A friend of mine recently somewhat facetiously lamented that there wasn’t a day for people like him – short, fat and balding. He’s a bit of as self confessed redneck, and thought that if minorities got a day to celebrate, so should he. Some people of a conservative bent seem to think it is unfair to celebrate some people over others. How much more the idea of World Environment Day?
Those who are used to singing from the justice hymn book realise that part of justice is giving voice to those who go unheard, or who lack power. In Australia we celebrate National Reconciliation Week because we recognise that this country was stolen. Our first peoples were subjected to massacres, robbed of their children in an act of social engineering, and are still denied a full say in how their native lands are used; for example in the case of the highly unnecessary, climate and landscape destroying Carmichael coal mine. There are also still significant gaps in health, lifespan, education and economic well being between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The Earth too deserves a voice, and it often the case that it’s voice is heard in concert with others. The Wangan and Jagalingou people groan with their lands and won’t be silenced by the Adani company, or by the state government who approved the mine. Likewise, neither the weather nor Californians can be silenced by Donald Trump about the drought.
Some of my ecomodernist Christian friends (see here for an Ecomodernist manifesto) baulk at the use of the term, environment – claiming it is used by “environmentalists” in a variety of inappropriate ways. To be sure, terms do matter. But “the environment” is our environment, and our economies are wholly owned subsidiaries of it. Both ecology and economy come from the same Greek root, Oikos meaning household. This is captured well in the idea of donut economics, where both planetary boundaries and human needs are considered.
But call it environment if you will, it is also creation – groaning in the birth pains of human mismanagement and misrule. Just as the city of Rome had to pipe in water due to a polluted Tiber River, had poor air quality due to cooking fires, and malarial mosquitoes and a harbour that silted up due to land clearing, we now have species loss, climate change with associated heat waves, droughts, forest fires, etc. Creation is still groaning, and we can and should join in with others both inside and outside of the church to hear creation’s voice, and respond. This year, the focus is on wildlife trafficking.
But in election years in both the US and my home of Australia, we can think too about creation in the way in which we vote. Donald Trump wants to undo Obama’s advances on climate. The Australian government at various levels continues to push fossil fuels over renewables, and even had a hand at censoring an UNESCO report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef.
Let’s be clear, far be it from me to tell you how to vote, but you vote for or against the environment or creation whether you do so consciously or not, just as you might do on any number of justice issues. So if the Lord desires us to do justice, then we might think about how our decisions about the Earth are just in their impact on it and other people around the world. Our own elections and associated politics don’t stop at our borders given that we are involved in one household – a global economy and one Earth. The God who made this world allotted the nations so people would seek after him, not so the Earth might be trashed while some of those nations prospered on the backs of others. Happy World Environment Day!