Care for creation must be central
The following are excerpts from a keynote address that Debbie Poirier of Aspy Bay gave on Nov. 5 at the Women's Ecumenical Conference held in Baddeck.
We (mankind) share one destiny. Today, I plan to discuss the “why” - why we should care about creation? Care for creation is as central to the Christian faith as love, justice and peace.
Think about the choice to source most our energy from fossil fuels, from coal, oil and natural gas. That energy created industries that brought undreamed prosperity. But what of the costs of using fossil fuels? Oil spills, and the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are just two.
Over the years, commitments have been made to reduce our harmful impact on the planet. We want a greener, cleaner earth, but we all want our cars, our cozy homes and, of course, our electronics. Many of the activities we do every day like turning on the lights, cooking meals or heating and cooling their homes rely on fossil fuel energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heattrapping gases.
Canada is a country of wetlands - swamps, marshes and bugs. These wetlands cover 13% of our nation. Many of Canada’s important bird sanctuaries occur in these wetlands. Wetlands act as giant green paper towels on the landscape. They absorb floodwaters that spill into our rivers and brooks. I learned that in Nova Scotia alone, 50% of coastal salt marshes are now gone.
Environmental pollution, from filthy air to contaminated water, is killing more people every year then all the war and violence in the world. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is quoted as saying, “Pollution is a very serious issue. It is not a question of one nation or two nations, but of the survival and health of all of humanity. If we have a clear conscience about this problem and behave accordingly, it seems there’s a way to at least lessen this problem.”
There is hope, if we utilize new technology. Congregations should be examining how energy-efficient our buildings are. I know, I know, for some of us, we are so intent to keeping our churches afloat, we aren’t ready to take on one more project.
Think small steps.
Last year, I learned about the electronic energy meter. I purchased one in Sydney at a cost of $20. This meter monitors appliances and identifies those that consume the most energy. Perhaps your church group could purchase one and pass it around for the members to assess the efficiency of their appliances. Two churches in my community made a conscious effort to reduce their oil consumption. Rather than having the thermostat set at 20° in winter and run throughout the night, the thermostat is set to 10° and a volunteer goes in early the morning of the service and increases the setting to 20°. Yes, it means someone nearby must make a trip early in the morning, but we are consuming less fuel. It is my opinion that we have much to learn from the First Nations relationship with the earth and all living things. In the past, when Lottie [Johnson] conducted the sunrise service, she explained that indigenous people believe that they are caretakers of mother Earth. Those individuals respect Mother Earth’s gifts of water, air and fire. First Nations are taught that they should only take what they need. Care must be taken so that future generations will not be put in peril.
Interconnectedness is a central core of First Nations, Inuit and Métis worldviews. Speaking as a member of the United Church, I wonder how many of our members consider or except the notion that everything in the universe is connected.
In 1986, the 31st General Counsel of the United Church of Canada apologized to First Nations peoples. To quote moderator Bob Smith, “Long before my people journey to this land, you’re people were here, and you receive from your elders and understanding of creation aunt of the mystery that surrounds us all – that was deep and rich and to be treasured.”
Perhaps your church group could invite indigenous speakers to give a presentation on the seven sacred teachings. Or community members could visit one of the cultural and heritage centers or spend an afternoon at the Mi’kmaq Resource Center at Cape Breton University.
If we love our children and grandchildren, we must protect, heal and treat creation with reverence. We have to educate ourselves on the condition of this planet and what the future is going to look like.