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Peace and Reconciliation Righting ecological wrongs looking after shared spaces and places How do we reconcile with our environment? Jason John, Adelaide.

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Presentation on theme: "Peace and Reconciliation Righting ecological wrongs looking after shared spaces and places How do we reconcile with our environment? Jason John, Adelaide."— Presentation transcript:

1 Peace and Reconciliation Righting ecological wrongs looking after shared spaces and places How do we reconcile with our environment? Jason John, Adelaide (ex-Brisbane) (http://ecofaith.org )http://ecofaith.org

2 Peace and Reconciliation This is the “director's cut” with additional notes and slides I didn't have time for on the day, plus some references and hyperlinks Jason John, Adelaide (ex-Brisbane) (http://ecofaith.org)http://ecofaith.org

3 permaculture love/reverence science Some of my tapestry Which will weave through this presentation

4 Humans gathering as part of life, not the centre of it, to worship the ancient God of this evolving Life. Ancient, personal but not human; as much male as female. The God who is beyond us, became one with us, and remains within and amongst us. A faith community to which all people of good will are welcome, whether they have four, two, or no legs. This is a worshipping community I convene. Thought from its members also weave into this presentation

5 Human Peace & Reconciliation H.I.M. Haile Selassie address to the United Nations Oct 6, 1963 (Peace in the African Context) Better known in the Jamaican/American context… Or the Irish/Catholic/Institutional context depending on your generation

6 Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is war

7 Until the ignoble and unhappy regime which holds all of us through, child-abuse, yeah, child-abuse yeah, sub-human bondage has been toppled, utterly destroyed, everywhere is war.

8 Human Peace & Reconciliation We kind of know what human peace looks like –H.I.M. Haile Selassie (African Context) –Bob Marley- War (Jamaican / American) –Sinead O’Connor (Irish/Catholic/Institutional) What about for the rest of life? –What is ecological reconciliation / peace / righting ecological wrongs? –What do we have to wait until?

9 Until the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is “war…” How would the Lorax write this song…

10 The philosophy… “Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.” Lynn White 1967 “… we are a spirit made in the image of God…of infinitely more value than the whole earth…” John Wesley 1800s ‘man [sic] is the only creature on earth that God wanted for its own sake’.” John Paul II, 1996

11 This philosophy survives because Christianity is still, practically, amongst most of us in the industrial west, tied to the small story of God and Earth, which is a synthesis of the two creation stories in Genesis I and II.

12 The small story Christian (Judeo/Islamic?) (western?) PS- Most/all religions thought their small story was the big story. This is the Christian case study. (How) Does your faith story need to change? God created earth, the universe, plants and animals (five days), then God created humans to be special (in God’s image) and in charge (1 day), told them to look after the place, they didn’t, everything was wrecked, death and pain entered the world, things have been that way ever since and will be until God does something spectacular to fix it (opinions vary about how: either bringing everyone to Jerusalem to admit that Yahweh is God and making lions vegetarian; starting again with a completely new earth; or just destroying all matter and opting for an Earth free “spiritual” eternal future)*.

13 The small story Ecological history = human history humans appeared days after Earth humans will be here until the end humans are the centre of the story of God and life Ecological peace = human peace, and requires humans to maintain it. Humans are central, superior.

14 The small story put in traditional Christian categories… There was a time of ecological peace “Perfect” Garden of Eden- no pain death etc Humans were put in charge to maintain peace humans alone are the Image of God Dominion / servant-hood / stewardship Humans destroyed ecological peace Original Sin, Expulsion from the Garden humans -> pain, death etc (‘war’)

15 Until the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned Everywhere is “war…”

16 Discredited and Abandoned… Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious… I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists. Lynn White 1967 Discredit and abandon the SMALL story –Especially the western Christian small story But not Christianity. There is a BIG Christian story –cosmological and evolutionary. (PS Other spiritualities may need to face this too, being retold in the big story)

17 The BIG story (in a really small space of time, omitting the God bits and any sense of poetry) The universe started, zillions of degrees. Energy becomes matter, stars birth all the elements in the universe, some congregate on a little planet near a little sun on the edge of the Milky Way, which is itself on the edge of the universe. (10 billion years) Bubble bubble, toil and trouble, chemicals start sticking together, and in the vents of underwater volcanoes they form big chains which eventually form RNA, which eventually forms little cells. Many start splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. They use the hydrogen as a food source, and oxygen bubbles off as a waste product. Oxygen levels build up and kills most of them- the first pollution crisis on Earth. Some manage to recycle (eating oxygen), and survive. Others eat these recyclers, but a few recyclers manage to hide inside their captors, and hey presto- we have the cells which will go on to be the ancestors of ever animal and plant on the planet. That’s because some of them start to hang out together, creating the first multi-cellular blobs (your great great great… uncle/aunt- there is no gender yet)

18 The BIG story (in a really small space of time, omitting the God bits and any sense of poetry) So we already have sex (of a kind) and death, but no pain yet. Once the multicellular organisms start to develop nerves and senses and eventually brains, pain comes along to warn them when they are in trouble. Then there is basically lots of sex and death and some pain, and the dna builds a whole host of bodies, or machines in which to find other bits of dna to reproduce with. Now about 6 times this process nearly comes to an end, as either enormous volcanoes erupt, or comets hit the earth, and so on. Up to 98% of life gets wiped out in the worst event, and of course we all know what happened to the dinosaurs (patent pending) 65 million years ago. And along with the nerves to protect the machines, come all kinds of feelings, and the machines start to have ideas of their own, and things like love and joy and jealousy and fear and happiness and humour and dark brooding enter the world, especially amongst the primates. (Well, it was really just one species of primate that gave them the name primates (the first, the most important)). The dna didn’t call them anything, and as for what other animals called them, well that’s hardly printable!

19 The BIG story (in a really small space of time, omitting the God bits and any sense of poetry) Anyway, they didn’t last long, and the dna continued on making machines, but as the sun got bigger and hotter, and there was less oxygen, the brainy machines got harder and harder to maintain, so the dna downsized, dumped the V12 mammals and V8 reptiles, and went back to little 4 cylinder insects, and eventually just to bacteria again (which had always been the most numerous machines on the planet, which most dna could afford, and the ones who actually did all the work running the place, with a bit of help from the plants). And then pft! The sun melted the earth and that was that. Fortunately, since there are more suns in the universe than there are grains of sand on every beach and desert on the now melted planet earth, life continued merrily along in other forms for a couple of trillion years.

20 The BIG story PS- Other bigger versions of the big story: My thesis has a long version (http://ecofaith.org/papers) just of the science, then reflects on it theologically.http://ecofaith.org/papers I’m working on a kids and adults book which I can you drafts of. I’ve pasted the story from the adults draft in the speaker’s notes here (no piccies though) Michael Dowd & Connie Barlow will tell you about their version of The Great Story and its spiritual significance (www.thegreatstory.org, Born with a Bang / From Lava to Life / Morphing Mammals- 3 book series for kids by Jennifer Morgan, personifies the Universe, doesn’t mention God.

21 The BIG story PPS- A quick Christian poem version: Evolutionists Genesis 1. It’s been evolving since 2000, and continues to… Before the beginning there was God, God alone. And God said, "Let there be." And there was. A massive explosion, billions of billions of degrees centigrade. Energy screaming out in all directions, God's relationship to creation had begun. And God was there, for thousands, and millions, and billions of years as the energy became matter, and matter became dust, and the dust formed galaxies and quasars and solar systems, and our sun, and our earth. And God saw the universe, billions of billions of kilometres wide, full of 70 million, million, million stars, and God saw that it was Good. And God was there... as our planet cooled and brought forth life, and God's relationship with life began, and that relationship was good. And God was there... as life became cells- the first complex creatures in our part of the universe, and God saw that they were good. And God was there... as sexual reproduction emerged for the first time in our part of the universe, and God saw that sex was good.

22 The BIG story And God was there... as the vertebrates emerged: fish, amphibians, dinosaurs, tiny mammals, birds. Birth, sex, death. God was there for a billion years as organisms and species came and went and related to each other. Each species, each individual, each relationship adding to God’s richness of experience of life, giving God more to love, more to be God of. God watched the cycle of life, and saw that it was good. And God was there. As the mammals grew smarter, developing languages and tools and a sense of something beyond them- the first stirrings of a response to the Word of God. Some returned to the oceans and shed their hair and swapped legs and hands for fins. Some stayed on the coast, and shed their hair but kept their hands to hold tools, and their feet to walk. They stood up, they grew smarter. Perhaps too smart, perhaps not smart enough. And the Word of God amongst us hairless apes grew louder, and so did the opposition to it. So the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and was adored and loved and cherished, and despised and rejected and killed. And raised. And we humans have never been the same since. Jason John

23 The BIG story: humans a tiny part Humanity, even consciousness, is a tiny part of the Earth story

24 The BIG story: the rocky road Long before humans, this world of ecological peace was rocked by mass extinctions

25 The BIG story Ecological history is not human history –Industrial history4 cm –Christian history 40 cm –Australian human history 10 m –H. sapiens story 80 m –Homostory 400 m –Mammals’ story 13 km (1/2 way to coast) –Life story 800 km (Coffs Harbour) –Future Life story 1600? km (Melb/Adel) Most of the story of God and life on Earth has nothing to do with humans

26 The BIG story ecological peace (pre human) Included death and whole species extinction Included pain, sickness etc Included predation (the deliberate killing of someone because they are “different”) Included rivalry (killing of those who are the “same”) Included unequal distribution of resources Included love, tenderness, sharing, compassion etc Pain, death, extinction, unequal resource sharing are GOOD if evolution is good (which it must be if our existence is good)

27 The BIG story There was a time of ecological peace included pain death and humans All of life maintains “peace”, especially bacteria all of life is the Image of God* all of life has dominion (esp bacteria) Some Humans destroyed ecological peace they lost inner peace, it can be nurtured

28 The BIG story There was a time of ecological peace included pain death and humans All of life maintains “peace”, especially bacteria all of life is the Image of God all of life has dominion (esp bacteria) Some Humans destroyed ecological peace they lost inner peace, it can be nurtured

29 Only –after reconciliation –Or for those who have always been “conciled” Only after the philosophy which holds one species superior… … is it safe to talk about “Looking after shared spaces.”*

30 Shared Spaces Global Footprint –Four planet earths for all humans to live like the “Average Australian” –IF we leave no productive land for any other life forms. –How much of the Earth should our species share? From our point of view (hard enough to work out) From God’s (perilous indeed)

31 Sharing: our “spiritual” benefit Since LIFE is the image of God, –The more we share our lives with LIFE, the more we share our lives with God If we relate only to our family pet and plastic wrapped meat, what becomes of our relationship with God? –Christianity: Love God and love neighbour as self In the BIG picture, life is neighbour / relation / brother/sister To the extent that we love neighbour/country, we can love God “those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” To the extent that we know ourselves to be “conciled”/part of country, we can be reconciled/ part of God

32 Sharing: our “spiritual” benefit Since LIFE is the image of God, –reverence for life -> reverence for God –To the extent that we see country/life, we can “see” God –To the extent that we know ourselves to be “conciled”/part of country, we can be reconciled/ part of God

33 Meeting our inherent mammalian needs* –Bondedness (love), autonomy, meaning –For 99% of our evolution, met in: Small, stable, nomadic groups with few possessions, in intimate connection with the rest of LIFE (like it or not) Able/desiring only to meet needs not greeds (eg Australians for 50,000 odd years) –We are not hopeless sinners, but human brains are at odds with Western industrial capitalistic environment. For more on this see Sharing: our psychological benefit

34 Small story –ecological peace will come from human peace (when God brings about human peace through divine intervention) Big story –Human (psychological) peace depends on ecological “peace” and reconciliation to our ecological family. So does human spirituality and ability to relate to God. Sharing: our “material” benefit

35 Sharing: God’s benefit Why did God birth the universe? –To have something to be God of –To have something to love –To be set free from an eternity of sameness –To be changed through relationships (love) –To have “rich experiences” / abundant life

36 God’s rich experiences… "Whereas it is true to say that in God's primordial nature God creates the world, it is also true to say that in God's consequent nature the world creates God... Our immediate actions eventually perish but yet they live for evermore in the divine memory. This idea that our existence from moment to moment enriches the divine life. [This] is part of a stream of thought which stretches at least as far back as Plato and parts of the Judeo- Christian scriptures, through Schelling... Tillich and Whitehead… everything we do makes a difference to God. This is true of the lesser all creatures also. God will never be the same again because we have lived and because they also have lived” (This is process theology thru the Aussie - Charles Birch, Biology and the Riddle of Life, p. 136)

37 God stuff God’s experiences of Life: –Through life (seeing through the eyes of an eagle and the sonar of a bat) The death of the last bunyip mattered. –Of life (experiencing an eagle in and of itself (also a tree, mountain etc) Everything, not just thoughtful things, matter –In relationships The death of the last bunyip family mattered (This expands on Process Theology, see my thesis section 9.5, which you can find at

38 God stuff So “looking after” shared spaces might mean doing that which enriches God’s experience of life during our time here, and after we are gone Leaving an evolutionary legacy. Seeking abundant life for all Life, –for us –for the God of Life.

39 Until… the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned. As reflected in: –The number of Earth’s we need –Our prayers, hymns and homilies –Our dinner plate…

40 Until… with apologies to Selassie, Marley, O’Connor and you, the reader… until the philosophy which holds one species superior and all others inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: We must do more- do more. until there are no longer some who claim the image of God as their distinction until regardless of our skin, we are all of significance and granted certain rights we want more That until there is reverence for all living beings and love is shown to all of every kind God wants more Until that day, the God of lasting peace, will suffer much, and question our morality. And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our sisters as factory food, for cosmetic torture, clear felled forests: subhuman bondage Have been replaced with custodianship, food will come through war, agricultural war. Dead reefs to the east Dead rivers to the west Drought up north Ozone layer down south. More. Stop wanting more. Until that change, the Australian continent will not know peace. Life will fight. Human extinction necessary. Life will win, for it is confident, in the victory. Of evolution. Of the big story, the God of all life, of country.

41 Or- the 48 second version In 2001, sleep deprived, I ad- libbed a video for a National UCA Assembly ‘vox pop’ I then spent a day making it pretty instead of writing my thesis. The video is at ogy/evolution/videos/jj_vision_ fancy64k.wmv ogy/evolution/videos/jj_vision_ fancy64k.wmv the text is on the next page

42 Or- the 48 second version My hope for the Uniting Church is that we will become a biocentric faith community. One which understands that the central story of the universe is between God and life, not God and Homo sapiens That we will come to see our place in the universe as being much smaller than we think it to be That we wont so much think like a mountain, as think like the God who was here before the mountains were even formed Who for billions of years had a relationship with life before we ever arrived That we will discard the theology that creates an intrinsic distinction between us and the other animals. And that with this more humble view of our place in this universe and in God’s heart, we will make room for the other creatures which we share this planet with, so that can all have the relationship with God which God desires

43 MORE OUT-TAKES

44 Versions of ecological peace which reside in small versions of the Christian story, which I think have been discredited and need to be abandoned. (even though I resonate with the sentiment behind some of it)

45 SMALL STORY Ecological Peace Isaiah 11 / Hebrew / common Christian Until the wolf stops eating lambs, And the lion becomes vegetarian And our babies are no longer bitten by snakes… Ecological Peace as an end to death etc. This situation never was and never will be.

46 SMALL STORY Ecological Peace Paul (Romans 8) Until God’s current regime which holds all creation in decay and in the pangs of birth- tied up in bondage Is finally and permanently, ended, through our revelation and granted freedom. Everywhere is war. Ecological “war” is God’s will, to rescue humans. Yuk.

47 SMALL STORY Ecological Peace Christian Apocalyptic Until Jesus comes back and kicks the arse of every evil dude in every nation There’s going to be wars Until the colour of the sky is red as God burns up the earth and starts a new one There’s going to be wars… Until judgment day, the dream of lasting peace shall remain but an illusion to be pursued, but never attained!

48 REALLY SPECULATIVE I’m not sure about including the following slides. It represents some first thoughts about how an understanding of custodianship might intersect with the ancient evolutionary story of Australia before humans Driven in part by my own critique of permaculture, of which I am fond. Can talk of “care for country” or “care for a garden” mask the fact that we are really, as all animals do, primarily manipulating it for ourselves? Some other species benefit as a result, whilst others perish. I DON’T THINK THIS IS A BAD THING IN ITSELF, but maybe it helps to know that that I what we are doing, as I allows us to be more self critical. Both “care of country” and permaculture are heaps better than the technological war on country which we see around us, but neither are self- disinterested. Anyway, the following slides are included as first thoughts which I didn’t have time for in the conference. I’d welcome any feedback or to know of anyone who is already further down the path on these thoughts than me.

49 ecological peace Where did ecological peace end in Australia? –“50,000” years ago? Some marsupials might say so, but others benefited. If peace includes extinction and changing environments Since with limited technology groups pay the price for their own ecological decisions, if any tribes/nations did wage ecological war then probably did not survive. Over 50,000 years, we ended up with those tribe/nations which learned ecological peace. It was certainly relatively peaceful compared to… –200ish years ago until now Technology means perpetrators are buffered from the consequences of their actions, humans who control big technologies can wage ecological war and still survive, at least for 200 years, as we have seen around the world. They did not all deliberately wage war, many thought they were doing a good thing. Some acted evilly, some ignorantly. The time of ignorance as an excuse is now (should be) long past us. Being in denial is not being ignorant.

50 ecological peace 50,000ish-200ish years ago Included significant changes to the environment –Fire The environmental impact of Aboriginal landscape burning is one of the most complex and contentious issues in Australian ecology* –Dingoes All species modify their environment to suit themselves. Some other species benefit, others lose out. –Eg roos, dingoes & eucalypts benefited

51 ecological peace now Permaculture –The rhetoric: an attempt at sharing space, at fostering ecological peace Bringing food and shelter production “home” Minimising resource useage. “Harmonious” integration. Working with nature. –But… It is still practised by a species manipulating the environment to suit itself. Some life forms benefit, others don’t. MANY MORE benefit than through industrial agriculture and factory farming, but food production is never value free or consequence free. See notes for my own confessions of a permaculturalist

52 Looking after shared places If it is to be our “place” we must fulfil our needs at the expense of some other life forms (as others do to us). –To be in Country, to do permaculture, versus visiting a national park, is to use and be used. What is the need to be met? –Food, shelter, love, meaningful activity. –Perhaps we can meet needs “peacefully”, but not greeds? –“Do for others as you would have them do for you”- other is not just neighbour, or enemy, but all life.


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