S&L – Issue 12
Salt and Light
Issue Twelve (July 2010)
Five Leaf Church Greening Initiative Newsletter
“We believe that Creation Care is a core Christian responsibility”
The aim of this newsletter is to provide a supportive and informative link between individuals and groups that share a care and Christian responsibility for our environment. You are on this newsletter list because you have expressed an interest in the Five Leaf Eco-Awards program or have communicated with the National Coordinator – Jessica Morthorpe.
l Letter from the Editor
l Church Greening News
l Grants Currently Open
l Exploring the Issues: Introduced Species
l Monthly Action Tip
l Book Review
l Discussion Question
l Quotes of the month
l Crown of Thorns Blog
l Websites to visit
Letter from the Editor:
This month’s issue continues my endeavour to present some information on pressing ecological issues for use by Christians and churches interested in a greening of their faith. This issue focuses on the issue of invasive species.
Recently the Federal Government listed the invasion and establishment of exotic garden plants and aquatic plants as a Key Threatening Process under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act 1999). There is an equivalent process underway in NSW law. Many churches have exotic gardens that contain known invasive plants. Some church gardens use species referred to in the Bible, yet some of these species are highly invasive and ecologically harmful, e.g. olive trees. Thus part of our greening journey as church communities might be talking the weed threats present on our own land and committing to protecting the bushland we own (monasteries, convents, camping and retreat centres) from invasive species. Read on for more info….
I have no desire to get involved in party politics here, but I have to mention that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised to reduce Marine Protected Areas if elected. Considering how passionate I am about the importance of getting many many more Marine Protected Areas in Australia to protect our marine ecosystems as fish stocks around the world crash due to overfishing- this makes me really angry. Marine Protected Areas are vital for conservation and act as insurance policies against our mistakes in the management of fish stocks. ‘Sustainable’ fishing is great, but our track record of achieving it is TERRIBLE, so we aren’t going to stop needing more Marine Protected Areas anytime soon. If you want to know more about the science, send me an email – I have done some study in this area at university.
and the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s response:
Church Greening News
Fitzroy Uniting Church at CERES becomes the first church in Australia to be presented with the Five Leaf Eco-Awards Advanced Eco-Building Award
On Sunday the 18th of July, Jessica Morthorpe visited Fitzroy Uniting Church at CERES to formally present their three awards achieved in the Five Leaf Eco-Awards pilot program.
The church received the following awards:
– Basic Certificate
– Eco-Worship Award
– Advanced Eco-Church Building Award
Their environmental story can be viewed in the “Greening the Church” booklet, which can be downloaded from http://wr.victas.uca.org.au/green-church
Jessica’s speech for the occasion is available from the Crown of Thorns blog.
Solar Panels Bulk Purchase Opportunity for Sydney Churches
Uniting Resources (Property Services) has offered to engage a consultant to look into options for a bulk installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on a number of churches in Sydney. This is a great opportunity. It will provide support to participating churches in terms of research and project coordination, and it is also expected to help secure a better installation price. For more information or to express your church’s interest in taking part, please contact Miriam Pepper on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0447 730 772.
National Tree Day – 1 August
Sunday August 1 2010
Each year thousands of schools and community groups around Australia participate in Schools Tree Day & National Tree Day. These activities all contribute to a magnificent national effort of tree planting and landcare activities. Proudly sponsored by Toyota, Schools Tree Day will be held this year on Friday July 30 2010 with National Tree Day on Sunday August 1 2010.
To register a school or public site or for more information visit our website at http://treeday.planetark.org/involved or call the National Tree Day hotline on 1300 88 5000.
6-8 Aug, “Be More Weekend”
Be More Weekend is an opportunity for you, your family, school, parish and community to come together in solidarity: To be just … conscious that our actions impact on all members of the global community; To be green … knowing that we are stewards of creation; To be more … by making simple changes to everyday lives. Organised by Caritas Australia.
World Animal Day 2010 – October 4th
World Animal Day is intended as a day of celebration for anyone in the world who cares about animals. October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. www.worldanimalday.org.au
30 Jul-1 Aug – THRIVE
Jesus promised abundant life. Can the poor have abundant life? Can the rich have abundant life? How can we, and all of God’s creation, thrive? THRIVE is the National Conference of TEAR Australia. Speakers include Ron Sider, CB Samuel, Neville Naden, Arbutus Sider and Dave Andrews. At Stanwell Tops between Wollongong and Sydney.
Power Shift 2010
Power Shift is a series of three extraordinary events in Geelong, Adelaide and Canberra that will inspire, activate and connect thousands of young people to address climate change together.
on the stellar success of Power Shift 2009 and the rapid growth of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Power Shift 2010 will empower and train the next generation of climate leaders to achieve positive change.
The events details are:
Power Shift 2010 Adelaide – Adelaide University – July 31 to August 1
Power Shift 2010 Canberra – Australian National University – August 7 to 8
Power Shift 2010 Geelong – Deakin University Waterfront Campus – August 14 to 15
The program will include inspirational keynote speeches from high profile youth leaders, climate scientists and politicians; workshops on community organisation, climate science, solutions and how to create change in your community; regional breakouts, enabling you to plan climate action with people in your region; and heaps of other fun sessions! Power Shift is part conference, part festival, part training, part celebration of the power of young people to change the world, and so much more.
http://www.aycc.org.au/2010/05/21/power-shift-2010-coming-soon/ For information on sponsoring or supporting this event contact email@example.com
Leading Change – Living for One Planet – 26 to 30 September
The Australian Association of Environmental Education 2010 National Conference will be held in Canberra 26-30 September. https://www.conferenceco.com.au/aaee.
AAEE (Australian Association for Environment Education) 2010 national conference –ANU September 26-30. There appears to be a great line up of people, including the likes of Tim Flannery, Clive Hamilton and our very own Bob Douglas and Laura Stuart. Early Bird registration closes end of July: https://www.conferenceco.com.au/aaee/index.html
Weed And Grass Identification Evening – 4 August
The Ginninderra Catchment Group (GCG), the Molonglo Catchment Group (MCG) and the Southern ACT Catchment Group (SACTCG) are hosting a Weed & Grass Identification Evening at CIT REID (rooms C035 and C036), Wednesday August 4th from 6pm- 8pm.
We will have two experts on the night that will guide us through the identification of the different types of grasses and weeds we can expect to see around the ACT and region and we will touch on methods of control as well as impacts on livestock nutrition. This training night is open to anyone who is interested in identifying grasses and weeds.
Please note: We require a minimum of 20 participants for this training night to go ahead. There is a maximum of 40 people.
To RSVP (by 28th July) or for more information please contact Andy at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(02) 6299 2119
Canberra’s lovin’ 40% – now to the Political finale
Consider yourself invited to a big Canberra Loves 40% Debate at the ACT Legislative Assembly on the 29th of July from 12 – 2pm.
Sarina Locke, from ABC 666 will host a debate between Simon Corbell, ACT Environment Minister, Zed Seselja, ACT Opposition Leader and Shane Rattenbury, the Greens Environment spokeserson.
Everyone is welcome. We have the power to influence how the ACT Government moves on this important decision. Bring your work colleagues, ask your school to bring students to this discussion. And have your say in ‘the most important issue of our time’. (Sorry Kev)
Come and hear what a 40% emission reduction target by 2020 could look like, and learn what each of the local parties thinks about our hopes for a strong 40% target.
Canberra’s Sustainable House Tours
10am and 2pm
Next tour dates:
Sunday 15th August, 29th August, 26th September, 10th October, 24 October
Or arrange a special tour for your church group.
Bookings are required at least 24hrs in advance.
Tickets: $15 Adult, $5 Children (5-16) and $35 Family
Canberra Sustainable Careers Expo – 18 August
Stallholders and volunteers needed
When: 12-4pm, Wednesday 18 August 2010
Where: Sports Hall, Australian National University
Last year this event took place at Francis Xavier College and was attended by college, high school and university students and the general public.
We intend to make it even bigger and better this year and see the Sustainable Careers Expo as an event that will grow to be huge, as careers in areas that help create an environmentally sustainable world will become more and more popular and necessary.
The expo will bring together tertiary course providers, business, government departments, and advocacy and volunteer organisations. There will also be talks, activities including a green fashion parade. The event will be opened by a prominent Canberran.
Organisations wanting to have a stall included in the Expo should contact Heidi Gill on 0401 295 970 or email@example.com. If any young people would like to join the steering committee or if anyone at all would like to help out on the day contact Heidi also.
Two Day Introduction to Permaculture (PermaBlitzACT Members Only)
Date: August 28 and 29th.
Time: 9am – 5pm
This will be a two day introduction to permacultre concentrating on the basics of permaculture. This will be exclusive to members of PermablitzACT and taught by our very own Steven Thompson who is a horticulturalist with a PDC and accreditation to teach PDC. This will be the first in what we hope will be the start of many 2 day introduction courses leading to the eventual full 2 week PDC in Canberra.
Topics to be covered:
The Introduction to Permaculture Course will introduce the following topics:
1. Permaculture Principles
2. Broadscale Site Design
3. Pattern Understanding
5. The Home Garden
6. Orchards, Farm Forestry & Grain Crops
7. Animal Forage Systems & Aquaculture
8. Urban & Community Strategies
Contact: Steve (0437 511 524 0437 511 524)
Taxonomy Research and Information Network Interactive Field Day
Tuesday 31 August 10am-4pm
Crosbie Morrison Room, Australian National Botanic Gardens, Canberra ACT
Join us for a hands-on experience with the latest range of identification products and biodiversity technology.
The TRIN Interactive Field Day provides participants with the opportunity to interact with TRIN researchers and developers and a range of products and applications. The day consists of a series of exhibits and small presentations. Register your interest at http://taxonomy.org.au/fieldday.html
NEW SOUTH WALES
For more information see www.arrcc.org.au
1st Sat every month, Sydney, “Mizaan Cooks River Regeneration Project”
9:30am – 12noon, Hampton St Croydon Park. Al-Ghazzali Centre is undertaking a significant project in collaboration with Canterbury City Council, to regenerate fauna and flora along Cooks River. This includes the establishment, protection and maintenance of the natural ecosystems and wildlife corridor to regenerate this environmental disaster zone.
7 August – Putting a Break on Climate Change
Join members of the Pacific Calling Partnership to share stories about successful initiatives to raise awareness of what we can do about the effect of climate change on Pacific Islands. 11am to 4pm at Homebush West, Sydney.
13-15 August – Flaring Forth Ecospirituality Retreat
Through storytelling, solitude, contemplative practice, nature walks, creative expression and ritual celebrations, encounter an expanding spiritual reality and rediscover your relationship to all created beings. A retreat at Stanwell Park facilitated by Michael Dyer, of Chrysalis Consulting.
17-19 Sep, Bellingen, “Faith. On Earth”
Come to beautiful Bellingen this Spring for the first Ecofaith get together! Join a bunch of people who already understand that there is a connection between our faith and the ecos (earth). There will be some input (both from humans and the wonderful bio-diverse world around us) to encourage us to deepen that connection for ourselves and together. Click here for more information.
Fair Share Festival – preliminary notice
The one-day festival, which will be in late August/early September, will focus on ethical, equitable, sustainable, community-strengthening financial/economic and eco-social systems. Held in Newcastle, and to include a range of workshops, speakers, exhibits, drama, music and more. More details to come soon. In the meantime, contact Tom Toogood on firstname.lastname@example.org, or 4920 7763.
Thu 19 Aug, Brisbane, “Earth as Sacred in Australian Art, Music and Literature”
Come along to this free event and bring your favourite piece of poetry, prose, art or music which speaks to you of earth as sacred. Will be followed by an optional meal at a nearby Thai restaurant. Organised by Earth Link, held at Delamore Retirement Centre, 5:30pm – 7pm.
Sun 29 Aug, Brisbane, “Multifaith perspectives on connections between people, earth and the Sacred”
Earth Link will be engaging with representatives of other religious traditions around their theological understandings as they are influenced by a sense of the interconnectedness of all. Exact location TBA.
Annual Earthwatch Dinner and Oration – A big Australia Cities on the edge?
Wednesday 25 August 2010
Despite its reputation for wide open spaces, Australia is a nation of cities and suburbs. With the population forecasted to reach 36 million by 2050, how will our cities – and the environment – cope?
Philip Weickhardt, Chairman of Earthwatch Institute invites you and your guests to attend the Earthwatch annual dinner and oration.
Presented by Professor Brendan Gleeson
The Arts Centre ANZ Pavilion, 100 St Kilda Road Melbourne
Register online at earthwatch.org/Australia/annualdinner_form or call 03 9682 6828
$175 per person or $1600 for a table of 10
6.30pm for 7pm start
RSVP by Friday 6 August
JIM Convention 2010: Consuming Passions Saturday 2nd October, 9.30 AM – 4.30 PM
Centre for Theology & Ministry, 1 Morrison Close, Parkville (Melways Ref. Map 2B,D4)
We are all conscious that over-consumption is bad for the environment and can be bad for our health. It can also mean taking more than our fair share of a sustainable use of the world’s resources. However, is there such a thing as ethical consumerism or is it just another marketing tool to keep us consuming the earth’s resources? Are we immune to the tactics of marketers and advertisers, or are we kidding ourselves? What biblical and theological insights will help us?
The Convention will seek input from participants on Synod recommendations for the 2011 Synod and the work areas of the Justice and International Mission Unit.
For more information please contact Marylou on 03 9251 5271 or email: Marylou.email@example.com
Sat 9 Oct, Geelong, “Western Heights Uniting Church Eco-Festival”
Western Heights Uniting Church’s Eco-Fest will have a Green Market, kids activities, discussion forums, practical tips for being green, speakers, movies, great food, great people, fairtrade products and the like. At Herne Hill, Geelong.
Oct, Melbourne, “The Sacred Connection”
This series will explore, through a variety of media, the experience of the sacred through connection with place and the power of the feminine in this context. Participants will be encouraged to spend time between sessions reflecting on the elements of interconnectedness in the other than human world and the spirituality that expresses this experience. Organised by Earthsong, and held on Tuesdays 12th and 26th Oct (evenings) and Sat 20 Nov (afternoon).
Grants Currently Open
Grants & Funding Websites
– Grantslink http://www.grantslink.gov.au/
– DAFF grants & assistance http://www.daffa.gov.au/about/grants_and_assistance
– DEWHA grants & funding http://www.environment.gov.au/about/programs/index.html
– FRRR grants http://www.frrr.org.au/currentprojects.asp
– Caring for our Country funding www.nrm.gov.au/funding/index.html
Junior Landcare Grants Available – 6 August
Round 3 of the Yates and Coles Junior Landcare grants will close Friday 6th August. http://www.juniorlandcare.com.au
NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards 2010 – 13 August
Applications are invited for the NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Awards 2010. (Nominations close August 13). Award categories include:
The Land and Property Management Authority Crown Reserve Trust Award
The Land and Property Management Auth. Community of the Year Award
The Industry and Investment NSW Business Enterprise Award
The Industry and Investment NSW Events & Tourism Award
The Salvation Army Employment Plus Employment & Training Award
The Peabody Environment & Landcare Award
Contact Kiri Lewis, Awards Coordinator- Awards Australia
NSW/ACT Regional Achievement & Community Awards
1300 735 445 http://www.awardsaustralia.com
Community Action Grants 2010–11 – 31 August
In the 2010-11 round of the Community Action Grants up to $8 million is available to help community groups protect the environment and to support sustainable farming practices. Applications opened on Tuesday 6 July 2010 and will close 31 August 2010. More information is available at http://www.nrm.gov.au including the 2010-11 Community Action Grants Applicant Guidelines, How to complete the Community Action Grants application and the on-line registration and application form. If you are unable to access the website please call 1800 552 008 to obtain any or all of these documents in hard copy. Enquiries may also be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exploring the Issues:
A personal reflection on the ecological issue and theology
– By Jessica Morthorpe
Broadly, an introduced species is a non-native species, that is, it was transferred to an area where it did not evolve or migrate naturally by humans, intentionally or non-intentionally. While this includes species transferred for use in agriculture or as pets, the term is usually used to refer to species which have escaped captivity and established viable populations in the wild. These species may or may not become pests, depending on how invasive they are. Introduced species are sometimes highly successful in new habitats where they are freed from the restrictions of the diseases, competitors and predators that were present in their native habitats. This allows them to potential create an ever increasing range.
“An invasive species is a species occurring, as a result of human activities, beyond its accepted normal distribution and which threatens valued environmental, agricultural or other social resources by the damage it causes.”
Introduced species include feral animals, weeds, introduced marine pests, insects and other invertebrates, fungi, parasites and diseases. Familiar introduced species include cane toads, foxes, rats, mice, cats, dogs, brumbies, carp, goats, camels, pigs, water buffalo, European honeybees, European wasps, rabbits, Prickly Pear, Patterson’s Curse, African Lovegrass, Cape Weed and thistles.
Introduced species are a concern because they compete with (plants, rabbits) or prey upon (foxes, cats) native species, destroy habitat and spread diseases, often becoming a threatening factor to their survival and contributing to biodiversity loss. For example, the Bilby needs a constant supply of roots and seeds rich in carbohydrates to survive, so when rabbits or other feral animals graze on or degrade this vegetation, they may experience food shortages. One feral cat may eat around five native animals in a single night, comprised of frogs, native rodents, birds and small mammals. In addition, hoofed introduced species can contribute to significant erosion damage; and because they are wild it is hard to restrict their access to fragile ecosystems and areas of high natural significance.
See ‘The Vanishing’ – 14 minute video from Sixty Minutes http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=1075026
Introduced species particularly threaten Australia’s biodiversity because of the geological and ecological history of the continent. After the Pangaea landmass split 250 million years ago, the Australian continent became part of the Gondwana landmass, along with India, Africa, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica. This began to split about 140 million years ago, with first India breaking off, then Africa (120mya), New Zealand (80mya), South America and finally Antarctica (40mya). Australia then spent the next 20 million years drifting north on its own – a lot of time, during which it went through extreme variation in temperature and rainfall. Then approximately 20 million years ago, Australia bumped into the Asian tectonic plate, leading to some interchange of species and genetics, particularly during the last 5 million years when the sea level fell by 120m, opening up land bridges to Tasmania and New Guinea.
This unique history, and particularly the long period of separation combined with changing and challenging conditions, has lead to the evolution of Australia’s unique and highly endemic (found nowhere else) flora and fauna.
Introduced species have been brought to Australia for many reasons, including for:
– Making Australia more European
– Biological control
– During dumping of ballast water from ships
– Quarantine breaches
The current state of the problem:
· 18 mammal species have established feral populations (and make up 19% of Australia’s terrestrial mammal fauna)
· Introduced plants comprise 15% of the total flora
· Exotic fish and are honey bees also problems
· Climate Change may favour introduced species (which are often very adaptable) at the expense of native species
According to the Federal Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts; “It would be desirable to rid Australia of its worst invasive species, but this is not achievable in most cases. The objective for managing the majority of established feral animals is to reduce the damage caused by pest species in the most cost-effective manner. This may involve localised eradication, periodic reduction of feral numbers, sustained reduction of feral numbers, removal of the most destructive individuals or exclusion of feral animals from an area.”
Control methods include conventional techniques (trapping, fencing, shooting and baiting) and biological controls (using one species to control another through predation, disease or parasitism). The potential effects on non-target species always need to be considered, particularly with non-specific and lethal methods such as poisoning. There are also questions about the ethics of using chemicals such as 1080 which is reputedly quite nasty.
There are some conservationists who think all non-natives are evil. I think this is not strictly the case. For example, if we were to simply rip out all the blackberries in Australia today, we would lose many of our small insectivorous bird species from large sections of agricultural land. When the small native shrubs were removed, these became a refuge for these species. Likewise, there are some endangered species that have moved on to feeding on introduced species when their native food was removed and now need the introduced plant to survive. So in some cases, for example where a native species that played a functional role in an ecosystem has become extinct, an introduced species can be an important part of conservation efforts.
Some would suggest that there are many more roles that introduced species can take in good land management. Peter Andrew’s Natural Sequence Farming theory suggests that plants should be used for their functional service in a landscape, regardless of whether or not they are native. This is a controversial theory, and one that has received a lot of criticism. These ideas are also shared by the permaculture and Transition Town movements.
So that’s the positive side. On the negative side:
“Feral pigs have been identified, in the relevant recovery plans, as known or perceived threats to sixteen listed species. Of these species:
- thirteen are Endangered – Red-finned Blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis), White-bellied Frog (Geocrinia alba), Southern Corroboree Frog (Pseudophryne corroboree), Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii), Northern Bettong (Bettongia tropica), Long-footed Potoroo (Potorous longipes), Caladenia elegans, Caladenia winfieldii, Eriocaulon carsonii, Phaius australis, Phaius tankervilleae, Pterostylis sp. Northampton, and Ptychosperma bleeseri; and
- three are Vulnerable – Orange-bellied Frog (Geocrinia vitellina), Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Black-breasted Button-quail (Turnix melanogaster).” 
“Of the threatened species listed under the EPBC Act, foxes are considered a threat to 14 species of birds, 48 mammals, 12 reptiles and 2 amphibians, with the orange-bellied parrot, spotted quail-thrush (from Mt Lofty Ranges), herald petrel, Gilbert’s potoroo and western swamp tortoise listed as critically endangered”.
“Of those species on the EPBC Act threatened species list, feral cats are considered a threat to 35 species of birds, 36 mammals, 7 reptiles and 3 amphibians, with 4 of those, the orange-bellied parrot, spotted quail-thrush (Mt Lofty Ranges), herald petrel and Gilbert’s potoroo, being critically endangered”.
You get the gist….
Social scientists from the Invasive Animals CRC have compiled a literature review on attitudes towards invasive animals in Australasia. “Perceptions and attitudes to invasive animals were found to vary with: gender — males are generally more likely to consider invasive animals a ‘serious’ problem, and more likely to support intervention and the use of lethal controls; age — older people are generally more likely to regard an animal as a pest (and a more serious problem) than younger people are; residence — rural residents generally perceive invasive animals as being more of a problem than urban residents do; species of invasive animal — eg animals that are capable of being companion animals or are large, attractive mammals, are generally considered more favourably than rodents and non-mammalian species; personal situation — eg attitudes towards species that are seen as a pressing national or local problem tend to be more negative than towards species that are seen as being less pressing, or farther from home; interest — attitudes vary between people with ethical or conservation interests, animal industry practitioners, conservation groups, scientists and health professionals; culture — certain species of animals are seen as companion animals in one culture but as pests and/or food in other cultures.”
Tackling introduced species was another challenging topic from a reader; and one I have often struggled with in the past. ‘Why?’ you may ask, ‘it’s all pretty simple, they are bad’ you say, and maybe you are right, but you must be a more pure blooded conservationist than me.
See, I’ve always felt a little out of place in environmental circles, particularly when this issue comes up. Conservationists can tend to just look at the damage introduced species do (and it’s a lot) and then immediately become determined to eradicate them. I’ve known many conservationists who very proudly wear hats made of cat, rabbit or fox fur, as a sign of their ‘green credentials’ (for example Dr John Wamsley who founded Earth Sanctuaries). Some think it is great to run over rabbits in their cars and bash cane toads to death with golf clubs. Me, I’ve always been a bit too squeamish to fit into this category.
Whenever the topic of killing feral animals comes up I tend to cringe, feeling sorry for the poor creatures who have to suffer now because some idiot set members of their species free in Australia for sport, food, or just to make it look more like England, several generations ago. I used to dream of rounding up all the foxes in Australia, putting them in a zoo type enclosure, sterilising them all, and then just letting them enjoy the rest of their lives until they died.
My piano teacher once tortured me by demanding an answer to a particular ethical conundrum – would I kill a cat if it was going to kill five native mice. Using a utilitarian philosophy and the conservationist’s love of everything native, I eventually had to concede that yes, it would be best to kill the cat. But it was a hard decision for me to make, as I seem to hold the sacredness of life in quite high regard.
This means I have far too much of an animal rights side to fit comfortably with all conservationists. At the same time, I love our native animals, and I have seen the devastation introduced species can create. Australia was never meant to have hooved animals. So I understand the need to remove introduced species; I just dislike the necessity.
As a kid, I was very fond of Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series. These novels, which enthralled three generations of readers, brought the Australian wild horses alive for me, and along with poems like ‘The Man from Snowy River’, fixed them as an important part of Australian history and identity. As Elyne says, “wild horses mean freedom to children in the city”. I read all I could about brumbies and learnt that some are descended from horses who were set free after serving in WW1. I also read varying reports about their condition. Those I suspect were most truthful, suggesting that brumbies were seriously undernourished, small, wiry and with no commercial value except as dog food. Silver Brumby fans like me usually suggest that brumbies should be caught and trained to serve as riding horses – but it is questionable whether this market actually exists and there is significant investment of resources required.
Another thing that has deeply affected by perspective on this issue was an article in The Australian Magazine many years ago that documented the intolerable cruelty of a recent aerial brumby cull. I think it must have been the Guy Fawkes River National Park cull in 2000. The article included graphic pictures of dozens of brumbies shot multiple times; including a pregnant mare that had been shot something like 11 times before she died. I think it was this, perhaps more than anything else, which created my qualms about the issues of introduced species management. It is also one of the many strong arguments against allowing hunters into National Parks. If culling is going to be done, to be humane it must be conducted professionally with the highest level of skill available.
Elyne Mitchell herself actually supports the culling of brumbies in the high country.
“ ‘ There are too many brumbies,” Elyne said. “They are not controlled in Victoria or NSW and are not as good as they used to be. “They were well bred, but the animal liberationists won’t let them be culled. “This is silly, as their quality is deteriorating. “They should be culled or else they will ruin the mountains.” “In years gone by, Elyne said, the quality of the brumbies – which came from well-bred horses on the Monaro High Plains – was maintained by shooting out the weedy stallions. A brumby was very quiet when broken in, and made a good packhorse because it was so sure-footed. It was also ideal for droving.”
Notably the RSPCA does not oppose lethal control of feral species such as horses, but rightly argues for minimisation of suffering during the process. In the context of mountain brumby control, it favours professional aerial shooting rather than the current political ‘solution’ (in NSW) of mustering and trapping. The RSPCA holds that more suffering is caused by the fact that a) the latter approach is ineffective, so significant ecological harm continues to be done by the horses; b) the trapped horses get stressed when passively trapped or actively corralled (e.g. by using helicopters or horse riders); c) they are further stressed and potentially injured when being trucked from remote areas to their usual endpoint – an abattoir (most aren’t ‘rescued’ as there are relatively few people prepared to take on wild horses when there is often already too much competition for grazing resources, especially in drought).
At university, I did a human ecology course which included a visit to the Snowy Mountains – close to Silver Brumby territory. While there, I gained an appreciation for the incredible fragility of the montane habitats, particularly the mountain fens and bogs. We observed the damage done to these by the hooves of cattle who had been allowed into the park many years ago. Trust me – look at a fen that has never felt hooves and look at one that has, and the difference is vast. One is alive and full of a variety of thriving plant life and the other is a barren stony bottomed pool. Also, cold temperatures mean that any area cleared of vegetation is vulnerable to frost heave. So grazing can slowly turn a rich and diverse habitat into an increasingly bare and less diverse one.
I have not been able to forget that experience, and it’s a strong argument for keeping anything with hooves out of our mountains, or better yet, anything introduced – as climate change makes it harder and harder for our montane species to survive, the last thing they need is competition from predatory or more competitive introduced species.
Of course, some would say that if they can’t compete, our native species deserve to become extinct – kind of an extension of Survival of the Fittest. Anyone who knows my passion for endangered species knows I don’t subscribe to that.
But how does one even define ‘native’? The classic case is the dingo. They’ve been in Australia for 3-5,000 years, but does that make them native? It’s likely that their introduction on the mainland wiped out the Tasmanian Tiger from that area of their range; but recent studies have also suggested that their presence reduces cat and fox populations enough to give small mammals some change of surviving in the areas where they are distributed. And if we are targeting all the non-native species, what about us?
Camels in particular raise several interesting issues. As far as the impact of introduced species goes, camels are pretty minimal. While they have hooves, the special pads on their feet designed for walking on sand mean that they only contribute minimally to erosion. Thus, while they are introduced and might thus be targeted for conservation purposes, they are not the highest priority introduced species for eradication. To add another interesting twist, Dromedary camels (camels with one hump) are extinct in the wild in their countries of origin (although so many are domesticated that the species is not actually endangered). Australia has the largest wild herd of Dromedary Camels in the world.
Several of our pest species are actually threatened within their native habitats. So does this mean we should preserve them here? What about the cost to our environment? The perhaps obvious solution of simply sending the pest individuals back to their native habitat (apart from being very expensive and difficult) would be unlikely to work as the species will have adapted to Australian conditions through natural selection over the generations since introduction and may no longer be sufficiently able to adapt to the differing conditions in their native habitat….
For a couple of years I volunteered in a wildlife rescue shelter in Victoria. The lady who ran the shelter was amazing – a cancer survivor in remission at the time who decided to make her life count after she was given one year to live (12 yrs previously) by sharing her love and compassion with God’s injured creatures. She let me tag along one day a week to help with rescues and clean cages. I got to learn, and she got to have some company. I was great fun, but occasionally I found it quite confronting.
The law the shelters operate under says any introduced species must be immediately put down. If you get caught with a live feral animal in your shelter you lose your licence. Fair enough, perhaps. Yet, have you ever noticed how similar baby birds of different species look when they are really young? They are basically impossible to identify. Imagine how disappointing it is to spend weeks gently raising a chick, only to realise it’s an Indian Myna or a Blackbird. Frustrating! Then you have to put it down. And that isn’t easy for these people. They have to put down injured animals so often… it takes an enormous emotional toll on them, and putting down a healthy one is deeply uncomfortable for them; but they have to do it.
Some years ago I had the unusual experience of being quite close to the front line of a campaign to introduce a new species to Australia. I got to hear quite a bit about how very difficult this process is, and the many requirements to get through Quarantine. It was interesting (don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly support Quarantine, but I also understand how frustrating it can be for business).
I had the privilege of being present for one of the Lucerne leafcutter bee introductions. Large polystyrene boxes full of the tiny little bees were opened in a field full of Lucerne to allow the tiny bees out. They are the cutest little things, with green or purple eyes depending on their gender, and I remember being entirely enchanted by them. I was also very sad though to note that all the boxes were lined with a thick layer of little bodies which never woke up (I think they might have been refrigerated or something for transport).
It was a challenging experience for me because I was ardently opposed to the idea of introducing a species to Australia, being well aware of our past ‘success’ with species like the Cane Toad. However, I also understood the potential economic benefits from the introduction, the potential for a reduction in water use by Lucerne crops (due to a shorter pollination period) and the lack of evidence to suggest any significant environmental impact. I knew how much testing had been done, and it seemed like a relatively harmless species to introduce.
I think, in the end, the introduction was unsuccessful – mostly due to the high percentage of bees dying in transport due to quarantine restrictions making it difficult to establish colonies.
A few months ago, I organised a working bee to assist with some weeding on a local church property. While we worked away, pulling out large amounts of flowering mustard weed, one of the participants, noting the bees collecting the pollen from the same plants we were targeting, asked me about the ethics of removing their food plants. We quickly reassured her that there were plenty of other sources of food for the bees in the area, including many more mustard weeds; but it was an interesting line of thought. It also helped to push my thoughts towards an issue I was deliberately avoiding at the time – the ethics/theology around killing the weeds.
This issue raises some interesting theological questions. A friend of mine raised some of these questions with some ‘green’ nuns and Buddhists. The nuns felt that the non-indigenous wattles that were coming up from seed within contaminated soil that had previously been dumped on their property represented an example of Creation’s resilience and tenacity to survive. Ecologists would see these locally non-indigenous and invasive species as weeds that require destruction. Buddhism’s first tenet of Ahimsa (non-harming), is used by some Buddhists (and Jains, and Yogis, and some Hindus) to justify not taking any lethal action to control invasive plants or animals. They would rather avoid the bad karma associated with killing e.g. a feral fox, than tackle the larger issue of the harm / suffering that the fox causes to its unnatural prey species and their habitat / ecosystem.
The Dalai Lama was once asked for his views on the issue of killing ferals – an obvious problem given the general Buddhist prohibition on taking life. He reverted to the core tenet of Ahimsa (non-harming) to argue that sometimes you have to kill or seriously constrain the freedom of some things, namely species introduced by people, in order to minimise suffering of other beings and systems. So Cane Toads can be trapped or otherwise killed or controlled because failure to do so causes more harm than does the control measure. Weeds would attract the same ruling, as would the widespread exotic Garden Snail.
If your theology holds that God gave humanity the right to use creation for our own benefit, then as long as we see some benefit in removing the weeds and promoting native species there may be little theological dilemma.
A theology that holds instead that all animals and plants exist to praise God and because it pleased God to create them, must find this question more difficult. It becomes a question of how God might see the situation and prefer to be praised by his creation and served by us as God’s stewards.
So, how might a Christian form a theological response to this issue?
Well, firstly, I think as Christians it is always important to begin by removing the plank from our own eye (Matt 7:3-5). In this case, it is important to acknowledge that the blame for the issue of introduced species does not rest upon the individuals of those species, but upon our own shoulders as the descendants of those who brought them to this country and/or members of the human race. Therefore, our response begins with an acknowledgement that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and a repentance and seeking of God’s will in the matter. Our aim is to worship and serve God and move away from the ‘sin’ of the continuing ecological degradation caused by introduced species.
However, we must also uphold the principle of being a good neighbour by considering the most vulnerable, despised and disadvantaged in this situation. We must love and care for both the individuals of the native and introduced species.
We know from scripture (Genesis 2:15) that our role on Earth is to tend and care for creation and to represent God as his stewards maintaining the garden. This would suggest that it is reasonable to assume that where the garden is threatened by something that is out of place and preventing the correct function of the ecosystem, we have the right and responsibility to act to alter this situation. We know that God cares for creation (Psalm 65:9, 12-13, Matt 6:26) and wants it to thrive.
We also know that all creation praises God (Psalm 66:4, 69:34 among others). We could perhaps say, therefore, that culling introduced species is reducing the individual animals free to praise God. However, we could also say that creation might praise God in a truer and more wholehearted fashion where the ecosystems are free from the damage created by introduced species.
We also know that Jesus came not just to save humanity, but all of creation (John 3:16-17); that Jesus reconciles all of creation to God (Colossians 1:19-20) and that creation is waiting for the Children of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-21). Thus, while creation was separated from its ideal state because of the fall of man, Jesus has now made it possible for creation to be reconciled with God and return to that state, but it is waiting for God’s children in the church to reveal their love of God by working to restore and redeem creation on God’s behalf until Jesus returns to complete this work. Thus, while the introduction of invasive species might be seen as a symptom of the fall, perhaps working to protect native species from their impact is a work of redemption.
There was a really bizarre incident late last year with then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd being called a “serial killer” and the culling of 6,000 camels in remote Australia being labelled as “genocide” by a US television host who demonstrated how the animals would be killed using a stuffed camel toy. While a bit absurd, this incident demonstrated just how heated the debates over the management of introduced species can get. UK residents, outraged by the plans, warned other Europeans not to visit Australia. Online comments began labelling Australia as a Third World country and saying that we are not worthy of G20 status and have chips on our shoulders. William Burt wrote “Please tell all your friends that Australia is the worst nation on earth and they should stay away”.
Violent emotional reactions like this must make it very hard for National Park managers and decision makers to make objective decisions about the best management of Australia’s introduced species. Unfortunately, this issue does tend to disintegrate into a debate between emotions and science/reason. If we are going to move forward with this issue in Australia it is important for both sides to make an effort to understand each other’s points. There needs to be heart in how we deal with this issue, but there also has to be reason; and while, as God’s creatures, individuals of introduced species do have rights, they don’t have any more rights than native species. Perhaps they even have less – not because their lives have less value, but because they simply don’t belong here, and their presence creates damage to the environment as well as biodiversity; and the environment also has value, as do, I think, functioning natural ecosystems and species assemblages. It is really sad and wrong that these species have to suffer for something that is our fault, not theirs, but if the suffering is ever going to stop, perhaps they need to be sacrificed for the greater good. As Christians with a crucified saviour, I think we can understand that.
Here is an interesting quote from a friend worth thinking about:
“When faced with the ‘mass slaughter’ of brumbies (as would be necessary now given their numbers), some people would ask those who organised, approved, and carried out the killing, “How can you do this?!” My response would be – “How could I not do this, given the level of harm that these creatures do through our carelessness, blindness, an arrogance. It is those who let their horses run wild – those who even now, continue to deliberately reintroduce horses to reserves – those who were ignorant or chose to remain ignorant to the harm that the brumbies do – the politicians who lacked the moral integrity and courage to pursue the only effective control measure because it might harm their re-election prospects – those in the media who sensationalised the issue and told only part of the story in order to draw public outrage and boost their employer’s ratings and their own career – those who lie in public about the facts of the situation – those who close-mindedly place their romantic notions of horses and horse/pioneer culture above the public/ecological interest – those who distort religion to argue that humans and human culture must take precedent over all other life (as though we are not all connected) – who you must challenge with your questions. Attacking those who grit their teeth, risk their life, and work very hard to quickly and effectively shoot many horses in very difficult situations is akin to condemning the Vietnam War veterans, especially the conscripts, because they did something that you oppose – and because many of them may have had to kill, possibly to avoid being killed.” Anonymous
Perhaps one of the issues that impacts on our perceptions of introduced species is our familiarity with them compared to native species. We have this history with introduced species. Whether we like them or not, all of us know what rabbits and foxes are – we have all seen them and the damage they do and we all have stories about our interactions with them. Most of us have no trouble identifying weeds like thistles, Patterson’s Curse, Prickly Pear and Cape Weed. We have introduced species for pets, we have introduced species in our gardens, and we tend to be comforted by European style landscapes and farming scenes. We grow and eat introduced species and give arrangements of introduced flowers to each other as gifts and make displays of them for our churches.
In contrast, most native species are far less familiar to us. Some of us know the basics – wattles, Eucalypts, grevilleas, banksias, bottlebrushes, koalas, kangaroos. But are you familiar with the dibbler, the numbat, the smoky mouse, the Mala, the Red-tailed Phascogale, or the Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon? What about the Bindoon Starbush, Davies’ Waxflower, Tuggeranong Lignum, Basalt Greenhood or the Button Wrinklewort? Many people don’t realise that Gouldian Finches and Budgerigars are native to Australia. We look at our native forests and think they are messy and ugly… We have relationship issues with our native species.
Then there are the times we can’t even tell the difference. How many of us know that most of the earthworms we played with as kids are not native? Or remember that the bees we see every day are European Honeybees? When we are running away from them, do we remember that European Wasps are introduced pests? When we try to get rid of house mice and black rats, do we remember where they came from? Whether we know it or not, introduced species are all around us.
Introduced species have been a big issue facing Australia for many years; however in recent years attention has been directed away from this issue as Climate Change has grabbed everyone’s attention. While Climate Change is important, it is also essential that we do not lose sight of the other environmental issues that threaten our country and biodiversity, including introduced species, salinity, erosion, water shortages and habitat loss.
Christians can bring a different, and potentially useful, perspective to the management table when addressing the issue of introduced species. I think our theology urges us to be aware of the science and reason of the issue, but also to have compassion in our dealings with introduced species; allowing us to possibly perform a bridging or mediation role between those who focus on the animal rights side of the issue and those who are most concerned about the conservation side of the issue.
For further information see:
Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts
Information on feral animal species
Information on introduced species in freshwater ecosystems
A compassionate perspective
Native Plant Guide
The Australian Native Plant Guide is ideal for home and landscape gardeners, farmers, government departments, Councils, Landcare groups, students and anyone interested in Australian Native plants. The new version has over 500 photographs of native plants and includes a filter to select species that meet your requirements. You can download a free copy of the Australian Native Plant Guide from the Native Shop website. Visit http://nativegrowth.com.au/nativeguide
Australian Native Grasses: A manual for sowing, Growing and Using Them
For those interested in direct seeding with native grass seed, a new edition of Australian Native Grasses: a manual for sowing, growing and using them, has just been released. This full colour book comprises detailed information on 16 Australian native grasses – both warm and cool season – including information on a range of applications for their use. Each page has full colour photographs to assist in their identification. There is also information on seedling identification, seed storage and provenance. Cost is $19.95.
The publication is available from the producers, Native Seeds:
T: 03 9555 1722
Environmental Law Fact Sheets
The Environmental Defender’s Office has produced a series of Environmental Law Fact Sheets. These fact sheets are designed to give plain English background knowledge of environmental laws in your state.
Copies of these updated fact sheets are available online at your state’s EDO website or by contacting your local EDO office.
Church Greening Story Booklet
Be inspired by the stories of other churches and the actions they have taken to care for creation! This exciting new resource includes stories from all over Australia and a combination of Uniting Church, Anglican and Catholic churches.
Monthly Action Tips
What your church can do about invasive species:
– Use native flowers in church flower arrangements (our native flowers such as Banksias and Proteas are massively popular in countries like Japan, but Australians need to work on our appreciation of the flora gems we possess).
– Use more natives in your church gardens
– Campaign for more effective and humane management of introduced species and their removal, in particular from National Parks
– Participate in Community Conservation Research by recording your sightings of rabbits on the RabbitScan website http://www.rabbitscan.net.au/joomla/index.php
Activities for Sunday School groups:
Video on Novel Feral Goat Eradication program on Kangaroo Island.
Feral Flyer Newsletter – Invasive Species CRC
Feral Thoughts – A blog about introduced species
Feral Future: the untold story of Australia’s exotic invaders (2000) by Tim Low, Penguin
“We are facing one of the most urgent environmental issues of our time. Exotic species are invading Australia at a spectacular rate. Everyone knows about cane toads, rabbits and, more recently, fire ants, but few people have heard of the hundreds of other invaders now infiltrating the country, such as giant seaworms, brown widow spiders and green crabs.
In this ground breaking, highly acclaimed book, biologist Tim Low charts the story of the biological invasion of Australia. Tapping a rich vein of scientific data, fascinating stories and personal experience, he argues convincingly that bio-invasion poses a threat more ominous than greenhouse gases, industrial pollution and ozone depletion. Feral future is a window on a tomorrow beyond imagination.
‘This book will change your outlook on the world… A must for anyone who considers themselves a friend of the environment.’ Wildlife Australia
‘…a gripping work that deserves a wide readership.’ The Age”
How does your theology affect your interpretation of how we should manage the issues raised by introduced species in Australia? If not, upon what values do you base your opinions?
Is the theology around dealing with introduced species something you have thought about before? Is it something you might consider in the future?
To answer visit http://fiveleaf-crownofthorns.blogspot.com/ or join the Church Greening and Christian Environmentalist Network on Facebook.
Quotes of the Month
“Some people interpret theocentrism as another version of anthropocentrism. That is, God has made humans to have a special relationship with him; thus, human interests preempt all other interests.
Indeed, this interpretation has been a major criticism of Christianity (White 1967). In fact, while that interpretation may be one many religious persons have, it is not necessarily theocentric. A theocentric
view is that animals and plants have value in some way determined by the value God places on them. This is the foundation of the stewardship principle found in a number of monotheistic religions
(Rolston 1993). For students who belong to one of the monotheistic religious groups, a theocentric environmental ethic demands protection of native and endemic species from loss, even if such protection demands inconvenience and sacrifice for humans (though it should be noted that theocentric positions vary widely within this broad outline [Gustafson 1981, Devall and Sessions 1985]).”
‘A wild unhandled lot they are
Of every shape and breed.
They venture out ‘neath moon and star
‘Long the flats to feed.
But when the dawn makes pink the sky
And steals along the plain,
The brumby horses turn and fly
Back to the hills again.’
Excerpt from ‘Brumby’s Run’ by AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson
“In 1967 Lynn White in his essay ‘The historical roots of the ecological crisis’ laid the responsibility for the crisis squarely on the shoulders of Christians and what he took to be the biblical view of nature. A case can certainly be made that Christians bear a major responsibility for our ecological crisis. But the fault is not their biblical but their unbiblical view of nature. Christians have long failed to understand what the Bible really teaches concerning nature and our responsibility for it. For this there is no excuse. Repentance must be our first response.
Our second response must then be to right the wrongs of our faulty understanding and act accordingly. We are responsible to know what can be known of God’s will for nature, and we are then responsible to act on that knowledge.” James Sire (Forward) in Van Dyke et al.(1996) Redeeming Creation, IVP Academic
Crown of Thorns Blog
Making Green Convenient
Speech for Fitzroy UC at CERES – Why I do the work I do
A collection of Bible Verses on the Environment from Psalms
A Christian Perspective on the Environment – My Speech from the JCMA Greening with God conference
Want to learn more about church greening or reflect on what the Bible says about the environment? Then visit the Crown of Thorns blog by Jessica Morthorpe at http://fiveleaf-crownofthorns.blogspot.com/
Websites to Visit:
Invasive Species Council
Please feel free to pass this newsletter on to any individual or group who may be interested.
 Professor Scott Keogh (S2 2010) BIOL2111 Australian Vertebrates, Australian National University
 Alexander, June (2000) Spirit of the wild brumby shines through, Country Living, The Weekly Times, February 16, 2000 p81
 Jones, B. and Coleman, S. (2006). Animal Welfare – RSPCA perspective. In:
Dawson, M.J., Lane, C. and Saunders, G. (Eds) (2006). Proceedings of the
National Feral Horse Management Workshop – Canberra, August 2006.
 Boorse, Dorothy (2004) Teaching Environmental Ethics: Non-indigenous Invasive Species As A Study of Human Relationships to Nature, Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology, Volume 8, Numbers 2-3, pp. 323-335