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Taking a greener Journey

When I was in High School, we were required to study Confronting the Future, a book by scientist and theologian Charles Birch about the way the use of resources might impact on the world in which we live.

The basic premise was that environmental impact equals population, times the amount of resources used per person.

I remember it well because it shocked my adolescent self obsession.

This book took me beyond the concept that it was “all about me and my friends and family”, to the understanding that the way I behaved might actually be all about the entire world!
So how did Heather as a teenager deal with such a realisation? Generally, I ignored it.

I remember that I felt sick when I thought that, for all people in the world to live in a place of equal access to resources, I would have to give up things.

I also thought that if we run out of a resource and have to go back to sustainable living principles my particular gifts and skills would be pretty useless. But then, everything around me in my world seemed to be operating pretty normally, so I continued on without changing much at all.

And now? Sometimes, I take the commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle to serious levels. But I have not got to the “conversion of whole house to renewable energy” stage. I don’t ride a bike to work.

I shop at a supermarket that ships its products in from all over the country. I don’t agitate at council level for sustained and planned development of communities. My church, my shops, the kids’ schools and work, are all accessed by car rather than an integrated public transport system.

And yet, as I have lived out my faith, I have seriously considered this stuff. The maxim “think globally, act locally” works for me generally but, in the end, the decisions around resource use have all been too hard.

I pray regularly for strength and wisdom to act within God’s grace but I haven’t ordered that water tank yet, I’ve been too busy.

What will it take to move me from this position of good intentions to being a woman of action? I reckon it might have to be another shock. A shock that reminds me that the way I behave affects the entire world. I think that shock might be here with the rising awareness of climate change.

Now, all of a sudden, most people are talking about this in a serious way. A sense of urgency is building up about this issue. The recent visit of Al Gore, and the release of the Stern report, has meant that even our politicians are using the language of “carbon emission trading” and “greenhouse reduction targets”.

We are living through a point in history where our weather is changing. This is no longer in dispute. Australia is becoming hotter and drier. While there is disagreement about the extent to which human activity is contributing to this, most people agree that at the very least we are contributing to the “enhanced green house effect”.

So, guess what! I’ve installed the energy efficient light bulbs, we are buying a Honda Civic as our new car and the water tank person visited yesterday. I’ve had the conversion experience.

In my role as Social Responsibility Advocate I have always thought about climate change in the light of broad strategic methods to assist and facilitate change: namely through information, education and advocacy.

Instead, my conversion has taken me back to accepting responsibility for the choices I make concerning resource use. While broad and strategic programs for change are important, I recognise that they can be used as an excuse for personal inaction.

Who knows? Maybe if I can go green, the whole of the Uniting Church in Queensland can go green!

Heather den Houting is a candidate for the Ministry of Deacon and is just concluding her time as Social Responsibility Advocate with the Queensland Synod.