God's attentive presence found in the diversity of wildlife
Major Melanie-Anne Holland, a pastor with the Salvation Army, reflects for World Wildlife Day on God's presence in the diversity of wildlife.
I’m a birdwatcher, from a family of avid birdwatchers. For as long as I can remember, my family has travelled with a copy of The Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. Our eyes have been trained to observe the distant flutters of birds, noting their colour and form, in the perpetual hunt for new species. Parents, siblings, children, cousins, aunts and uncles have all been co-opted into our enthusiastic (perhaps competitive) quest. I love birds, and their diversity is a source of joy for me.
The diversity of life all around us is spectacular and awe-inspiring, not just in terms of the variety of plants and animals but also the variety within each species. And from a faith perspective, this biodiversity is intentional and purposeful. Not only is God the source, or Creator, of all the diversity we observe, he is constantly engaged with the world around us.
Can we do without a species? Is any species ‘disposable’ or less valuable? Can we live in a world without wild koalas or platypuses or black-throated finches? How about the species we find less endearing, like mice or mosquitoes? Apart from the profound loss of species, each extinction is like pulling at a thread in a jumper and waiting for the whole garment to unravel. Each loss can cascade into another.
In our Australian context, we are challenged by how much of our unique wildlife is under threat of extinction from habitat destruction, introduced species, pollution and climate change. Two hundred and seventy-seven species of birds, mammals, fish, frogs, reptiles and other animals have been identified as endangered or critically endangered. Any species lost would be a tragedy.
Yesterday was in fact 2023 World Wildlife Day, and this year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’. We are encouraged to work together in a concerted effort to create and sustain healthy ecosystems, wildlife populations and biodiversity. We each have a part to play.
Wherever you are as you read this reflection today, take a moment to see what animals you share the space with. From the tropics to the snowfields, from the mangroves and beaches to vast arid places, the diversity of wildlife around you is a precious testament to the caring, attentive presence of God. And the God who delights in them also cares for you.
What you can do • Buy only sustainably sourced products (seafood, timber products and the like). • Stop using pesticides in the garden. • Plant locally endemic plants that belong in the area, to increase habitat for birds, insects, frogs, reptiles and small mammals in your neighbourhood. • Join a bush regeneration group or host a tree-planting event in your community. • Keep plastic waste and other rubbish out of waterways and the ocean through local clean-up events.
WOMEN IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA LEAD THE WAY IN SAVING MANGROVES
A mangrove planted by volunteers on World Environment Day. Photo: Lilian Kenequa
WOMEN IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA LEAD THE WAY IN SAVING MANGROVES
Reprinted from The Grail "GJOP Pacific Outlook Bulletin December 2022".
The women of the remote community of Poukama village in Hallsound Bay of the Kairuku Hiri District in Central Province are restoring the country’s most diverse mangrove forest.
The community used to cut down mangroves, not realising they were not sustaining a valuable resource. But in 2014 a group of 25 local women met and agreed to start the local mangrove replanting program. For half a day once a fortnight they do a general clean up and plant mangrove seedlings from their nursery, and by 2020 they had planted over 3,000 mangroves.Read more
Cherishing the Web of the Universe by Gillian Coote, Sydney Zen Centre
The Sydney Zen Centre community caring for place in the Upper Macdonald ValleyRead more
News from Uniting Eco Group
Earth Day April 22nd 2022 by Divine Life Society, Australia (Hindu)
This year the Divine Life Society in Australia celebrated Mother Earth Day, at the DLSA Online Satsang.
They explored Earth in Hindu tradition, Earth and the tantras, the Universality of Earth worship, Aboriginal people's connection to Mother Earth, and EcoSpirituality.
You can download the pdf of the presentation here, or read the full blog and it will appear below in a short while.Read more
Self-Mastery and the Natural World
Sandra Nichols, from the Brahma Kumaris, talks about how creatures exhibit self-mastery in their particular ecological niches and how we can mimic their behaviour to achieve our own self-mastery.Read more
Australia’s Life Support Systems are on Life Support
A Faith Response to Professor Lesley Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University. By Anne Lanyon.
On World Environment Day 2021, Professor Lesley Hughes gave us a huge wake-up call about biodiversity collapse in Australia. The scientific information she shared with us challenges people of all faith traditions, especially leaders, to listen, learn and respond for the good of all life on Earth, our common home. I urge you to take a short time to look at Lesley’s presentation.
I asked myself, “Why isn’t the response from governments, the dominant media, the public, churches, mosques, temples as urgent as the response to the COVID pandemic? Why is there “greenwashing” to prioritise destructive land use legislation in the face of the truths of what Lesley, her colleagues and the others have said?”
Is it because, as the “Johnny-Come-Latelies” in Earth’s evolutionary history, we still have much to learn about how dependant we are on biodiversity?”
At my age and stage – an elder if you like – I have seen the disappearance of species with my own eyes.Read more
Take Time for Nature: World Environment Day 2020
Earth is our Common Home. We humans share it with all the other life on our planet. Earth is speaking to us about how we are inhabiting our Common Home. Are we listening? Do we know how to?
2020 is a time when we have been forced to listen. In Australia with drought, bushfires, floods, rising temperatures, climate change, deforestation, water shortages, biodiversity loss, increasing marine pollution and now the COVID 19 pandemic, she is waking us up to the realisation that we are interconnected and interdependent. Nature may be able to do without we humans, but we certainly can’t do without Mother Nature.
Twelve years ago, at a 2008 series of seminars on Earth our Common Home, the Faith Ecology Network (FEN) as a coalition of believers from nine different faith traditions, affirmed that the Earth is sacred and that we are in solidarity with all people concerned for the Earth. We stated: “We recognise that we have failed to care for the Earth in words, attitudes or actions, that our attitudes must change, and it is now time for action. We said: we must create hope founded on guiding principles. To help bring us back to our senses, we need reinvigorated, focused and strong leadership from our all faith communities.”
Further, we stated: As people of faith, we do not simply despair about the state of the Earth.
On World Environment Day 2020, the Faith Ecology Network reiterates our 2008 determination.
This year FEN is focussed on the Wonder of Biodiversity in solidarity with the United Nations Environment Program. As with the UN which has had to postpone its Conference on Biodiversity to have been held in China in October, FEN has had to postpone a Public Prayer Vigil plus a Public Forum. We all share a sense of WONDER at the natural world. The gift of learning from the sciences about the millions of Earth’s known species has enhanced our ability to WONDER at the singularity, complexity, beauty and intricacy of all of the web of life. Australia with its unique flora and fauna, especially is “one of seventeen countries described as being 'megadiverse'. This group of countries has less than 10% of the global surface, but supports more than 70% of the biological diversity on earth.”
Therefore, we urge those from the many different faith traditions connected with FEN to spend time learning to listen to Mother Nature, to change our attitudes and to take time for action.
A Suggested Action for you as Individuals as well as for your Faith Communities
A practical way of growing in Wonder about Biodiversity in your own backyard, local park or place of worship is to join BushBlitz. It is claimed to be Australia’s largest nature discovery project where you can learn about the biodiversity in your own place and maybe even discover something new which you can record on the Living Atlas of Australia.
Fostering Dialogue Between Science and Religion
The Sisters of the Good Samaritan have entered into an auspice agreement with the Faith Ecology Network (FEN), a sponsorship that will support the continued mission of strengthening interfaith dialogue between science and religion.
In a time where many consider science and religion to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, FEN offers a forum for the two disciplines to learn from the other and engage in respectful dialogue.
The Faith Ecology Network started in 2003, when the Columban Centre for Peace Ecology and Justice – part of the Columban Mission Institute – organised an event, themed around ‘wonder’ and the ‘will to care’. A number of faith traditions attended and engaged in the inaugural seminar and since this time, FEN’s vision of multiple faith traditions sharing their insights in response to scientific dialogue has continued.
The Columban Mission Institute identified a need for a more formal structure to the network and engaged with Anne Lanyon to take on the assignment of Coordinator of the Faith Ecology Network, a role she proudly continues to carry out today.
“The model that FEN has always used when getting people together is to have scientific input,” says Anne.
“Each of our events has followed the model of an ecological scientist introducing a topic, in a respectful and professional way, followed by a period of response from different faith perspectives – including indigenous perspectives.”
FEN is an Australian hub, which serves to connect people of diverse faith traditions and those with no faith traditions – including Catholic, Baha’i, Anglican, Uniting Church, Salvation Army, Baptist, Hindu, Jewish, Brahma Kumaris, Muslims, Aboriginal, scientists, climate scientist, ecologists, and others.
“It is very much about bringing them all together and learning from each other.”
Following the closure of the Columban Mission Institute, in 2017, a small group of FEN members – the Core Companioning Group – continued the mission of the network and went in search of a new sponsor, one that would share the same values and vision of supporting interfaith dialogue.
After a brief period of support by the Australian Catholic University, Anne connected with Good Samaritan Sister Catherine McCahill to discuss the possibility of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan auspicing the network.
Catherine has always held an interest in interreligious dialogue and joined FEN in 2013, after attending one of their public events.
“I really liked what I experienced,” says Catherine. “It’s broader than Christianity and I think sometimes we get caught in a one world view, that comes out of our tradition and we need to expand it – for all traditions.”
The sponsorship provides FEN with insurance coverage for events, assistance with finance and banking, where donations are collected, and human resources, should FEN wish to employ anyone on a part-time or casual basis.
Anne highlights how important the auspicing has been to the network, helping them hold their focus on connecting, learning and creating dialogue.
“We don’t have the capacity to become an incorporated body,” says Anne. “We are a network, focused on the good of all of God’s creation and this sponsorship has allowed us to maintain that focus.”
Catherine says the partnership has been a natural fit for the Good Samaritans, with it being a faith based organisation that encourages open interfaith dialogue around one of the Good Samaritan’s key focus areas – ecological conversion.
“I think real dialogue between religions happens around projects and something that has some central meaning for them,” says Catherine. “This is one project where we have passion, it extends beyond dialogue.”
FEN and congregation share the same concerns on climate change and human impact on the planet, and believe ‘in the importance of people of faith speaking publicly to influence public environmental opinion’.
My personal view is, saying it simply, I think the Earth is a prophet now,” says Anne. “The Earth is speaking to us and we must listen, but do we even know how to listen? We need to start that learning now.”
In 2020, the Faith Ecology Network will be hosting two public events to coincide with World Environment Day, an Interfaith Prayer Vigil in a public place in Sydney and a Public Interfaith Participatory Forum, featuring two expert ecology and scientific speakers with responses from faith traditions.
They are calling out to current members, and those people interested in joining the network, to assist and participate in these events.
For more information, or to join the Faith Ecology Network, visit https://www.faithecology.net.au or email [email protected].