we need nuclear power?'. To me that's like asking 'do we need a broken leg?' If you're really serious about climate - and you'd better be - why pick the slowest, the most expensive, the narrowest, the most inflexible and the riskiest of all the options to put your political weight behind?"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Melbourne Rally for a Carbon Tax

Recently I attended the Say Yes Australia rally for a price on carbon. In order to count the cost our economy has on the environment and move to a low carbon economy, we need to price our carbon emissions.

Pictures from the day are here on Flickr.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Environmental studies links

Just read a paper extolling the virtues of using online video in education, especially YouTube. It noted that over a third of the top visited websites contain video, but neglected to mention how much internet video traffic is porn.

That aside - in terms of academic quality material in environmental issues, Academic Earth has a number of courses you can watch for free here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Interesting links

For up to date news on environmental issues: The Eco Preservation Society Daily

A longish article on the effects of plastic in the environment from Scientific American.

A press release on the impacts of rising ocean acidity due to human emissions of CO2 on coral reef systems.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Solar highways: ingenuity to build roads and make electricity

We don't lack technology, we lack political will. This is very clever technology. Asphalt roads becoming expensive due to oil prices.

See video here.

A geologist discusses the anthropocene

The concept of the anthropocene takes seriously humanity's impact as a geological force on the planet. Read an interview with Jan Zalasiewicz, a senior lecturer in the Geology Department at the University of Leicester in Britain on the idea here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I bought a new car - should I feel guilty?

The time has come, I bought a new car on Saturday. I drove my dad's car for 15 years - a 1981 Mazda 323. It was time for a change, the car was old, fuel inefficient and with a twice or more reconditioned carburetor I suspect a big producer of pollution. So I bought a new Mazda, but did I need to?

Each of us needs to ask the question: ever since seeing the documentary What would Jesus Drive? I've realised cars are a big idol in the west, a symbol of our control over nature, our own pleasure (how many car adds are about benefits and lifestyle instead of features) and individual autonomy. People who live in a city like Melbourne with (for all its faults) an extensive public transport system can afford to get by a lot without using your car too often. I love the tram and am able to get into work via it, also sports events, concerts etc. Shopping, my sporting involvement and church (from an Anglican point of view I live outside the parish I attend).

How will I drive virtuously? By using it less, especially when public transport is sufficient. Car pooling and offering lifts are also good activities to use a car for. Finally, partly due to car repayments but also given the emissions from air travel, some of our holidays will involve use of the car rather than air. It will be a constant tension - at least until electric cars are mainstream.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Peter Singer, preference utilitarianism and climate change

An interesting article from The Guardian here about how Singer recognises the inability of preference utilitarianism to deal with climate change, or perhaps indeed with any problem.

Encounter program: Consuming creation

"We're consuming creation and evangelical Christians want to us to rethink our theology of the planet. Climate change raises deep theological questions and a 're-tooled' theology will help us face the challenges ahead. At a recent conference at Melbourne's Ridley College, evangelical Christians gathered to hear theologian and environmental ethicist, Michael Northcott, propose a way ahead. As well as Professor Northcott, who is Professor of Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, this Encounter features various conference participants discussing the significance for climate policy of theological issues such as justice, creation, incarnation and hope."

Producer: Chris Mulherin

Link to program is here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

recent environmental press releases

Invasive species
A recent press release on the Mediterranean shows that the continued introduction of invasive species (something that happens via ballast water but also of course the Suez Canal) can have serious impacts on local ecosystems.

Extinctions
Species extinctions are often tied to modern society with land clearing, over hunting or fishing etc. However, a recent press release here and the free to public study here, show that the Polynesians were responsible for the extinction of a Hawaiian land crab over 1000 years ago. These crabs are major predators, control litter decomposition and help in nutrient cycling and seed dispersal. Their disappearance was caused by the arrival of humans to the islands and resulted in large-scale changes in the state's ecosystem.

Emissions trading
Recent work in emissions trading has shown that pollution hotspots have not been created in poor and minority areas in the US. In particular, it appears as if the sulfur dioxide allowance trading program appears to be working well, and not to the detriment of the poor.

Impacts of ocean warming
A recent report shows that surface water temperatures in the Tasman Sea have risen by nearly 2°C over the past 60 years. The study finds that "ocean warming has pushed the banded morwong -- which inhabits temperate reefs in waters 10-50m deep -- past the point where increasing temperatures are beneficial to growth." This is one of the first studies that shows the impacts of ocean warming on fish in our region.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

welcome IPCC reforms

After some (admittedly only a few) bungles in the last IPCC report and the storm in a tea cup Climate Gate, the IPCC, the body responsible for producing assessment reports on climate change/global warming has announced some reforms. Large bodies of course should always be looking for ways to improve, including such a public (and to some controversial) body as the IPCC. These reforms include:

* Forming of an executive body to oversea daily operations
* A conflict of interest body (note that accusations against IPCC chair in this regard were found to be baseless)
* A protocol for dealing with errors (e.g. the famous melting Himalayas error)

The IPCC has done a sterling job in the past with regards summarising the climate change literature. This changes can only but improve upon it.

Nuclear winter

Nuclear winter is the idea that the pollution from the resulting fires will produce aerosols which reflect sunlight and cause cooling, with a dramatic impact on life on Earth (apart from the radioactivity). Something similar has occurred in the past with the large bolide (comet) that collided with the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous (KT event). Large scale collapse of photosynthesis saw the demise of many large animals, including the dinosaurs.

A recent comment in Nature shows that even a small scale conflict could have dramatic effects in the form of a nuclear winter - say for example India and Pakistan. The author notes that advances in computer models have shown that the problem is worse than first understood:

"By 2007, models had began to approximate a realistic atmosphere up to 80 kilometres above Earth's surface, including the stratosphere and mesosphere. This enabled me, and my coauthors, to calculate for the first time that smoke particles would be heated by the Sun and lifted into the upper stratosphere, where they would stay for many years. So the cooling would last for much longer than we originally thought."

To go back to the India and Pakistan case, if 50 Hiroshima-size bombs were dropped on the largest cities in each country, five million tonnes of black carbon smoke would be emitted into the upper troposphere and then into the stratosphere by solar heating. Temperatures would be lower than during the 'Little Ice Age' (1400–1850), during which famine killed millions.

So in short, no nukes is good nukes!

Coasts, oceans and greenhouse gases

An interesting piece has appeared in today's Nature magazine about the state of play of conservation issues in Brazil, namely coastal areas such as mangroves and sea grasses. Brazil contains 80% of the remaining Amazon forest and has been the focus of efforts to protect them but at the same time commercialise them. I won't go into arguments about the commercialisation of such rainforests except to say that Brazilians won't settle for a lower level of living compared to the rest of the developed world - which raises issues about our standard of living and whether it is sustainable.

But as the article states, while much emphasis has been placed on rainforest, what about coastal ecosystems such as mangroves? These swamps store large amounts of carbon in their thick, gelatinous mud. They cover just 0.5% of marine areas, but are among the largest carbon sinks in the ocean. Typically, they store up to 15 times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial soils, absorbed over hundreds or even thousands of years, and sequester carbon 10–50 times faster than terrestrial forests.

Sadly, between 30% and 50% of mangroves have disappeared in the past 50 years; about 30% of the world's seagrasses are gone; and half of the global coverage of salt marshes has been destroyed. Stresses include agriculture run off, fisheries and of course straight out land clearing. As well as storing carbon, mangroves are fish hatcheries. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on their preservation in climate talks and controls on the local and global scale.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Our nuclear past - truly scary

An animation of all of the nuclear tests conducted around the world. We are truly insane.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coming rapture - dualism in the modern church

Are you ready for Christ's return? You should be as he will come like a thief in the night! Will it happen how a church in the US is expecting this weekend? I dunno but I dunno how they know either?

See this excellent blog article by Kurt Willems.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ethos Environment on Encounter 29 May

During the Consuming Creation conference, a lot of material was recorded from the talks by Michael Northcott, as well as a round table discussion between some of the attendees (myself included). Today I went to ABC studios to record a little more material. The program will be on the 29th of this month at 7.10pm and online some time after. See http://www.abc.net.au/rn/encounter/.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Poster from Motifake



Gold!

Hope for creation: A day of prayer on climate change

Had another great meeting with the working group on this day of prayer which coincides with the international day of prayer organised by Tear Fund UK.

We are currently working on collating and composing resources for the day, prayers, liturgy, information, etc. A website should appear soon. Watch this space.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cereal killers - global warming and the end of the agricultural miracle

Thomas Malthus predicted a time when there would be too many people to feed on the planet. In the 70s the Club of Rome with people like Paul Elrich said similar but were mocked and shown to be wrong. Fossil fuels, chemical fertilisers etc saw an agricultural boom, but dead zones in our oceans, toxic algal blooms and depleted soils should point to this being a mixed blessing. Likewise, nitrogen ends up as NO2, a greenhouse gas. Humans fix more nitrogen for agriculture than all other sources.

And now as if all these impacts of intensive agriculture were not enough, a new study reported in Scientific American shows that global warming is producing a decline in cereal yields. It seems while increased CO2 increases yields, increasing temperatures adversely affect yields, particularly wheat. Apparently, this is already evident in increased prices as yields decline.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Recent Scientific American articles

There are a few environment related articles posted recently on the Scientific American website.

One relates to the Martian atmosphere. The study of other planetary atmospheres tells us something about our own. In the case of Mars, being smaller than the Earth, much of its atmosphere escaped some time ago, but a lot of CO2 has been discovered under its surface, enough to warm the planet should temperatures increase. It turns out there could be a regular cycle as the axis of rotation of Mars varies much more over time than our own, due to the stabilising influence of our massive moon (I'm reminded of Genesis 1:16). The change in tilt means from time to time the CO2 buried in the polar regions could melt and hence warm the planet. It is a reminder to us of the power of Greenhouse gases.

Another article examines ice cores for evidence of rapid warming in the geological past. James White has not only found that in the past a change in 100 ppm of CO2 has made the difference between flowers blooming in the Arctic and ice a mile deep over Chicago. The paleo-climate record also shows that dramatic changes have occurred in the past due to warming in a matter of decades, not centuries.

An article on Richard Branson's plan to relocate some endangered lemurs to a couple of his own private islands(!) has drawn flack from conservationists about impacts on the pre-existing species by predation, disease, etc. It opens up issues about how we go about conserving species (Madagascar's forests are rapidly disappearing) and who decides how.

Finally, an article on the Gulf oil spill shows there is still a lot of oil out there in the Gulf, and that drilling will be a part of the economy there for some time to come.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why we disagree about climate change? Summary

I was lucky enough to attend the public lecture last night by Mike Hulme (his webpage is http://mikehulme.org/) titled after his book Why do we disagree about climate change, see here for example.



He initially (using anonymous quotes) identified a number of different voices on the issue, from denial (our perturbations on the climate system are insignificant compared to past natural variability) to apocalyptic visions. He then went on to discuss various metrics (my word not his) of the present debate in society about the issue.

If science is the measure - then the IPCC for all its faults is THE source, reviewing as it does a large body of literature. Hulme noted the increase in confidence that we are largely responsible from 1990 to 2007 (FAR to AR4 in the jargon of assessment reports), and yet a contraction in the projected sea level rise with increased uncertainty in the role of ice sheets. The take home message is that while the scientific consensus is that it is warming and we are largely to blame, there is still uncertainty in the impacts like sea level rise.

If publications is the measure of interest in the topic, well the number of papers in various journals has grown exponentially. Certainly there has been controversies like Climate Gate (where everyone has been absolved of any scent or fraud, cover up or obstructionism) or the errors in the IPCC report (note that the scientific basis or first part did not contain the errors about the Himalayan glaciers that the impacts report did).

There are also various societal measures such as prices from the EU carbon market, where carbon prices per tonne have varied from 8 to 30 euros. There is also language changes, such as the exponential growth since 2005 of the term 'low carbon'. One might also have added terms like 'sustainable development' here.

There is also a measure by literature, with a change from one book per week last decade to one per day most recently. This includes science books, economics, philosophy and fiction (like the average and scientifically misinformed State of fear).

There has also been activity in the religious sphere. A practicing Christian himself (yay!), Hulme warns against ignoring religion on this topic (see also EO Wilson's plea to conservative Christianity in his book The Creation). There is plenty of dialogue that is positive happening in various quarters of the Christian church for example (like Ethos Environment).

There are media reports and representations (again from twisting via Murdoch - Fox, etc to more sympathetic views), peaking with events like Glen Eagles, IPCC reports, the Garnaut Report (in Australia), COP15 negotiations and Climate Gate. Then ther is public analysis like the Six Americas, which has seen a shift to the right, towards apathy and denial from 2008 to 2010.

There is of course also the negotiations themselves.

The kicker in all of this is despite all of our scientific knowledge, chatter and negotiations, emissions of CO2 are accelerating! Only the global financial crisis caused a (temporary) downturn.

So Hulme raised two questions:

1. Why is climate change the mother of all questions?
2. Why is it such a difficult problem to comprehend and tackle?

He uses the idea of framing from social analysis; ways of structuring complex issues and how they affect what is highlighted and what is ignored. For example, the shift in language from gun control to gun safety shifts the issue from freedom to public health. Likewise the change in vocab from biotechnology to frankenfood.

So what are the six frames (there can be more but Hulme lists six. These are important as the frame not only influences how the issue is discussed but the action taken. Note that apart from one of these, science doesn't play a role in deciding which is the one to take, and in a number of cases they are complimentary or at least different ways of looking at the same problem.

1. Market failure. This is the way the Stern (2006) report looks at it. As a friend and fellow Ethos Environment colleague Amar Breckenridge, CO2 is an externality. It is never properly taken into account in the price of things, even though as EO Wilson notes it affects the free ecosystem services we receive. Seen as a market failure, cap and trade of CO2 is seen as the solution.

2. Technology hazard. In this understanding, climate change is a manufactured risk caused by growing humanity, and often inadvertent. The solution is green technology like solar, wind, nuclear (I personally doubt this is green), etc. A paper by Scolow and Pacula (2004) or say Beyond Zero Emissions shows such technologies exist now.

3. Global injustice. This view emphasizes consumption in the west and the difference in what we live off per day versus the developing world. Groups like Rising Tide or people like Aubrey Meyer advocate contraction and convergence so that one day everyone on the planet will have the same environmental footprint.

4. Overconsumption. This is essentially a Malthusian view. Paul Elrich came up with the formula I = P x A x T, impact is a product of global population by affluence and technology. It recognizes there are too many people living the high life with energy intensive technologies. It will clash with frame 1 in that is sees growth and sustainability as illusion, hence groups like The Dark Mountain Project or author Tim Jackson and his book Prosperity without growth?, or groups like the Optimum Population Trust who see condoms as a way to reduce emissions (pardon the pun).

5. Mostly natural. Denialists like Ian Plimer focus on adaptation - recognising that changes are occurring but denying we can influence them, just adapt to them. Groups like NCCARF and the WCC - 3 meeting also recognise the need for adaptation. There is a synergy here with frame 3, since global injustices in the economic system are propagated by the impacts the global poor will feel,.

6. Tipping points. An idea taken from Malcolm Gladwell and made famous by Jim Hansen (also Tim Lenton), this frame sees the problem as so urgent (we are about to slide into irreversible climate change with catastrophic impacts) that the required response is geoengineering at great cost. This can be incompatible with frame 3 for example in terms of spending or 4, but possibly compatible with frame 2.

These frames are important for as Kahan and Braman (2006) note, culture is prior to facts and our world views affect our beliefs about empirical consequences of certain problems like climate change. And so it comes down to cultures of knowing: not just scientific rationalism a la Dawkins, or a two cultures model (CP Snow) or a three cultures model (Jerome Kagan) but of four cultures of knowing.

1. Environmental sciences - bringing us technical data and models.
2. Philosophy and religion - world views and views of humanity and nature
3. Creative arts - inspiration and motivation
4. Social sciences - cultural filters of risk

[See MC Nisbet et al 2010 in Frontiers of Ecology and Environment, 8(6), 329-331.]

How then should we view the pluralism on the issue? Not as a bell curve with believers at one end deniers at the other. Instead, Hulme promotes the model of fatalists, egalitarians, individualists and hierachists to map where people sit on the issue.

Finally, Hulme counsels against looking to Copenhagen etc for our solutions. Instead he favours polycentrism (Elinor Orstom 2010) which emphasises that the problem has to be tackled in different ways, timescales, scales, coalitions etc. Hence, all 6 of the above frames have their place, perhaps not all at once and not for all of us to act.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A theology of farts and orgasms

What is he saying now? What the heck does this have to do with the environment? Well I don't want to fill it out too much as I want to write a print article, but the basic point of a theology of fart and orgasms is to get away from the dualism that often infects conservative churches.

Farting links us to our digestive system and various often not discussed biological functions. As Montaigne noted, even kings and women sit on their backsides. To have a theology of farts is to remember we are biological beings, and yet it is exactly in the flesh that we are made in the image of God. None of this is in of itself is bad, in fact it is declared good. But further, our farts remind us of our need for food, and food connects humans with the humus, Adam with the Adamah. Such a theology makes us see the need to care for our planet because of our close connection with it - we draw our food (and hence our farts) from the soil, not from the supermarket. Note that the resurrected Jesus ate.

A theology of orgasms acknowledges that we were blessed to be fruitful and multiply. As evolved organisms we have an inner drive to reproduce ourselves., As God's image blessed to procreate we are called to continue our line so that there will always be image bearers. Sex is fun, and it is natural. A theology of orgasms reminds us that ethics is for humans not angels (see Rodney Clapp's Tortured Wonders). Sex is fun, messy, sometimes complicated, and very, very earthy. But reproduction also reminds us of limits, no other species reproduces without limits. It is fairly obvious that the command to be fruitful and multiply has been fulfilled, with a world population approaching 7 billion. You can't feed an exponentially growing population with at best a geometrically growing food base, with exhausted soils, desertification, global warming driven drying climates, exhausted fisheries, etc. We are creatures of desires and limits who need to exercise self control.

So, look out for a future Zadok Perspectives and a solid theology of farts and orgasms. The church needs it.

Euthanasia and global warming

A friend passed around a link on Facebook to a poll in the Northern Territory about euthanasia laws. Now don't get me wrong, I find the idea of sanctioned killing of the old or suffering disturbing, saddening and in the end morally disagreeable, and would never want to see it legislated. There has been great advances in palliative care and it reflects far better on a society that people are cared for in their suffering. One might pull out the usual argument that we play God when we choose the timing of our own deaths.

However, we do drug up people in pain, and I imagine some people who are old and frail have little conscious experience because of this, to say nothing of the morally complex cases of people on life support. When does quality of life ebb so low that it isn't worth living? Does God desire us to suffer? Some would respond with comments about character, etc, but suffering in any form is an evil even if it can result in a good. In the end I'd rather see such laws opposed and more put into care for those who suffer.

So why bring global warming into this? Well it is usually going to be the old who are going to be euthanased. And it is the very old who suffer directly from global warming. In 2003, Europe suffered a huge heat wave during summer. It is estimated that some 35,000 people died as a result of the heat wave. The summer temperatures in Europe for example were some 5 standard deviations away from the mean values, i.e. it was an extreme event. Comparisons of temperatures between the late half of the 19th and early part of the 20th, and the second half of the 20th c. saw a change in the mean temperature of about 1 C. A recent study showed that this heat wave is four times more likely to occur in our warmed climate than in a pre-industrial atmosphere. Future scenarios for Europe show up to 4 C warming by the end of the century with 100% change in temperature variability, making a rare event common.

Most of those who died in the heat wave were the elderly, who are often already dehydrated, have heart issues, problems thermo-regulating, etc. Euthanasia is the decision to die, right or wrong. Global warming is already killing the elderly in extreme events in the civilised West. We know global warming is real - so why campaign on euthanasia but not on global warming? Same goes with abortion. Complex issue, sad, terminating young lives. With water already being a problem in the developing world, dirty water causing many deaths by diarrhea, how much more so will the poor children die in the warming climate? Why campaign against abortion in the west yet let children die elsewhere?

Christian ethics should not just be about standard life/death issues.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Christians in Community Gardening Visits, Inner Sydney - Saturday 28th May

Are you or your church involved in community gardening? Or are you thinking about making a start? Are you interested in meeting with Christian community gardeners and hearing their stories? Come along to this tour of community gardens at churches in inner Sydney, including Food Forest (at St Michael’s Anglican Church Surry Hills), Eden Garden (at South Sydney Uniting Church), Turtle Lane Community Garden (at St Joseph’s Catholic Church Newtown), and Cottage in the Graveyard Community Garden (at St Stephen’s Anglican Church Newtown).

Date/time: Saturday 28th May, 9:30am-3:30pm.

Location: Meet and finish at St Michael’s Anglican Church, 200 Albion St, Surry Hills.

Cost: $15 ($10 concession), includes lunch.

Transport between gardens will be provided.

RSVP essential, to Miriam Pepper on 0447 730 772 or info@unitingearthweb.org.au. Places are limited so early booking is advised.

For more information, see www.unitingearthweb.org.au/explore/garden-visits.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why we disagree about climate change public lecture

Public lecture at Melbourne University Tuesday May 3 2011, 5.30-6.30. Register here http://www.land-environment.unimelb.edu.au/deanslectures/hulme/.

Information on the book by the speaker by the same name found here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Invitation to become involved in an A Rocha group

Dear friend

We are a group of Christians giving careful and prayerful consideration to the need and desirability of establishing a national Christian environmental organisation in Australia modelled on A Rocha. As part of this process we are seeking the advice and expressions of interest from a number of individuals and Christian organisations.

A Rocha is an established international Christian organization which, inspired by God’s love, engages in scientific research, environmental education and community-based conservation projects. If you are unfamiliar with the work and values of A Rocha you can find out more at http://www.arocha.org/int-en/who.html. A short video of the work of A Rocha can be viewed at http://www.arocha.org/int-en/work.html.

As you know, issues of environmental sustainability, together with concern about climate change, are generating substantial controversy and debate both nationally and globally, a debate and controversy reflected within the Church. We think that an Australian organisation linked to A Rocha, with its unequivocal emphasis upon the Biblical mandate to care for creation and protect bio-diversity, could play a significant role in restoring communities and country with the hope for sustainable development, and engaging Christians in such work.

It would be very helpful to us to know whether or not you share our hunch regarding the need to develop an Australian chapter of A Rocha, and, if so, whether or not you would like to participate in the next exploratory step. This would involve bringing together interested people and organisations for a roundtable discussion (both physical and via Skype).

We would appreciate it very much if you could email your responses back to me (Mick Pope) here by Friday 13th May 2011. Alternatively please do forward this letter onto those who you think would be interested in this initiative.

On behalf of the initial working group,

Yours in Christ


Initial working group:

Stephen Seymour, Education management, community development, previously missions in Africa.
Sally Shaw, Masters Student, activate in Transition Town project, previously established community project in Cambodia.
Ruth Colman, English teacher, Editor and A Rocha newsletter distribution in Australia.
Mick Pope, Coordinator, Ethos Environment/Reviews Editor, Zadok Perspectives.
Steve Bradbury, Director Micah 6.8 Centre, Chair Micah Challenge International.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour and thankfulness

For Earth Hour I spent the hour quietly chatting with my wife, reading Genesis 1, Psalm 104 and thinking.

It was kind of odd really, no internet, no TV and reading by candlelight. It wasn't easy, thought it wasn't all that difficult. It made me thankful for electricity. Certainly the goal is not to be ashamed of electricity or the advantages it brings - heating, cooling, refridgeration, power during operations, etc. The point of these occasions is not shame per se of great discoveries, but of their profligate misuse while much of the world does not have the advantage of it. We look to undo the environmental damage of too much carbon released by our burning of fossil fuels, limiting our own emissions and enabling the developing world to attain a better standard of living, hopefully leapfrogging our own carbon fixated stage. One hour will not do that - but just as baptism introduces someone to the church community, and repentance leads to a new start in life, so Earth Hour should be a step forward, a time to reflect, be thankful, repent and move forward.

I read somewhere of someone wanting to celebrate Energy Hour by turning on all of their appliances. Such facetiousness other than reflecting a degree of scepticism towards the science of global warming and the event, mistakes as I pointed out above shame for excess with shame for possessing these assets at all. Thankfulness is expressed in care and conservation of valuable resources, not in profligacy and waste - this is carbon gluttony.

It is worth noting that few Christians I know are primitivists in the sense that they want to go back to living in caves wearing skins, or at least eking out an existence on the land and living by candlelight at night. Yet Luddites are interesting in critiquing technology for its own sake and evaluating its impacts on their lives (and those of others). The happy middle (oh good Anglican that I am) is neither sackcloth and ashes nor 'peace peace, when there is no peace', but facing up to the issues before us and seeing how we can best care for creation, love neighbour and preserve civilisation as God's people in the world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

EU used to Carbon tax, why can't we be?

ABC article here shows EU used to carbon tax and that debate here is pure politics. I wonder though whether or not the price of carbon in Europe is meaningful? But still, it all puts into perspective the nonsense spouted here

Monday, March 7, 2011

Consuming creation conference de-brief

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who came and participated at the Ethos Environment conference, Consuming Creation with Prof Michael Northcott. We had 72 for the Friday night dinner and lecture, and 55 for the Saturday lectures and workshops.

Michael stretched our vision, highlighting the connection between climate change, meat consumption, lifestyle, trade and neo-liberalism. The workshops ranged over a number of important theological and practical considerations. I hope as a follow up people will get behind the TEAR carbon fast for Lent (see here) and Ethos Environment's Day of Prayer on Climate Change, with more details to follow.

My special thanks for Michael and everyone who organised a workshop or gave a response, to the caterers at Hotdish for yummy food. 50 minutes was too short for workshops, but we had so many great offers it would have been a shame to turn any of them back.

Hopefully audio of lectures will be available at some point - watch this space.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

2011-2020 United Nations Decade of Biodiversity

The document for this is found here.

For Christians skeptical of 'ecumenism' it is worth noting we share the planet with everyone else made in God's image and in the Spirit of Jeremiah 29:6-8 should be working for the good of the planet and the people with whom we share it. This is to say nothing of acting as Good Samaritans to protect the food stores, water reserves and purifies, buffers against land slides, etc of the world's poor. A casual glance at Psalm 104 will also show that the biodiversity of creation is a hymn of praise to God, and hence our preservation of it. To be truly Christian is to be truly 'green' without a hint of paganism.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ethos Environment has an email group

The list ethos-environment@googlegroups.com has been created and is found here. Whether or not is proves useful, only time will tell. The important thing is to stay in dialogue, thinking and sharing.

This group is largely NOT for engaging in debate about the reality of human caused global warming, and trolling by denialists with be dealt with swiftly. There are other places no doubt for you to do that.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Common myths about climate change

Brief but to the point piece in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

Guilt and hope

After reading the most recent God and Gum Nuts post on judging others from our sometimes sanctimonius position, I thought I'd put down what I think within the church we should be doing when thinking about and speaking on climate change and other environmental issues. This will be briefer maybe than it should be - which is an excuse to write another post later.

'Guilt paralyses, hope energises'.
We can point the finger at other people's wrong practices, and there are times for calling a spade a spade and bringing to light (sometimes gently, perhaps sometimes not so - especially on the corporate or political level) practices, traditions, etc that are harmful to God's creation and impact upon the world's poor now and into the future. However, it is very often the case that the last thing you want to do is make people feel guilty.

Forcing guilt is paralysing at best, at worst it provokes hostility. Yes, there may even be a place for this - but we shouldn't aim for it. Instead, clear communication will lead to Godly repentance and a genuine desire to change and serve God by caring for his creation and sharing its resources with everyone.

Guilt paralyses because it leaves us wallowing, looking at the problem and not the solution, at ourselves and not at God. Guilt is backward looking and can simply be self-indulgent. Self-flaggelation may be fashionable in some circles, but it
s useless.

The gospel provides us with hope, and hope energises. In all of our efforts we must remember it is not we who save the Earth but God who will save the Earth and his people when Christ returns. Indeed the Earth shares our hope because when we are raised, it will be released from its bondage (Rm 8:19-25). But just as we don't wait for glorification to cooperate in our own sanctification - in Paul's words we don't go on sinning so that grace may abound, but instead because of our resurrection hope we know nothing we do is in vain (1 Cor 15:58). Hence, our future hope encourages us to act in the present, hope is always proleptic. We work now towards the goal of releasing creation from its bondage to decay under human misrule, and in doing so shine forward a light from the new age to come.

This hope will encompass all of creation, and so we should aim to invite all to be a part of this. Christ is central to our salvation and that of creation.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The National Day of Prayer on Climate Change 6th November 2011

Ethos is proud to announce its involvement with the inaugural National Day of Prayer on Climate Change on Sunday November 6th 2011.

This day will be designed to bring Christians in prayer around the complex and controversal issue of climate change, as we seek unity within the church, the guidance of God's Spirit and wise and informed action by society as a whole.

More to come - watch this space

Consuming Creation conference workshops timetable

The timetable for the conference workshops is here. Please see here for the abstracts.

Session 1: 1:50-2:40
Jenny Morris - Environmental vegetarianism – healthy, tasty, compassionate and good for the planet
Nola Stewart - Caring for the Creation Bible Studies
Cath James & Joel Meadows - How to green your church building
Greg & Elvira Hewson - Which Beetroots best? Re-imaging a good life in energy constrained world
Deb Storie - Natural Disasters? A call to move beyond humanitarian response to corporate repentance

Session 2: 2:50-3:40
Richard Mallaby - Renewing Creation: Children experiencing wonder in the natural world offer hope
John Altmann - Sustainable practical responses to climate change and energy poverty in Africa: micro-solar lighting for the poor
Sally Shaw and Janet Down - Transition Towns – a Christian perspective
Claire Dawson - Demystifying Carbon Accounting
Brenton Reimann & John Brummell - Is God holding back our daily bread?

Session 3: 4:00-5:00
Kate Rigby & Anne Elvey & Jan Morgan - Creation, incarnation and the fellowship of creatures
Viv Benjamin - TEAR’s Carbon Fast
Paul Tyson - Jacques Ellul’s theological vision of the socio-cultural drivers of ecological disaster
Mick Pope - Communicating for change: talking about climate change in the church
Gordon Preece - Christian Super: A Case Study in Ethical and Environmental Investment for Non-Super Christians

Want to network with other Christian Environmentalists on Facebook

A new group has just been started: Australian Christian Environmental Group. Check it out. Click here for the page.

Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan on the Greenhouse effect



Between Venus and pre-industrial Earth is a range of worlds from permitting life as we know it, to large adjustments to society and ecosystem impoverishment, to societal collapse and ecosystem collapse, and finally to the destruction of everything. Between the two extremes is our future. Let's act now to make it a good future.

A neat looking Aussie blog: God and Gum Nuts

God and Gum Nuts, a title I love. Has some interesting looking posts and links to good pages. Recommended.

Canadians more accepting of truth of global warming than US

Study finds Canadians more willing to accept truth of climate change than Americans. Shame they don't have nearly as much clout on the world stage. Article here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Consuming Creation conference workshops

Claire Dawson
Demystifying Carbon Accounting
As the saying goes: 'You can't manage what you can't measure'! While smaller organisations are not yet obliged to calculate and report their emissions, there are still many good reasons to start monitoring your carbon footprint. Are you involved with a church, a workplace, a school or community group, or perhaps on a board? Whatever the motivation (risk, stewardship, creation care, compliance, climate justice) today is a very good day to get the carbon accounting process underway. This session will provide guidelines and simple tools for preparing an organisational carbon inventory, as well as looking at ways to incorporate this into a broader strategy of reducing your environmental impact.

In Feb 2011, Claire Dawson commenced as Climate Change Action Officer for ETHOS. Having trained and worked in accounting, theology, training and carbon accounting Claire enjoys drawing together her skills and passions in this unique new role, assisting Christian organisations in assessing and reducing their carbon emissions.

Jenny Morris
Environmental vegetarianism – healthy, tasty, compassionate and good for the planet

There are many reasons to consider a vegetarian or vegan diet – one significant reason is the environment. The primary environmental concerns with animal products are pollution and the use of resources such as fossil fuels, water, and land.

This workshop will focus on the environmental consequences of human food choices, other options for individual and societal impact, and nutritional considerations for those considering increasing the plant-based component of their diet.

Jenny Morris is a Christian, a vegetarian (working on becoming vegan) and a lawyer, with an interest in animal rights and welfare. Her dream job is to be paid to work at the intersection of all these areas. In the meantime, she works in the public sector, and is the Secretary of Lawyers for Animals Inc.

John Altmann
Sustainable practical responses to climate change and energy poverty in Africa: micro-solar lighting for the poor

Workshop to be offered by John Altmann, the executive director of The Grace Foundation, which is focussed on creating innovative social enterprises that empower the poor in partnership with the church in East Africa and the Pacific.

Richard Mallaby
Renewing Creation: Children experiencing wonder in the natural world offer hope

Many urban children spend most of their time indoors. Restricted access to the natural world is raising concerns for their physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing.

However, children engaged in earth-connecting activities such, as gardening, care of animals and play in natural surroundings can experience wonder in response to beauty and the recognition of the Divine in the other, develop a sense of place, and recognise natural rhythms, origin of food, interconnections and interdependence within the natural world.

Drawing on the experience of ten community groups this project explores children practicing Sabbath principles of care for the land, hospitality and hope, as they form meaningful relationships and discover God in the natural world.

Currently working as a minister at the Box Hill Baptist church, Richard is in the process of submitting a doctor of ministry studies thesis with Melbourne College of Divinity, investigating the theological significance of engaging children in gardening, care of animals and play in natural surroundings. Hi background is in agricultural and environmental science and he has worked 7 years in community development in Indonesia and 14 years in pastoral ministry.

Gordon Preece
Christian Super: A Case Study in Ethical and Environmental Investment for Non-Super Christians
This will look at the biblical ethical framework of Christian Super and how it has been applied to a range of ecological issues including climate change. It will seek to help people think through how to use their being compulsorily linked into the stock exchange in Australia in ways that can mitigate environmental damage.

Gordon Preece is Director of Ethos and Vicar, Yarraville Anglican Church. He is Ethicist for Christian Super (Sustainable Fund of 2008 - Ethical Investor; Infinity Award 2010) and Adjunct Lecturer, Ridley Melbourne & Macquarie University School of Applied Finance. He has been part of a number of ecologically sensitive church and parachurch groups including CESS (Campaign to end Sewage Smells) in Malabar, Sydney, Chaplain to the first Australian ecumenical ecological conference in 1990 and among his 12 books is author of Ecology and Theology and also an article on Ecology as Doxology.

Kate Rigby, Anne Elvey & Jan Morgan
Creation, incarnation and the fellowship of creatures

The workshop is in three parts.
1. Neighbour love as an ecological ethic. Participants will be invited to consider the parable of the Good Samaritan from an ecological/non-anthropocentric point of view and the ways in which the notion of neighbour love might embrace a more than human community. After a short input on the notion of the neighbour in biblical worlds, participants will work with the biblical text though a series of guided questions.
2. Creation, incarnation and fellowship of creatures. Participants will be invited to develop their understanding of neighbour love in the context of ecological kinship. Through input and discussion participants will consider the fellowship of creatures in terms of theologies of creation and incarnation.
3. Participants are invited to articulate ethical implications of a theology of creatureliness, defined by fellowship and neighbour love, and to celebrate this in a short meditation/ritual.

Kate Rigby teaches and researches in ecological criticism and is particularly interested in religion, literature and ecology. She is author of: Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism (University of Virginia Press, 2004) and numerous articles and book chapters. She was founding president of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (now Literature, Culture and Environment) – Australia and New Zealand, and is co-editor of Philosophy Activism Nature.

Anne Elvey is a researcher and poet with interests in ecological biblical studies and ecological theology. She is author of: An Ecological Feminist Reading of the Gospel of Luke: A Gestational Paradigm (Mellen, 2005) and two poetry chapbooks: Stolen Heath (MPU, 2009) and Claimed by Country (PressPress, 2010).

Jan Morgan has a Doctor of Ministry from MCD on ‘Earth’s Cry’.

Brenton Reimann and John Brummell
Is God holding back our daily bread?
Fusion ACT has developed a proactive Christian approach to climate change, food security and fostering social cohesion to counteract anticipated food shortages, social fragmentation and unrest.

It proposes expansion of localized intensive food production through hydroponics, aquaponics etc to counteract declines in broadacre and irrigated production. Aquaponics is a new low water use but very productive technology growing fish and vegetables in one system. The ACT Government is expected to agree in 2011 to a Fusion proposal that food security become a priority in future land planning.

Brenton Reimann, BEng, Adv Dip Youth and Community Work (Christian),
Cert IV TAA. A communications engineer with Defence Department, then moved into youth and community mission with Fusion and has worked with them in Australia and Germany. Currently Team Leader of Fusion Canberra, where he lives with wife Claire and two children Abbie (3 years) and Daniel (18 months). Has growing conviction that sustainability flows naturally from a life sold out to the Prince of Peace.

John Brummell, BA, OAM. Retired educationist. Coordinator of Fusion Horticulture Canberra. Experienced in intensive food production by disadvantaged and refugees in Canberra. Has a long time interest in Christian adaptation to climate change.


Greg and Elvira Hewson

Which Beetroots best? Re-imaging a good life in energy constrained world

What does good home-grown food taste like? How can we take steps to live lives that are good for the planet and ourselves? In this workshop you will be put to the test, having to pick between the organic home-grown stuff and the commercial variety. Within all this, Elvira and Greg will share something of their own attempts to re-imagine a new way of living and working. These attempts have been inspired and modelled from a range of economic and religious practices that have and continue to sustain communities around the world.

Greg and Elvira have moved progressively west since their Eastern suburbs upbringing, firstly to the city with Urban Seed, then to Footscray, and now to Cudgee in South West Victoria, where together with a number of other families they are having a go at trying to incorporate practises of permaculture, hospitality, faith and justice. In the mix of family life are two lovely children, Patrick and Mairead, 13 chooks and 7 ducks. Greg and Elvira both work part-time in paid roles, Greg works for TEAR Australia, Elvira works for Cudgee Creek Native Plants. Their other hours are spent raising children, growing and cooking and sharing food, playing tennis, and being involved in the local community. They are part of a broader faith network called Common Life, and are also involved in the work of Manna Gum with their good friends Jon and Kim Cornford. Their blog is http://standinginthetide.posterous.com/

Sally Shaw and Janet Down
Transition Towns – a Christian perspective

Given climate change and the end of cheap oil, how do we want our community to look in 2020 and beyond? When a group of local people get together and ask this question, a Transition Town is born. The answers inspire much creativity in bringing a positive vision to reality. All aspects of life are considered, including food, water, housing, health, energy, transport, local economy and the arts. This collective response fills the gap between the individual and government, and helps create resilience through more localised economies. Churches are well placed to become involved.

Sally Shaw: I have lived and worked in Cambodia for many years. Moved with my family to Adelaide in 2007 and have recently developed a passion for the environmental issues. In 2009 became involved in setting up a Transition Town in the Adelaide Hills, after seeing the DVD In Transition.

Janet Down is part of Transition Town Maroondah, in the outer east of Melbourne. Her hats have included: teacher, mother, theology student, writer and editor. She runs an editing business called Inky Owl, and is currently Co-ordinating Editor for Zadok Perspectives and Papers.

Cath James
How to green your church building

This workshop will look at a variety of case studies of churches who have taken steps to make their buildings more environmentally sustainable, what worked and what didn't and why. It will also cover
rebates and incentives available for churches and the basics of doing an energy audit in your church.

Cath James is the Environment Project Officer for the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania. She lives in Castlemaine where she and her husband Joel Meadows, two kids, 8 chooks and a hive of bees are awaiting the building of their sustainable house.

Joel Meadows is an environmental consultant who has first hand experience of the joys and pitfalls of conducting energy audits in churches.

Nola Stewart

Caring for the Creation Bible Studies

These Studies address some misconceptions of what the Bible teaches concerning our responsibility to care for other species. Was 'Go forth and multiply' spoken to humans alone or to animals too? What was its context and how does it relate to us today? If a blessing, how is this different from a command? What is the derivation of 'dominion'? Might it mean 'to be the centre of strength of (the Creation)' rather than to dominate it? Why was Israel encouraged to become a great nation? How does the promise to create in us a clean heart supersede the multiplication of God's people by procreation, replacing it by 'new creation'? Is population an issue for Christians in relation to environmental issues such as Climate Change?

B. Sc (Syd), Dip. Ed., (Uni of New England), trained as a Presbyterian deaconess, worked in a Sydney parish then as a missionary high school teacher in PNG. Taught in goverment schools in PNG including the College of External Studies, writing Environmental Studies lessons. In Australia, taught Biology, Earth & Environmental Science for HSC in NSW. Member of several conservation organisations. Recently wrote "Caring for the Creation" Bible Studies; was invited to run workshop on these Studies for pastors in Uganda last year, also to present at conference there on Population & Climate Change.

Viv Benjamin
TEAR’s Carbon Fast

Get practical. Take the Carbon Fast. The Carbon Fast is a 40 day challenge that corresponds with Lent (March 9 to April 23), enabling Christians to care for God's creation and seek climate justice for the world's poor. Be the change, by living more simply, justly and sustainably in a changing climate. This year, thousands of Christians around the world will take the Carbon Fast. Get involved!


Viv Benjamin is National Advocacy Coordinator for TEAR Australia. Viv coordinates TEAR campaigns that enable Christians in Australia to respond to issues of climate change, poverty and injustice. Before joining TEAR, Viv directed the *MAKE*POVERTY*HISTORY* Roadtrip, worked for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC), and served 5 years as National Advocacy Director for the Oaktree Foundation. Viv attends St Hilary's Anglican Church and lives in Melbourne.

Deb Storie
Natural Disasters? A call to move beyond humanitarian response to corporate repentance
Christian Humanitarian and Disaster Response agencies frequently claim the Noah and Joseph narratives from Genesis as their 'biblical basis.' In this workshop we will explore the complexity of these narratives: Does Joseph provide an example we should follow? How might Noah's flood have been averted? Moving from narratives to action: How ought our global context inform and shape our responses to the Bible? How might these (and other) biblical stories inform and shape our responses to the world? How might we move from humanitarian response to corporate repentance?

Deborah Storie is a PhD candidate at Melbourne College of Divinity/Whitley College, Chair of the Board of TEAR Australia, and a member of St Hilary's Anglican Church Kew. Deborah has worked in Rural Community Development and Disaster Mitigation and Response Projects in Afghanistan, and has consulted in a wide range of development contexts. She enjoys the Australian bush, using Public Transport, and working as a veterinarian at the RSPCA


Paul Tyson
Jacques Ellul’s theological vision of the socio-cultural drivers of ecological disaster

This workshop will seek to unpack some of Jacques Ellul’s insights into the manner in which our modern technological society is deeply ingrained in the subordination of both humanity and nature to efficient use. Ellul maintains that our way of life is characterised by structural instrumentalism which is underpinned by twisted theological assumptions, and these are the key drivers that propel us towards environmental desolation. The notion that will be floated in this workshop is that no adequate fine tuning of our present way of life will be equal to the task of addressing climate change, but rather what is needed is the comprehensive sociological and theological conversion of our society. The discussion phase of this workshop will seek to tentatively explore how the church might proclaim and embody a prophetic message of repentance and conversion in these matters.

Dr Paul Tyson is a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, School of Theology and Philosophy.

Mick Pope
Communicating for change: talking about climate change in the church

The topic of climate change or global warming is a touchy one in the church, with a variety of positions held for a variety of reasons. This workshop will be an interactive discussion on the issues surrounding talking about climate change in church including: why people don’t accept it, how to communicate the issues, where to go for answers to tough questions, catering for different audiences, Scriptures to use, etc.

Dr Mick Pope is a lecturer in meteorology and a Masters student in theology. He is the coordinator of Ethos Environment.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Green blogs

Just found the list Best Green Blogs directory. Haven't looked at any of them yet but thought worth sharing. Happy reading.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Christians and Earth Hour

Earth Hour started in Sydney in 2007, calling on individuals and busineses to recognise the threat of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) by switching off lights and other electrical appliances for just one hour. It has now spread as a global movement. Its webpage is found here and Facebook page here.

One may wonder at the value of this, after all 1 hour won't make much difference to the amount of green house gases (GHGs) the word emits. So isn't this empty symbolism? And what does some "pointless" event have to do with the church and individual Christians?

Firstly, Earth Hour recognises that AGW is real, something not enough Christians do. If you don't believe it is happening, it is our fault and the impacts are going to be serious (and are being in some places already) then you are not looking carefully enough at the science, and indeed at your own epistemology and ideology. Some sections of the church are woefully behing in this, indeed risk being "Left Behind" in its mission to live out proleptically the future shalom, that holistic restoration of creation.

Secondly, the church most of all should be accustomed to symbolism, outward signs of inner transformations, first fruits of greater realities, etc. No one says that Earth Hour will save the world (of course only Christ can do that), but it is a taste of action required and a visible commitment to that change.

Thirdly, as a people in exile, the church like Israel should work for the well being of the society of which it is a part. Working with people of all faiths or none means getting on board with whatever is going, while retaining our distinctives. So here's a few ideas.

1. Have a prayer service by candlelight, praying for Christ to return to bring the creation to rights, the non-human and evil and sin.
2. Celebrate communion, remembering that bread and wine are the fruits of the Earth we have been called to care for.
3. Enjoy a meal prepared from your or someone else's garden, or a low carbon meal (which usually means vego) and remember our connection to the earth as humans from the humus.
4. Eat simply and remember the starving millions, especially those already displaced by AGW or suffering due to droughts or floods exaccerbated by AGW. Ask for forgiveness for covetousness and greed.
5. Host an event (could even be by candlelight) discussing Christian spirituality and the environmental crisis. Christian spirituality can align with this event in so many ways.

It's God's world, given to us made in his image to care for. Don't be left behind on Earth Hour.

Earth Hour 2011: 8.30pm, Saturday 26 March

Big coal = big bully

Excellent piece by Clive Hamilton here. Of course the obvious retort is that light bulbs don't run on good intentions, but when we should be moving (and quickly) to cleaner sources of energy, letting corporations run all over free speech and crushing the little person is anti-democracy.

Militarism and climate change

Takes a lot of energy to run a military = a lot of green house gases. Empires have always been associated with environmental damage, back to the deforestation by Rome to build there ships. Interesting piece here thank links the huge American military to environmental degredation. A reminder that the Prince of Peace comes to bring shalom - which means and end to all wars and rest for the earth.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yasi, La Nina & Climate change

A nice piece appeared on the ABC website here.

La Nina is the opposite of El Nino. It occurs when the sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific/Coral Sea are warmer than usual and the winds across the Pacific are stronger than usual. A measure of the strength of this circulation is the Southern Oscillation Index or SOI, which is a measure of pressure differences across the Pacific. Pressure differences are related to temperature differences and hence produce differences in the win strength. Apparently it was 27.1 in December, the highest ever measured. Hence, while floods and Tropical Cyclones like those observed have occurred before, the conditions that have caused them appear to be unusual.

Dr Andrew Ash of the CSIRO suggests part of this is due to global warming, producing the lower than usual pressures over the western Pacific. This reinforces the idea that flooding and strong TCs are expected to increase in frequency under human-induced global warming, even if the mean trend is drying in our part of the world.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life, but not as we know it

Christians are interested in life. They can be pro life, which means banning abortions, but interestingly some of these are still pro-execution and war when it is (supposedly) in their country's interest. They can talk about eternal life and the need to be born again, but be short on what life means now. And often, non-human life gets short shrift with issues over environment seen as greenie, hippy, leftie and pagan.

As a start, consider the idea of life after death. What does this mean? For many, Christianity is about going to heaven when you die and avoiding going to hell. This is life after death, the reward for a lifetime of suffering. Such an escape was of comfort to black slaves in the Southern US (as clear in songs like Welcome Table)and certainly made any resistance pointless is not unnecessary.

There is plenty of evidence for this in the New Testament. In Jn 14:2 Jesus tells his disciples he's off to prepare a room for them in his Father's house. Jesus also promises the bandit/revolutionary that he would be with Jesus in paradise that very day. Likewise, Paul wants to depart and be with Christ (Phil 1:23). I take this (despite my commitment to dynamical monism rather than any form of soul dualism) the recognition of a conscious state after death. However, the Greek word in Jn 14 translated as room means stopping place, like an inn room rather than a permanent residence! This should hint that while 'going to heaven when you die' is important, it is not the end of the world (with thanks to NT Wright).

So life after death is important and real to a Christian, but not as a rescue from this world as if it could be cast off. There is life after, life after death, which is resurrection from the dead. Paul speaks about this at length in 1 Corinthians 15. Note that at the end of this re-affirmation of a new physical existence, a new kind of body, one unlike the flesh we have now (i.e. the impermanent body), there is no call to wait for heaven or sit back and enjoy or be unengaged in the world. There is an encouragement that 'Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.'

Now one could interpret this as meaning evangelism only, but this would be a return to dualism. Certainly it includes it, but the Great Commission says make disciples, which is a life long venture and not a matter of just 'saving souls'. More than that, the number of injunctions to care for the poor, to work with our hands, to do good to all, etc means that there is more to life now than just the 'spiritual' acts of prayer, bible study and evangelism (though not less than these things). And the present is shaped by the future (the resurrection).

Hence, we should not just look for life after death or life after, life after death, but also life before death. Jesus promised us life to the full or in abundance (Jn 10:10). This includes a new family, houses and fields, as well as persecutions in this age (Mk 10:30). But it also includes a new mission, not just the Great Commission but also acts of justice (being neighbour) to all nations.

This includes the non-human creation. Romans 8 talks about non-human life and how it groans for our adoption as Sons/children of God (both huios and tekna are used in the Greek). Our futures are tied together (life after, life after death). The birth pains suggests the ground giving up the dead, the and likely reason for this is the subjection to the frustration of being under human misrule. It isn't a big leap of logic to add up the following

1. we are told we will one day be totally sanctified, yet that to continue to sin now so that grace may abound is not to be countenanced.
2. nothing we do in the Lord is in vain. It is hard to justify this being only 'spiritual' activities
3. creation itself has a future and we and it groan for the same thing, the hope of our adoption as God's children which will mean the release of creation from bondage to decay

It is hard to deny that life before death includes caring for God's world: as worship, as justice (think climate change and the poor, oil spills and fishing communities, etc) and as allowing them to fulfill their own creation blessing to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:20-23).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

From my garden


One looks after what one cares for and values. Value is not just financial or utilitarian, but also intangible, aesthetic or emotive. After all, this is how advertising works.

New Holland Honeyeaters frequent my hard, I suspect because the suburban garden provides enough for them in the form of various native trees and shrubs with nectar. They are cheeky, confident and not bothered by humans. This pair have a chick which I saw on the ground (and hopefully has survived). One of them danced over our front yard walking/flying for reasons best known to it. I've seen one foraging for nesting material (presumably rennovations given the eggs have long since hatched and junior is a bit restless and destructive).

I value their presence above the miners, sparrows, pigeons etc because I know they have not been bought here by Europeans. It belongs in a way they do not, perhaps even I don't ;-) It brings me delight watching it going about what it means to be a bird. Long may they do so.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Arctic current warmer than for 2,000 years

Arctic warms faster as melting ice uncovers darker ground or open waters - bad news. Article here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Droughts and flooding rains

A couple of sensibly written pieces to show how vapid and shallow Bolt et al are in their understanding.

Sydney Morning Herald piece looks at how global warming can increase the likelihood of disasters here.

Piece by former CSIRO atmospheric research head Graeme Pearson on global warming, Hadley Cell and drying Australia here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bolt shooting his mouth off again

Not even worth bothering providing a link to his tripe - apparently neither the drought nor the recent flooding rains are due to global warming. Ok I will here

As explained before - while a single event cannot be tied without question to global warming - the following remarks may be made.

1. There has beena decine in annual rainfall over eastern Australia.
2. Part of this is due to global warming. A study can be found here. Something else to review at some point.
3. The natural cycle of El Nino/La Nina will naturally lead to variability in rainfall.
4. Warmer temperatures means more evaporation and can increase atmospheric moisture, leading to heavy rainfall events.

Bolt is an ideologue, with little scientific sophistication and blogging a few quotes speaking about drought with an 'I told you so' tone proves little except to those whose politics and/or theology pre-disposes them to accept his ranting.

Consuming Creation conference timetable

Friday
5.30 Zadok AGM
6:30 Drinks & registration
7:00 Dinner
8:00 Northcott talk 1

Saturday
9:00 Registration
9:15 Ecological worship
9:30 Northcott talk 2
11:00 Morning tea
11:30 Northcott Talk 3
1:00 Lunch
1:50 Workshop 1
2:50 Workshop 2
3:40 Afternoon tea
4:00 Workshop 3
5:00 Conclusion

Workshop details to follow soon - includes vegetarianism, advocacy, gardening, ethical investment

Bring back the night - LED lights and energy usage

Nice National Geographic piece on LED lighting and energy usage. I believe it is also more directed lighting and less harmful to night flying insects, bats, etc and night sky vision for the astronomy buffs.