Blog #49: Christmas for CreationKeepers - A time for giving, also to creation ...?!
|December 16, 2021
|Advent is a time for giving. Today’s Western Christians will know all about this, if only because every radio station, shop or advertisement is telling us what to buy for whom, amongst friends or family and beyond. But the mandate to give goes much further. If we had any doubt, last Sunday’s Gospel made this very clear (Luke 3:7-18): “‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Should this matter to those of us looking to find ways to protect God’s creation? Do flora and fauna fall under the definition of someone who has no shirt? And if so, what shirt to give? Presumably we can take this figuratively?!|
|Personally, I have answered the first question - should we consider flora and fauna to count as someone - with a resounding Yes. In fact, in a growing number of countries the legal system has begun assigning to nature what is called environmental personhood. It means that a particular part of nature - a forrest, for example, or a river - is assigned rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities and legal liability of a legal personality. As a principle, this allows protecting nature for future human generations and it recognizes the relationship that many indigenous peoples have with natural entities. Nor surprise then that the legal frameworks in countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, New Zealand or Canada - where the rights of indigenous populations are increasingly recognized - know concepts of environmental personhood. For example, some of the rivers in these countries are considered legal persons, and where the rivers are being polluted, there is now a possibility to take legal action against the polluter - on behalf of the river.|
|So if we consider God’s creation to be persons - in the meaning of Luke 3:7-18 - what should we give, at the occasion of Advent? The LivingLIght blog is always trying to keep a local - Vienna or Austria specific - focus, and so we reviewed a longer list of Austrian government approved environmental charities and organizations on two different websites. Indeed, we found many worthy organizations listed there that would be safe recipients of an Advent-inspired donation of yours. They range from multiple organizations protecting animals (bees,bird, dogs, strays, and so on), through organizations promoting the protection of rivers, mountains or natural habitats more generally, to political organizations looking to lobby and mobilize political action. I am listing here my personal three favorites - just to get you inspired.|
|My first personal favorite is the Jane Goodall Institute Austria. Many will know Jane Goodall, the extraordinarily successful secretary-turned-anthropologist who famously confirmed the smartness of chimpanzees. The JG Institute Austria works with Austrian school children (and grown ups) on environmental education, awareness raising and mobilization, inspiring action both locally and globally, essentially teaching kids to take environmental matters in their own hands. What I like about them most: Jane Goodall’s message - and the Institute’s message - is profoundly a message of hope, something that should sit well with us as a faith-based community.|
|Secondly, there are the Green Heroes Austria. They are an environmental charity and organization that works on Waste Avoidance and Waste Management and focuses on awareness raising and public education, including through activities such as regular Danube Clean-Ups. Yours truly participated in one such activity earlier this year - and Blog #36 Why clean up the Danube tells the story of what happened. Green Heroes Austria work locally and that may get your attention; they don’t really have a faith-based dimension, but they create ways of concretely making things better|
|Third on my personal list of environmental charities to give to is a bouquet of politically active organizations, starting with Greenpeace Austria, through Sea Sheperds Austria and through to Fridays for Future Austria. If you want to contribute to the protection of God’s Creation by helping organizations that try to influence politics - right here in Austria as well as globally - these are a good place to start.|
|Other organizations are, of course, also great and worthy of your contributions. The Alpenverein. World Wildlife Fund. Arche Noah. Let’s explore - and let’s give. Advent is a time for giving!|
P.S. I am glad to report that the our Church Council agreed, on one of its recent meetings, to include the Jane Goodall Institute Austria in the list charities that we, as a community, contribute to.