Author: Creation Care Team
Category: Creation Care
The summer of 2012 will long be remembered in Jamaica for the exuberant outbursts of national pride, with displays of black, green, and gold -the national colors –splashed everywhere. It was Jamaica’s celebration of its first jubilee of political independence. And, coincidentally, while the nation was celebrating at home, its super athletes were lighting up the tracks at the London 2012 summer Olympic Games, bringing more glory to the small Caribbean island state.
As the nation celebrated JAMAICA 50 many citizens recited the NATIONAL PLEDGE. This is a remarkable instrument of national pride. The pledge invites every citizen to recite:
Before God and All mankind. I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart The wisdom and courage of my mind, The strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens.
I promise to stand up for justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, To think generously and honestly, so that, Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.
Observing that the national pledge invites and promises action so that “Jamaica may increase in beauty, fellowship, and prosperity…” the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology based in Jamaica hosted an interactive Theology Workshop on campus on September 8, on the topic: “Jamaica 50: The church in search of a viable theology of environment”. The audience of students, lecturers, and members of the public had the opportunity to interact with presentations from a panel of experts. The panel included Dr. Barry Wade, well-known Caribbean marine ecologist and author of the book, ‘Ministry at the Margins’, Prof. Elizabeth Hope-Thomas, Chair of Environmental Management at the University of The West Indies, Rev. Dr. Garnet Brown, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of the Built Environment, University of Technology, Jamaica, and rural development consultant, and Dr. Las Newman, President of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology.
The first presenter, Dr. Barry Wade, focused on the human environment of the poor and marginalized. In his presentation entitled, ‘Environmental Justice and the Poor: Problem of squatting, landlessness, and environmental refugees in a Christian society’, he pointed out that “worldwide, but especially in third world countries, squatting is a major social, legal and environmental problem resulting in transient and inhumane living conditions, frequent conflict with state security forces, and sometimes almost irreversible environmental degradation such as damage to forests and watersheds, erosion of hillsides, fouling of rivers and other water resources, and the pollution of coastal waters”. He noted that approximately 40% of Jamaicans now live as squatters on land they have “captured” and for very similar reasons, more than 90% of the rural poor in Haiti are squatters while in Latin America, for slightly different historical reasons, squatting is an equally prevalent problem ranging from a low of 55% of the population in Costa Rica to a high of 85% in Bolivia and Guatemala. The church, he says, must play a role in this entrenched ecological problem.
Prof. Elizabeth Hope-Thomas, in her presentation on "Concepts of a Moral Relationship within Earth", suggested that the concept of stewardship as a way of understanding human responsibility for caring for creation may be an inadequate concept. Instead, she proposed the concept of moral relationship as a much better and larger concept. The morality of our relationship with the earth, she suggested, is much more dynamic and obligatory than the management function the concept of stewardship implies.
Dr. Garnet Brown, a Minister of the Methodist Church, in outlining some theological underpinnings of the concepts of Environmental Stewardship, argued that wanton abuse of the environment is a ‘defacement of God’s glory’. He challenged the Church and Christian individuals regarding their roles in fostering community environmental awareness and argued the case for ‘Eco-Justice’.
Dr. Las Newman, in his presentation, Faith and Environment: Black Mass and the End of Time, called attention to what he described as the ‘pollution of the human mind’. This state of mind, he argued, is what leads to the abuse of the environment, and neglect of the social application of faith. He challenged the audience to consider the relationship between their practice of personal faith and the mandate of caring for creation. “Is the church only about praise and worship and a spirituality that is disconnected from the realities around it”, he asked? Does faith matter to the environment? He warned against apocalyptic religion that asks, ‘why bother’, since the end of time is near.
What shall we do?
In issuing a Call to Action, Newman emphasized that individuals may find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the debate over the current ecological crisis and the political action that is required to bring about change. So many arguments and counter-arguments are put forward. How do you sort these out? What should you do? One action you should not take, he suggested, is to do nothing. So much is at stake. We should all commit to creating low-carbon societies. This will involve conservation and preservation of the environment, pollution prevention activities, utilization of renewable energy sources, and taking appropriate measures to mitigate environmental degradation. Let’s start a new green revolution, he challenged.
There are many things individuals can do. Some actions you can take may include the following: