Report on Global Change Consultation at Dunedin MM

Query 1. How has global change affected our communities and ourselves?

Awareness – Locally, everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand is now aware of global problems – environmental disasters, workforce changes etc.  However action is not straightforward: a practice that seems to be ‘good’ for one country may seem at the same time to be ‘bad’ for another or for the world community, eg. job gains in one country may mean job losses in another, buying produce from a poor country may help it, but buying locally will  reduce emissions from transport.

Global approach – Nature is a closed system and there is a limit to resources globally.  We need to act with a global outlook. How can Aotearoa New Zealand be a better neighbour to others in Asia and the Pacific?

Global weather changes will affect immigration, refugee arrivals and jobs, with the potential for instability.
The government emphasises economic growth – There should be more meaningful measures of a country’s ‘success’.   However many other countries see Western-style economies and lifestyles as something to aspire to.

The government is seeking new sources of fossil fuels to sell overseas while keeping a clean green image at home.  There are increased costs for energy and for food.  It is a problem for New Zealanders on low incomes that the dairy products we produce have become more expensive because they are sold locally at international prices.  There is only minimal protection for the vulnerable through our welfare state.  The West could learn from other societies with stronger community supports and connections.

Replacement versus repair –  In the past, products were made to last and were often repaired, whereas it is now too costly or impractical to repair them.  This is wasteful of resources.

What of the birds and other wildlife? – Their habitats are being affected within New Zealand and some migrating birds have had their habitats destroyed overseas.

Query 2. What actions have we taken in response to global change as experienced in our area, to express our responsibilities towards all creation?

We each do small actions on a personal level- make compost, plant vegetables and fruit trees, recycle, turn off lights, buy locally, carpool, drive a car with a low fuel consumption, walk, take public transport, ride a bike, improve home insulation, support breastfeeding instead of cows’ milk for babies, living in a community and sharing food and housing, broadcast interviews about sustainability on local radio….
Since the global downturn in the economy, the government tells us that the economy will improve if we consume more.  The economic system is based on growth and greed.   We need to question this publicly, pointing out that more doesn’t equate with happiness.

Query 4.  What stories or experiences from past times of catastrophic happenings…might inspire us to respond to the changes the world is facing today?

Several contributors spoke of personal or family experience:

The dustbowl in SW USA in 1930s forcing family to move state as environmental refugees. Dustbowl caused by inappropriate farming methods plus drought and high winds.

Drought in Australia in 1940-50s. Also use of pesticides – DDT in orchard caused birds to disappear because of lack of insects to be eaten. This was less ‘inspiration’ than ‘motivation’ to act. Connections made when read Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”.

Drought in Southland, NZ in 1970s. Recalled being blown over a fence as a child. Adam and Eve depicted as stewards of the earth; now see abuse as well as use. Jesus promises all will be well on his return.
WWII a major life event. Catchphrase ‘Dig for Victory’ promoted growing own produce everywhere possible.

Children of parents from WWII learnt to re-use and recycle. Move to NZ from UK provoked by feeling that UK cannot sustain 60 million or more people.

Noah’s story – the flood- tempered with addition of dove and olive branch, symbols of reconciliation, peace between God and man. Spiritual as well as physical balance required.

Jesus: too few people believe in him.  He is here now. Listen to the leadings of the spirit. The spirit of what Jesus preached can be reached without necessarily invoking Jesus. Buddhists and other groups can also be part of it.

Climate change should be viewed as a crisis – like a war. Rationing should be considered, as it was in WWII.  When crisis is sufficiently large and sufficiently obvious to everybody then all (did/can) accept cuts in standard of living, all pull(ed) together.  Requires leadership also.  Global change not yet sufficiently obvious to everyone so not everyone is yet willing to make changes.

Leaders arise as needed. Crisis needs to be emphasised. Stern Report (October, 2006) advised reducing emissions, and preparing.  “The benefits of strong, early action on climate change considerably outweigh the costs.”

We need to bear witness, to testify to the urgency of climate change. (Quoting Query 6) “How are we messengers of the transforming power of love and hope?”

Query 5.  How can we bear witness to the abundance God offers us and testify to the world about ways in which justice, compassion and peace may address significant disruptions, stress and tensions?   and
Query 6.  How can we support one another in rekindling our love and respect for God’s Creation in such a way that we are messengers of the transforming power of love and hope?

From Ethiopia (famine) in the 1980s to Queensland (floods) and Brazil (mudslides) in 2011 – the crisis is here and obvious. Will ‘sufficiently obvious to all’ be too late?

People are concerned about Apocalyptic events.  They may be paralysed with fear, so it is important to focus on love, hope and positive events. There is a groundswell of change already – not necessarily motivated by religion, could be humanist.

Quakers say that “that of God” is there and will come through. Need to co-operate  with other groups and share faith.

Quote Suzuki: “If people can’t talk about hope then they should stay silent.”
Need to nurture the positive: it’s not just how much money you’ve got, the financial system isn’t working for everyone. The New Economic Foundation (nef – analyses what people can contribute to society and overturns our ways of thinking. Bears witness. Supports the positives – results are better if emphasis is placed on what people can do. This is ‘the transforming power of love and hope’ in Query 5.

Change has already started, rekindling love and respect. There is more awareness than there was even five years ago – no need to start at the beginning, we are already on the road. It is part of a continuum. eg already expanding own vegetable patch: practical action as well as theory needed.

Remember to love and respect ourselves, we are included in God’s creation. ‘That of God’ is within us here and now. There is no need to wait for Jesus’ return. ‘Abundance’ (quoting Query 5) includes the spirit in each person.

Quote Ruskin: “There is no wealth but life”.