What does Christianity teach us about ecology?
Tension with Creation
Christianity recognises a tension that exists between humanity’s responsibility to care for God’s creation, and the human tendency to rebel against God. The main Christian churches have in the past decades re-examined their teachings and practice in the light of the environmental crisis.
Commitment from the Churches
Speaking for the Catholic Church in 1990, the Pope said, “Christians realise their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith.”
For the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate taught in 1990 that humanity ought to perceive the natural order as a sign and sacrament of God, and that to respect nature is to recognise that all creatures and objects have a unique place in God’s creation. The Orthodox Church teaches that it is the destiny of humanity to restore the proper relationship between God and the world as it was in Eden.
The Protestant Churches, speaking through the World Council of Churches in 1990, committed themselves to conserve and work for the integrity of creation both for its inherent value to God and in order that justice may be achieved and sustained.
Christians increasingly recognise the need to repent for what harm has been done to creation. In the words of the Orthodox Patriarchate, “This may well mean that just as a shepherd will in times of greatest hazard lay down his life for his flock, so human beings may need to forego part of their wants and needs in order that the survival of the natural world can be assured.”
The challenge to all Christians is to discover anew the truth that God’s love and liberation is for all creation, not just humanity, and to seek new ways of living that restore balance and hope of life to the endangered planet.
Examples of Christian ecology in action
Lenten Carbon Fast
As a founding member of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Catholic Earthcare has taken the lead for Australia to participate in a 40-day Lenten Fast for Climate Justice. The goal is to raise awareness of climate issues and call on world leaders to take action on climate change.
Over 50 countries are participating in the Carbon Fast, with different countries leading the fast on different days of Lent. Australia will be leading the fast on March 17th, which also happens to be St Patricks Day.
On this day, participants are urged to fast from either food (for example missing one or two meals), and/or carbon (by taking alternative transport such as walking, biking or public transport, or cutting personal or organisational energy consumption).
Catholic Earthcare Australia and the National Energy Efficiency Network (NEEN) are delighted to partner with Earth Hour and call for immediate action on climate change.
The NEEN project supports community organisations across Australia to reduce their energy footprint – so we understand how important it is to cut energy consumption and protect our planet.
This March, all members and supporters are encouraged to attend or host their own Earth Hour event. Earth Hour is not just about 8.30pm on the 28th of March. The NEEN website provides some tips on how to make every hour Earth Hour!
Food For Life
Food is essential for all life, yet many of the world’s poorest people do not have food security. As Pope Francis says: “It is a well-known fact that current levels of production are sufficient, yet millions of people are still suffering and dying of starvation. This is truly scandalous.”
This initiative from Caritas Australia is being promoted throughout Catholic schools and parishes across Australia.
Community gardens and community supported agriculture
A growing number of congregations, in urban, regional and rural areas, host community gardens. As well growing food, these projects often involve people on the margins of their communities and provide opportunities to develop vocational qualifications. Some congregations also source produce directly from small farmers through community supported agriculture schemes.
Many congregations and Uniting Church Missions have arrangements with Foodbank and other organisations to provide food services, such as meals, grocery services, community cafes and breakfast clubs, for the needy. Congregations are also involved in the “Waste Not Want Not” project, which provides to Foodbank excess produce, which doesn’t meet narrow commercial specifications.
Fair trade churches
The Fairtrade label ensures that small farmers in developing countries receive a price higher than the cost of sustainable production, and that the production process has met a set of strict environmental standards. The Uniting Church Synod of NSW & ACT has set a goal that Fairtrade tea and coffee will be used and/or sold by more than half of the congregations in the Synod.
Murray Darling Basin project
Recognising the pressures on the ecosystems and the communities of the Murray Darling Basin, the Uniting Church in NSW & ACT is working to be a transforming presence for the common good in the Basin. The Uniting Church is building relationships between rural and urban communities, and is working towards a forum in 2016.
Climate change advocacy
Climate change poses a severe threat to food production systems in Australia and abroad. Many congregations are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint, and the Uniting Church Synods and Assembly have for years called upon our governments to take stronger policy action. The Assembly and Synods are also divesting from stocks and shares in fossil fuels.
Advocacy to protect land from mining
The Uniting Church in NSW & ACT has call upon the NSW Government to protect important agricultural and conversation land and irreplaceable water resources from coal and coal seam gas exploration and mining. Uniting Church members in various places are involved in campaigns against the expansion of fossil fuel mining locally.