Reading: Isaiah 61:1-7
Today’s bible reading from Isaiah is one of my favourites and it’s obviously one of Jesus’ too because it’s the one he is reported to have read aloud in the synagogue. It’s about the Messiah, the servant of God who has come to bring good news, comfort and restoration to the poor. There are just so many good bits in this reading to talk about we could be here till midnight…2009, so I’m only going to focus on one section, verse 4. My NRSV translation reads:
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
They shall raise up the former devastations;
They shall repair the ruined cities,
The devastations of many generations.
According to my Hebrew teacher, it would be better translated…
They shall rebuild the destroyed world
They shall restore the ancient wastelands
They shall make new the trashed places
That many generations have ruined.
I love this translation because tonight I want to talk about climate change. Whoever wrote this passage in what is what is often called, `Third Isaiah` – which means they’re writing around the 5th Century BCE – probably wasn’t that concerned with climate change, but rather with the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Unlike us, the ancient peoples of the Bible were an agrarian society. They were deeply connected to the Earth and its creatures because their survival depended directly upon it.
We, however, in the 21st Century technological, urban world are disconnected from our relationship to the earth and her creatures. Until something disastrous happens, like a tsunami or a cyclone, we tend to think that our survival depends solely on technology and our GDP. We are only gradually becoming aware of our dependence and direct relationship to the earth and other creatures as global warming brings us to the brink of disaster.
In his book, Reenchantment: a New Australian Spirituality, David Tacey wrote this about Australian people: ‘We have no cosmology to link us spiritually with the world, and our official religious tradition is concerned more with heaven than with earth. It is hardly surprising, in view of this, that we face the prospect of ecological disaster.`
Recently Al Gore described climate change as the `Greatest challenge the human race has ever faced`. Theologian Sally MacFague states that, `Climate change, quite simply, is the issue of the 21st Century. It is not one issue among many, but, like the canary in the mine, it is warning us that the way we are living on our planet is causing us to head for disaster. We must change. All of the other issues we care about – social justice, peace, prosperity, freedom – cannot occur unless our planet is healthy.`
In 2007 the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that the scientific evidence for climate change/global warming was unequivocal. We are to expect a temperature increase of, at best 4.5 degrees but more than likely 6 degrees by 2100. And if 6 degrees doesn’t sound like much let me remind you that the last ice-age was only 5 degrees cooler than now. It also estimated that the entire North Pole region will be ice-free in summer within the next few years.
In her book, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology, Sally MacFague presents the model of the universe as God’s body which is being battered by ecological deterioration, brought about by a deadly enemy: ourselves. Our addiction to our consumerist life-style is diminishing life on the planet. It is diminishing God. She suggests that we need a radical shift in our thinking and our way of living from how we can change the environment to suit our own needs to how we can adjust our desires, our needs, and our practices to what is best for the entire earth. We are fortunate today there is gradually more consciousness about the ways in which the earth is being diminished, however, unlike other emergencies such as the global economic crisis, we often do not react with as great a rush of energy to change our practices.
Ecologically speaking, you and I are living in an unsustainable way. We are depleting the Earth’s resources faster than they can be renewed. In order to deal with this situation, the practice of sustainable living must be adopted worldwide. ‘We’ includes governments, industries, corporations, communities and you and I. For people of faith, we are called to remember that our life-style plays a major role in whether the body of God is respected or destroyed.
I’ve been thinking about this sermon for a while now and every time I do I hear Neville’s words ringing in my ear, `It’s not about buying energy-saving light bulbs…`. However, for me, it is all about the little everyday things we do. We can’t just wait for the government to fix up the world while we drive around in huge gas-guzzling cars, leave the sprinklers on in the middle of the day and turn one million Christmas lights on all night for the entertainment of our neighbours. That’s exactly what the Australian government is doing, waiting to see what the Americans will do. So the last part of my message is just a list of practical things we can do to make a difference to our ‘carbon footprint’ on the earth.
So being a teacher I’m going to grade you on your care for the environment. You get one mark for each thing you do, and I’ll rate you at the end. So get your pencils out and no cheating.
Recycling: do you…
1. Recycle waste in the recycle bin (99% of Australians do)
2. Recycle organic waste – garden waste (66% of Australians do)
3. Recycle household waste
Vege scraps (27% of Australians do)
Plastic bags (89% of Australians do)
Old clothing/rags (41% of Australians do)
Motor oil (28% of Australians do)
4. Use a compost bin (46%)
Motor vehicle ownership and maintenance: do you…
5. Run car on gas (3%)
6. Use Hybrid or solar car (less than 1%)
7. Car-pool to work (5%)
8. Use public transport (14%)
9. Bike or walk to work
Do you purchase environmentally friendly products (90% used at least one type of EFP).
10. Recycled paper (i.e. toilet paper/ photocopy paper) 67%
11. Products with refillable containers (65%)
12. Unbleached paper products (46%)
13. Phosphate free cleaning products (40%)
14. Organic fruit and vegetables (39%)
15. Carbon Offsetting. Now opinion is divided on carbon offsetting. Some people, like my mum for example, believe that carbon offsetting (where you work out your carbon footprint on the world and then pay a company to plant trees or invest in renewable energy to store/offset that carbon dioxide) is a way of outsourcing guilt. In Europe, some commentators have compared carbon offset schemes with the Catholic Church’s papal indulgences of the Middle Ages- the notion that it’s okay to keep sinning as long as compensation is paid. It’s obviously far better to reduce your energy use that to offset it, however, if it’s good enough for Al Gore it’s good enough for me. Nic Frances, the executive chairman of Easy Being Green, an Australian company that helps households become green, estimates that the average household greenhouse emissions could be offset for less than $1 a day. What’s more, Ross and I have found that the less energy we use, the less money we have to give to ‘Carbon Neutral’ or ‘Men of the Trees’ each year to offset our emissions. This year, because we’ve done things like switched to 100% Green power with Synergy, offsetting our emissions is only going to cost us $120 this year.
16. Green Energy- another thing you can do to reduce your carbon emissions is to switch to green energy with Synergy. You can choose any percentage of your power to be sourced from green energy depending on what you can afford.
17. Solar power – you can purchase solar panels on your roof and sell the energy it produces back to the grid. At the moment the government is giving people an $8000 rebate on the cost of the panels and you should save yourself about $1000 a year on your electricity bill.
18. Plant native species in your garden and add logs or rocks to create habitat for native animals.
19. If you own a wood fire, do you get your firewood from a plantation timber yard? Leave logs in the bush for the birds and animals. Burn dry untreated small logs.
20. Only use natural herbicides and pesticides such as pyrethrum to protect birds and frogs.
21. Keep your cat indoors at night, put a bell on its collar and have it de-sexed.
22. Are you a member of a community group in your local area such as Landcare or Greening Australian, Conservation Volunteers Australia or The Threatened Species Network and volunteer to do tree-planting, seed collection and weed control.
23. Buy plantation timber or recycled timber if you are building or renovating.
24. Use your car efficiently by lightening the vehicle’s load – empty out the boot and remove roof- racks if not needed.
25. Drive smoothly instead of breaking at high speed.
26. Ensure your tires are filled to the maximum recommended air pressure.
27. Have your car serviced regularly.
28. Use a new air conditioner in your car. Air conditioning in cars before 1994 will probably have refrigerant in it which is harmful to the ozone layer- consider having it converted.
29. Do you keep warm in winter by rugging up. Do you not own an airconditioner.
30. Try to control the temperature at home without electrical appliances such as heaters or air- conditioners, by sealing cracks and gaps, close-fitting curtains or blinds with pelmets. If you’re building put in north facing windows and trees.
31. Do you choose energy efficient appliances – more stars means less greenhouse gasses.
32. Use your electrical appliances wisely – use cold water and only wash when you have a full load.
33. Only use dryers when absolutely necessary.
34. Switch off the TV and computer when you’re not using them.
35. Fit low wattage globes and turn off lights when you leave the room.
36. Do you use less hot water by having a Triple A-rated water efficient shower roses. Use a dual flush toilet.
37. Fix leaking taps.
38. Use gas or solar hot water.
39. Reduce the waste you produce by purchasing less ‘stuff’, and buy less packaging on the ‘stuff’ you do purchase as 1/3 of domestic waste is made up of packaging.
40. Own a worm farm.
41. Take note of what goes down the drain: don’t put oils, fat or harmful chemicals down the sink. They end up in the rivers, lakes or oceans and harm the water quality and wildlife.
42. Use a strainer in the kitchen sink to collect solids from the washing up water.
43. Use environmentally friendly cleaning products.
44. Get a rain-water tank.
45. Use a front-loading washing machine.
46. Plant trees.
47. Choose a gas cooktops and ovens rather than electric ones.
48. Use rechargeable batteries.
49. Be a vegetarian. It’s not just the farting cows that ruin the ozone layer, it’s the land that is cleared for livestock.
50. Do you holiday locally, rather than flying in a plane. And if you do have to fly do you carbon offset the trip.
Now you should have a mark out of 50. Double it and you get your percentage. 0-49 is a fail; 50-69 is a C, 70-79 is a B, and 80-100 is an A.
In closing I’d just like to encourage you to go for an A. Every little thing we do does make a difference. Everyone can get an A in this class. And there is much reason to hope on a global scale too. Just this week Kevin 07 has said that he won’t bow to pressure from business groups to delay the start of an emissions trading scheme. The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon at the recent UN talks on Climate Change in Poland said a new UN climate deal could be agreed, as planned, despite the recession. And Al Gore, who said that he was both joyous (which is very appropriate in this week of Advent) and ‘in a fighting mood’, said that he is confident that we will see a far more active US climate policy under President-elect Barack Obama. To quote him, `To those who are fearful that it is too difficult to conclude this process with a new treaty by the deadline that has been set ... I say it can be done, it must be done`. He won a two-minute standing ovation after ending his speech by quoting Mr Obama`s election campaign slogan saying `Yes we can`.