“Can I talk about rubbish?”

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We’ve been busy, but it’s been a good kind of busy. Our sewing enterprise continues to take shape. We’re hoping sales in New Zealand and Australia can help us keep the prices affordable for the local market, thereby contributing, even in a small way, to reduced rubbish and carbon footprint. We’re approaching food banks in NZ about whether they’d accept our re-usable cloth sanitary pads if donated for those unable to afford disposable pads (apparently topical there right now). Let us know if making such a donation interests you or a group you know. Email office@nzcms.org.nz if you want to hear more.

Hearing about our products, our girl’s teacher invited one of us to be the “creative parent teacher” on the theme of “women’s empowerment” to celebrate the birthday of a famous campaigner for girls’ education. “Can I talk about rubbish?” she asked. “Of course,” he replied, “the main thing is that you’re a woman.”

So began our series of presentations: “Living with rubbish”. Where does rubbish go? What animals are affected? What happens when you burn it? All novel questions, it seems, around here. Promoting the three “R” (reduce, reuse, recycle), we discussed alternatives to buying heavily packaged takeaways, which left parents and teachers in the audience challenged to change their consumption habits. “This is really important,” said one parent, “everyone should hear this”. After three years of living with the overwhelming reality of the rubbish around us, it is deeply satisfying to share meaningfully about this.

We’ve done the presentation five times now, including in our neighbourhood. As well as a platform to promote the products, it feels good to celebrate our rubbish-picking neighbours as eco-heroes. Without them, our city would have 30% more rubbish to deal with! Unfortunately, they are often regarded as dirty, impolite, unhealthy bottom-feeders. “They’re actually richer than many of the legitimate citizens of this area,” the local government official tried to tell me, “squatting for free, paying no tax. They can just go home to their houses in the village.”

Such discussions have been informed by my part-time study. This semester’s topic was “climate change, justice and sustainability.” One of my first assignments was to write a letter to people back home about my convictions about climate change. You can ask for a copy by emailing office@nzcms.org.nz. I’ve also written an essay regarding “Rich Christians in an Age of Climate Change” with some thoughts for the church here, and another essay on climate change risks for our rubbish-picking neighbours and local perceptions and priorities to adapt to an increasingly uncertain future.

Who’ll suffer from Climate Change?

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By Ian Wells (writing about the fifth ‘mark of mission’: environmental concern).

God has given us all the gift of being able to understand the creation he has placed us in. Not only can we start to contemplate the mysteries  of stars and galaxies far beyond our own world, but we’re also learning more and more about the world here on earth that God has given us. The more we learn about our world and nature, the more we can see we are blessed and have been given a very special planet to care for.

God has also given us the ability to understand that our earth’s natural environment is at great risk right now. Scientific data is  clear. We humans are changing the climate, a climate that has been reasonably stable for tens of thousands of years. Climate change is a global problem and, despite what we might wish, is now one of the principal challenges facing humanity.

God has given us the ability to understand the effects of these climate changes and we can easily predict they will  have a disproportional effect on the poor of the world. As a small example, rich people can afford to move, while the poor cannot.

Christians have a special contribution in addressing climate change, because Jesus has taught us to care for the poor. This is a time for us to act on the principles that Jesus taught us.

Climate change is no longer a scientific issues – science is very clear what is happening to our earth. It’s not a technical issue – there is no magic “technical fix” or “app” that will reverse climate change (although we wish there was one!). It’s not just an economic issue or a business issue – dollars alone will not buy a “solution” (and parts of exponential economic growth are hitting hard our planetary boundaries). It’s not something that will get resolved only by some expert or a political leader. The Paris climate summit will help, but isn’t sufficient. The actions required to help the poor and our planet require significant choices and work by all of us.

Addressing climate change also requires moral choices. Which is why our Christian voice is so important.

How is Climate Change related to mission?  Here are five Oceania environmental impacts (as measured by Caritas)

Extreme weather Coastal erosion, flooding and rising sea levels Access to safe, healthy food and water Offshore mining Climate finance – who is benefiting?

​The major Oceania communities are currently seeing the most impact from extreme weather (such as recent severe cyclones). Money and resources should be going into building a low-carbon, climate resilient future, not “business as usual.” Ecological citizenship needs to be developed, in our faith communities and in our mission.

This topic can appear overwhelming. Some people feel its so big and our voices are so small, we just do nothing. Apathy results. This is not what Jesus taught us to do. There are similarities to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. Christians, even those benefiting economically from the slave trade, acted on their Christian values to end the slave trade. It was not easy. But it was the Christian thing to do. Again we are called.

What can you do now? Start simple. Start fun. Take the first step and join with other Christians in this Saturday’s Climate march: Christchurch – Victoria Square,  12:30;  Auckland – Mt Albert park, 11am; Wellington – Civic Square, 1pm. There will be many groups at these parades – look for the Christian church signs and meet others.

This problem is hard. We cannot do it alone. But God is with us. Please contribute your ideas and concerns on our Facebook page.