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Caring for Creation Second Report

Posted on: August 22, 2002 12:55 PM
Related Categories: Southern Africa

Tuesday 20 August 2002

This morning delegates began, as they do each day, with meditation led by Claire Foster, taking one sentence from scripture. Today it was “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth”. Later, in the morning session, Peter Mann, who whilst addressing ‘Sacred Meals and Global Food Systems’, referred to the meditation as underpinning our recognition of food as sacred. Peter had been a Benedictine monk and in his work with World Hunger Year, he had been reminded of the importance of the monastic tradition of sharing meals together, and eating the food they had grown in their own fields. He questioned why, when there was an abundance of food throughout the world, 800 million people live in hunger, often in the countries producing most food.

Peter Mann spoke of the eucharist as a sacred meal that turned fear into hope, and recalled the power of sacred meals in Jesus’ ministry. The Church is very much involved today in feeding the hungry: “it’s heroic, admirable, but it’s not enough”. Peter reported on MacDonald’s aim to have one of its outlets available to everyone in the world within a four minute journey. This served to emphasise a situation that Peter felt could not be sustained – relying on an agricultural system of mono crops and simply treating the soil as somewhere to plant seeds and stuff to make them grow. As Vandana Shiva said, “Farmers should be the custodians of the genes of the earth, which are a free gift of nature”. Peter urged delegates to relearn a love of the soil and to respect its mystery so as to be ready for when present unsustainable systems of food production fail.

Jesse Jeyakaran of the Church of South India offered the observation that in India it was well recognized that there is a need to blend traditional and new techniques of farming.

Revd Canon Eric Beresford, co-ordinator of the Anglican Environmental Network, raised the issues of patenting and genetically modified crops, reporting from his Province of Canada that certain GM crops had a 15 – 20% lower yield and therefore not the benefit to food supplies that their supporters suggest. Eric also questioned how putting food production in the hands of just a few transnational biotechnology companies could improve distribution – possibly the greatest problem in feeding the world. He also suggested that rather than looking at sustainable development we should in fact be more concerned to promote sustainable communities.

Revd Sally Bingham, Director of Episcopal Power and Light, spoke of the need to understand where our energy comes from. She said that when people in the US, the greatest consumer of energy of all, understood the issue they were very willing to change. Delegates then heard from Bishop Rukirande, who was heading a project to produce solar energy in Uganda. The first solar panel was for an orphanage and later they presented their first home installation to a local Roman Catholic Cardinal. This project is now nationally recognized with the Church and government working together.

Rt Revd George Browning, the Bishop of Canberra apologized for Australians who produce the highest amounts of CO2 in the world, 37 tons per person per year. This was despite warnings that their country could be 40-60% drier as a result of climate change and it has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Nearly every family has someone with skin cancer. The Bishop spoke from first hand experience as his wife has recently been affected. Bishop George emphasized, both in his talk and later in the sermon he preached at eucharist, that environmental work was core Kingdom business, every bit as much as evangelizing. In his own diocese 22% of the population is Anglican. He was working to get all diocesan property and all Anglican families to use green energy.

Rt Revd John Oliver, the Bishop of Hereford, began his presentation saying his aim was to convert the Congress to support the idea of ‘contraction and convergence’. This theory has already considerable support but he was frustrated that so few people know about it. Contraction and convergence is an interim policy framework for implementing emission reduction which meets the US demands that the two thirds world joins and the two thirds world demand for equitable treatment. Contraction involves the world agreeing to contract the amount of emissions over to a specified amount. Convergence involves every country being given a certain number of permits to pollute, according to population size. Countries with spare permits to pollute can sell them to other, more polluting countries through emissions trading.. The Bishop emphasized the need for action now, as insurers calculate that by 2065 the cost of environmental damage will exceed the world’s GDP.

During the afternoon delegates visited an informal community, effectively a shanty town, called Diepsloot, where the Anglican Church is at the sharp end of encouraging sustainable community life with little official support, but with the huge gratitude of local people. The work of the local deacon ranges from organizing craft training to, sadly, dealing with up to ten deaths a week, including children. Eighty percent of residents are unemployed and there are no social security benefits. For those who do work, the costs of transport, food and water make improving their own lifestyle virtually impossible.

The day ended with a session drawing up two statements which the Congress is producing. One is a statement to the World Summit to be delivered by the UN Observer. The other is a pastoral letter to the Anglican Congress.

David Shreeve
Claire Foster

Good Shepherd Retreat Centre