Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Anglican EcoCare Journal

The Anglican diocese of Perth, Western Australia will soon be launching its EcoCare Journal. As part of that, I will have a paper published with them entitled The Earth is Full of Your Creatures: A Theology of Wilderness. Not sure of the format (i.e. paper, electronic or both) or precisely when it will be available. Watch this space. My abstract is below to whet your appetite.

Wilderness is a debated term today, given that no place on Earth is free from modification via human activity, such as anthropogenic climate change or the spread of DDT through the biosphere. This is of particular interest in the Australian seen, given the challenge to the status and integrity of World Heritage Areas. Definitions of what or what doesn't count as wilderness, what should be conserved and what conservation means are philosophical as well as scientific questions because they pose questions about what is of value, how that value is measured, etc. Such issues are therefore open to theological analysis, to guide Christians through decision making processes in conservation and ecomission.

This paper will examine key Old Testament texts that speak about the role of wilderness and places beyond human settlement alongside those that set out the creation mandate to explore ideas of divine sovereignty, human stewardship, nature, the image of God and proper humility. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Creator, creation, care

I saw this meme on a friends Facebook page, and thought it too good not to blog about. It's an interesting, and provocative statement - and it seems to me to be a challenge from outside the Christian community to do exactly what it should be doing.

The first thing to think about is that this is not an either/or. It is care about who created that should motivate us to care for creation. This is far more obvious in the first and second greatest commandments. Jesus says we are to love God with all that we are, and to love our neighbour (which he expands to include those we see as our enemies). There is a direct connection, because we love God, we love those whom he made in his image. This is our Christian neighbour, our Muslim neighbour, our atheist neighbour, etc.

But likewise, if we are so keen to establish that creation had a creator, so too we need to understand what that means for how we live in that creation. As John Walton (and others) has argued, Genesis 1 is more about who created and what for, rather than how. The idea that creation itself is a temple and human beings images of God in it means that creation is sacred space, and we have a sacred responsibility. Christians should be at the forefront of caring for that which was declared "very good". Arguments about how it was all created are important but secondary to the task of looking after what we have been given.

The meme is right (though possibly not for the right reasons). Love God, love neighbour and care for creation.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Friends of A Rocha Australia

Hi all - finally a website for Friends of A Rocha Australia, a group dedicated to working as Christians in conservation and founding a A Rocha in Australia.

For people in the Melbourne area or willing to travel, we have an event October 10-12 in Kyneton, doing some restoration work. Please see the link above and use the contact form to register interest.

Friday, July 25, 2014

News, writing projects, etc

I've let this blog lag a little - been a little busy, so here's come updates.

I Googled myself last night - it's always interesting to see your digital footprint (and potentially sobering so always be mindful before you put anything online). I discovered that my Red Letter Christians post, A Theology of Farts and Orgasms, which examines the connection between diet, reproduction, the image of God and the rest of creation, was quoted heavily in a blogpost on Eden Keeper. A blog I'll have to keep my eye on.

I also have a blog piece coming out tomorrow that looks at eschatology and its link to creation care entitled Beam me up Goddy. See Red Letter Christians for that. Yes, yes, I need to post more here too!

I then discovered that Australian comedian, and I'm guessing now social commentator, Wendy Harmer, quoted what I'm guessing was my guest bog post on the ABC's Environment blog in a January edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, looking at the environmental theology of the Pope (the one in the Vatican, not me). See here for that piece.

On other news, my book A Climate of Hope, Dawson and Pope with Urban Neighbours of Hope is well underway. It's with proofreaders and we are slowly getting in recommendations for the back cover.

I will be writing a book on ecomissiology. Length, etc still to be determined, but it will be based on my Tinsley Institute lecture on missiology from 2013, which is available on the web in various places as well as a chapter in Speaking of Mission: Volume 2.

Finally, a new ecojournal has been started by the Anglican Diocese in Perth, and I'm hoping my paper on A Theology of Wilderness will be published. Busy times.

Keep writing, thinking and acting in our mission to care for God's Earth.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I don't want the future to be a museum - climate extinctions

Today I took my family to the museum here in Melbourne to see the Aztec exhibition. Reflections on that are for another time and another of my blogs. But for here I want to reflect upon what I saw in the impressive room where they have their taxidermied animals.

I really wanted to yell out lines from Psalm 104 "Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all;the earth is full of Your possessions."

What I did do was raise my hands in the air. And then I walked over to the stuffed polar bear and apologised. Odd I know, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. In Ice, ice baby I looked at Arctic sea ice loss. We know this is having an impact on polar bear hunting. They may yet disappear in the wild.

And then it struck me, museums are awesome places of learning, where species past and present are on display. I'd just walked briefly through the dinosaur section. I don't want the museum to be the only place (zoos notwithstanding) where you can go and see the species on display. Sea level rise, ocean acidification, loss of habitat, rising temperatures shrinking cloud forests, declining rainfall, and so on. So many species could disappear in a warming world. If we can say with the Psalmist "Let the glory of the Lord endure forever; Let the Lord be glad in His works", then we can only assume he'll be just a little point out if we add more to the list of creatures God can no longer be glad in, to say nothing of ourselves and the many related issues.

Museums are a great place to visit, but I don't want to live in one.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Harmony in Diversity - speaking on community TV about eco-theology

A little while ago I had the chance to appear on community TV channel 31 program Harmony in Diversity about my work in eco-theology. The programs are now on their YouTube Channel.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Human need or human greed? Jane Goodall & Michio Kaku

I recently had the opportunity to attend a couple public lectures on consecutive nights; Jane Goodall, celebrated primatologist and Michio Kaku, futurist and co-founder of string theory. Both were very different talks.

My caveats were that I was more tired for Kaku, not with my family and not impressed with the organisation. But I have to say all that aside, there was far more appeal and power to what she said that Kaku's polished performance and glib answers.

Both of course are great scientists in their own fields, and both told stories of childhood inspiration to take their paths: for Jane it was a childhood love of animals, for Kaku the desire to complete the book on the "theory of everything". Both show how childhood nurture of curiosity is essential to breed scientists - all kids start as scientists!

Yet as well as a scientist, Jane has become an advocate, not just for the chimps of Gombe but all of God's creatures, including us humans. Our minds may be finite but we have undergone an explosive development in intelligence that does separate us from other creatures and gives us a great responsibility. Yet we threaten our own self destruction and are stealing the future of our children.

Through her Roots and shoots program, she seeks to promote the idea for a new generation that we can all make a difference in our choices. I note too she thinks there must be political issues, and noted that Tony Abbott didn't really believe in climate change, Jane is all about reconnecting to the Earth so we might not lose it.

In contrast, apart from some amazing ideas on the nature of reality, Kaku was all about technology. He rightly notes that "science is the engine of prosperity", commenting on steam, lasers and transistors (the last two being applications of Quantum Mechanics, the former really coming before the theory of thermodynamics, contrary to what Kaku tried to say). In another aside at Abbott, Kaku suggested that Western countries had forgotten where our prosperity came from, and lamented the spending cuts in science.

Kaku I think though accepts technology too uncritically. He claims that Twitter threw out dictators, and that the internet brings democracy - at a time when many countries crack down on it in dictatorial ways (and some companies too)? The claim too that democracies don't go to war with each other seems somewhat naive as well.  He looks forward to uploading who we are to a "library of souls", not understanding the importance of continuity (though maybe resurrection is a similar idea?). He sees a time when we are connected 24/7 with the net on our contact lenses.

His interview finished with question time, and he deftly dealt with odd or inarticulate questions. It was however, how he dealt with the last question that set him apart from Jane Goodall. Someone asked a prosaic question about adopting a connected life that separates us from nature. Indeed, a technology that satisfies our need and not simple our greed (as Jane spoke of, quoting Gandhi). He answer was, this is what people want. No reflection on whether or not it is best for us, just a technological fatalism.

While technology is not always an ill (clothes, houses, electricity are all goods), it seems to me that the more they separate us from our humanity and from everything else, the more our rushing to techno-heaven will end us up somewhere else.