I was lucky enough to be able to do a short presentation about FEN at the Inspiring Earth Ethics: Linking Values and Action Conference which was held in Brisbane on November 23 – 24, 2017.
The key question, “How do we inspire and build Earth ethics in Australian society?” is one which probably many ordinary people ask themselves in different ways, knowing that the dominant discourse in public life is ignoring it even as the natural world suffers.
The conference organisers brought together a diverse array of people who offered a variety of experiences from fields such as ecological spirituality, Aboriginal knowledge, ecological ethics and psychology, the arts, law, environmental education and business. It was this rich diversity that impressed on me that the responses to the question necessarily will be also be diverse, therefore the need to bring people and groups together to listen to each other, learn from each other, grow in awareness and take action. The setting of the Centre for Interfaith and Cultural Dialogue at Griffith University’s Nathan Campus was beautiful for two reasons: being in Toohey Forest with loads of Xanthorroeas (grass trees) and being in an interfaith centre with its atmosphere of dialogue.Mary Graham, a Kombu-Merri person through her father’s heritage and Wakka Wakka clan through her mother’s heritage, opened with some questions of her own: “How do we live together without doing each other in? How do we live together without doing damage to our environment? How do we work out a way of living that doesn’t make people feel alone, nervous or alienated from each other?” Speaking from the wisdom of her oral history of the oldest living culture in the world, she inspired us with her explanation of how Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual relationship with land and the obligations they have to land have enabled them to live in the land and keep it intact. In fact the wisdom shared over the two days by all the Aboriginal speakers, was a special gift to all those present.
The conference came at a time when we were in the middle of handing on the facilitation of FEN from the Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Peace Ecology and Justice to the Australian Catholic University’s Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. Fortunately there were half a dozen FEN members present at the conference. As the long-time Facilitator, in talking to a group of about 15 people, I used the metaphor of a tree: a) The trunk of the various faiths involved in FEN founded on the deep roots of the soil of their scriptures and beliefs built up over many years; b) A common home for multiple communities; c) A community of communities; d) Interconnected and interdependent on natural planetary elements. Fatih Tuncer, the new FEN Facilitator from the Australian Catholic University’s Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, introduced himself and spoke briefly about some new opportunities for FEN.
FEN networkers, Mary Tinney and Anne Boyd gave excellent presentations on faith, eco-spirituality and Earth Ethics. Neil Davidson presented on the facilitation of emergence across difference. Ellen Geraghty gave a thorough presentation of the work of the Rahamim Centre. Along with other presenters there was a strong stream of faith and ecology running through the program. I particularly enjoyed making connections with Jana Norman from Adelaide through her presentation on Ecozoic Living as a framework for Earth Ethics. I hope we can continue to grow the connections we made with other like-minded people and their networks.
The tree theme continued with both Fatih and myself when we participated in an activity called “Forest Bathing” led by Alex Gaut. Taking off our shoes so that we were physically in touch with the earth, Alex led us through a sample of activities where we used our five senses to actually connect with the trees outside the gathering room. I found this a most wonderful connecting experience.
I thank the organisers from the Australian Earth Laws Alliance for their well-considered program and the opportunity to share with others what FEN is all about. The papers and photos can be viewed at https://www.earthlaws.org.au/our-programs/earth-ethics/earth-ethics-conference/
By Anne Lanyon, FEN member.