Tag Archive: environment


We’ve got no fucking idea! My choice of words might upset you, somehow I don’t care. I am aware of the harshness of the language, maybe even the inappropriateness of it. And yes you are welcome to take me to task about it, but only if and when you seriously engage with the following. The invisible children of Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. The stolen generation of Australia. Children in the global sweatshop. The starving in famine-struck Somalia. The people of Kiribati. The people who work and live in the Mine, Guatemala City. The oil sand exploitation of Athabasca and similar areas. The oil fields of the Niger delta. Any of the active genocides that are taking place in the world. And don’t just read about the above on the internet, run the search on Google Images with safe search off, the latter is a cop-out; even better, visit one or two of the places if you can.

But you don’t need to travel that far and “exotic” to see, hear and experience how really clueless and irrelevant we have become. Take a drive through the far flung reaches of the North-West and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. Visit city centres and prominent harbours. Talk to the youth in South Africa and then to a few drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless, jobless and oppressed. Spend a day at an animal shelter or at any underground dog-fighting ring. Walk a day next to a workhorse in Khayelitsha. Open your eyes and ears to your own comfort and privilege. Open your eyes and ears to the very real suffering in the world. Open your eyes and ears to the call of Jesus. Really step out of your comfort zone for a moment and experience.

And whilst at it, remember the words of Jesus, and ponder it for a little while.

“Then he spoke: You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.  You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning. “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – skip like a lamb, if you like! – for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this. Give Away Your Life But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll ever get. And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long. And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games. There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it. “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.” (Luke 6:20-26)

And once you have done that, then, but only then, you are welcome to challenge me on my choice of words at the beginning of this reflection.

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We live in an age, somewhere post modernism, after the demise of meta-narratives, somehow knowing where we are not and desperately trying to figure out where exactly we are. This short sketch is an attempt to struggle with the “exactly where we are”. I propose three common denominators for the age we live in, Digital, Networked, and Anthropocene.

Without a doubt two of the most significant developments during the late 20th century was the personal computer, which Taleb signifies as a Black Swan Event, and the web, another of those Black Swans. The Web made it’s debut during 1989 and it spread to offices and homes by 1994. Digital cameras arrived on the scene in 1990, cellphones during 1977, cellphones with cameras during 1999, chatrooms opened it’s doors during 1980, Facebook launched 2004, Twitter 2006 and an ever increasing list of portals where digital data is created and stored. The mere act of using the internet during 2011 will create more digital data about an user than the user him-/herself can generate. The dawn of the digital age broke over the earth during 2002 when more digital data was generated than analogue data. 2011 will see another 1.8 zettabytes of data created, 33% more than 2010, or in other words, the equivalent of 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads filled with data. Enough to build a technological wall of China, as long and as wide, but twice as high. We truly live in a digital world.

One of the mainstays of the digital era is the hubs, nodes, linking datacables, and wifi signals that create a vast Network of 1’s and 0’s. The network(s) that underlie the digital world is not merely a bunch of microchips and optic fibre, but creates an environment which allows not only digital communication and data creation, but for interactions in the “real” world with very “real” implications. We use networks to order our lives, from buying food to organizing social get togethers, from insiting revolution on the one side of the planet to exploiting the planet on the other side, from building community with family and friends vast distances away to destroying communities close by. Today more than ever before do we realize that we are part of a vast network, both digitally and naturally, where technology matters but networks far exceed the virtual world. It seems there might be truth in the saying that when a butterfly flaps it’s wings in America, it creates a tropical storm in the Orient, a truly networked society.

Last, but not least, is the realization that we live in a day an age, a biosphere where the activities of man(!)kind is shaping the very space we live in. It’s been suggested that a case can be made that we are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological age or even a new geological epoch alltogether. If the suggested Anthropocene is an age it falls under the epoch Holocene. If not and it is recognize as an epoch in its own right, it follows on the Holocene that started approximately 10 000 years ago after the end of the Pleistocene and falls under the period Quaternary, which started an estimated 2.6 million years ago. The term was coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and widely popularized by the atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen. The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London deemed the proposal, to formally accept the Anthropocene as part of the Geological Time Scale, as having merit and thus the proposed addition of the Anthropocene is currently being studied. Accepted or not, we are living in an age where (wo)mankind has an ever increasing impact on the world around us.

The age we are experiencing at the moment often leaves us gasping for air, scrambling for descriptive words. There might be many such word and concepts out there, however, I want to welcome you to… the Digital Networked Anthropocen (DNA).

Home is about belonging, connectedness and shared memory. Home is a matter of community.” This is one of the sentiments with which Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh starts their book “Beyond Homelessness

The shear problem of homelessness, of displacement in the world today, makes this a book everyone should read. It offers us a fresh and honest account of ourselves as displaced. “We are a culture of displacement” to quote a phrase from the book.

In stark contrast to our utter displacement is the deeply rooted need to belong, to be placed. In an ever shrinking, over-populated, virtual world we rush out to grab pieces of superficial, virtual real estate. We occupy our Facebook, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn spaces in order to belong. We join a myriad of groups and networks in order to orientate ourselves in a four-dimensional ether plasma.

And throughout all of this activity we try to silence the niggling feeling that, with all of the positives of the virtual social world, we are being displaced even more. That we are increasingly disconnected from place, in a sense of our own embodiment, as an essential part, like all other, of Creation. It seems that we have lost our rooting points in the web of life.

It is here, even thought others might not, that I agree with Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh on the importance of the Christian faith. To quote them: “[The] Christian faith is a faith that is always placed. Placed in good creation. Placed in time. An incarnational faith.”

It is the loss of our “primal” place in relation to God that we became homeless, drifting into the wilderness of displacement. Thus we journey still today, with the frail memories of a home lost, a garden of provision, abundance and tranquility left behind.

However, we were not left with only the memories of a home lost, we were also gifted a vision of homecoming. A vision that is rooted in the garden-home we left behind, a place that grew into a garden-city. The strength of this vision is not rooted in the mere existence of this fabled garden-city and the promise of a final homecoming but in the ability to come home to it in the present.

And it is in this homecoming that the refrain of Bouma-Prediger and Walsh, that home is a matter of community, pulsates with life. The very act of homecoming implies a homecoming with other, extending the invitation which we ourselves have received.

Thus, we are invited to a homecoming and challenged to be homemakers for others, by extention inviting others to share in this gracious homecoming.

2011 marks fifty years of successful conservation for WWF, one of the world’s leading environmental and conservation organisations.

As WWF staff and supporters gathered in Zurich last week to celebrate their half-century, guest of honour Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a long-time champion of fair and sustainable development – warned that we live in a world threatened by greed and consumerism.

“Our desire to consume everything of value, to extract every precious stone, every drop of oil and every creature from the sea knows no bounds,” said the Archbishop. “This quest for profit subverts our present and our future. There are too many people who are getting better and better at exploiting the environmental heritage which belongs to us all. We are not heading for an environmental disaster – we have already created one.”

“We are meant to live in a world which we share, and we are meant to live as members of one family,” said Archbishop Tutu. “And yet whenever we look around, isn’t it devastating to see the inequities and levels of poverty? Our population is increasing, environmental degradation is increasing. How do we resolve these inequities when all we are told is growth, growth, growth?”

However the Archbishop sounded an optimistic note and said he believed humankind could learn to live within its limits. “There is enough for everyone – but not enough for our greed,” he said. “There’s enough for us all to live a full life – so why do we want to destroy the only home we have?”

Since 1961, WWF has been instrumental in getting more than a billion hectares protected, several species brought back from the brink of extinction, and raising more than one billion dollars in conservation finance. The organisation is now supported by more than five million people and is active in over 100 countries on five continents.

Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey highlighted WWF’s record of achievements and said the organisation was vital in today’s world. “The protection and sustainable use of natural resources is one of the most pressing issues today. Thanks to WWF we have learned we have to take a holistic approach to the environment,” she said. “Addressing environmental issues at global as well as local levels becomes ever more important.”

Earlier, guests at the gala event in Zurich heard WWF International President Yolanda Kakabdse outline the advances made in conservation in the past half-century. “When WWF was founded there were no ministers of the environment and no environmental treaties. Today such ministries are found in governments worldwide, and treaties are increasingly used to govern and protect the environment,” she said.

“Right from the beginning, this organisation has been built by individuals with a deep and inspiring passion: a commitment to stop environmental degradation and build a future where people live in harmony with nature, ” said Ms Kakabadse. She also joked that the Duke of Edinburgh – President Emeritus of WWF – would have been present were it not for a family wedding taking place in London. In a message Prince Philip said: “Perhaps its [WWF’s] greatest achievement so far has been to make a significant number of people in all communities, in all parts of the world, aware of the serious threats facing the world’s natural environment.”

Al-Jazeera anchor Veronica Pedrosa introduced a video-taped message from world-famous naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough in which he said conservation organisations such as WWF were becoming increasingly important as the planet faces greater challenges. “As WWF has pointed out, this is an issue for everybody because it affects everybody,” said Sir David. “We are dependent on the natural world for everything we need. The job of WWF is more important than ever and it deserves all the support it can get.”

WWF International Director General Jim Leape reminded guests why they were there and of the work still to be done to achieve a fair and sustainable world for all. “The world would be much poorer today without our efforts, yet it is a cruel irony that, for all that we have accomplished together, somehow we have to find a way to do even more. We have to find a way to bend the curves that will define our future – carbon, water, fisheries, erosion of biodiversity; fraying of the fabric of life. We have to find a new way to forge connections with nature.”

“We live in an increasingly urbanised society that is largely ignorant of the wonders that inspire us. And we live in an economy that is still often stubbornly indifferent to the natural systems upon which it depends,” said Mr Leape.

Guests at the gala evening – which was held to say “thank-you” to staff and supporters world-wide – were treated to environmentally-themed theatre, dance, and musical performances, specially-commissioned art installations and a children’s choir. WWF stressed that the costs of the event had been met by sponsors Chopard and Sarasin.

This article was originally posted on the WWF website.