Posted: Feb 17

One Hillside on the Other Side of the World

By Greg Rickel Environmental Stewardship

southern-philippines-017.jpgThere we stood, perched on the side of a steep hillside, looking down at new growth trees, planted to protect from landslides, to produce a sustainable crop, to help our earth.   Fabulous people, living simple and not so easy lives, deeply attuned to their role in protecting our environment.  

Two weeks ago I was moving around the island of Mindinao in the Southern Philippines, the Diocese of the Southern Philippines to be exact, the guest of Bishop Danilo Bustamante as we, the Diocese of Olympia, and the Southern Philippines enter into our new companion relationship based in care of creation and our environment.  Our entire relationship and covenant with one another is based in the stewardship of creation.   I am quite sure many other good and wonderful things will come out of this, not the least of which are relationships already in full development, but then, that would also be the stewardship of creation!

Due to many reasons -- the need to feed families, greed, arrogance, and basic misunderstandings of what our human actions do to the earth -- slash and burn deforestation and mining have taken a huge toll on their land.   They seem to know it.  I was in the Philippines when the big earthquake hit the Vasayas Islands.   I did not feel the earthquake, but I did feel the concern of their fellow citizens as they watched from a distance.  The first words uttered were an older man who said, "we just can't keep doing the things we do to our earth and not expect it to answer back."   Of course, this may not be cause and effect in this case, but I surely believe we have to hold that idea always as a possibility, and I do believe it is the case more often than not. 

southern-philippines-019.jpgIn December, huge floods and landslides hit Southern Philippines, this diocese.  Many lost their lives in a region that had never been hit by a typhoon, that was unheard of, and had never experienced rains as they did then.  Due to mining and slash and burn tactics, the land could not withstand it, and huge landslides devastated whole villages. 

I personally traveled there to sign the covenant in their presence, to acknowledge that in our western world, we use the bulk of energy, and put out the bulk of carbon into our atmosphere.  There is a feeling of futility in working with us, which they acknowledge.  I went there to make a direct contact, so that we might attempt to heal our earth with direct action, where we know the people, know the stories, know the struggles in the face of trying to feed a family. 

I know, some of you are saying, and in the process you burned up so much fuel on that plane, and put more carbon in the air.  True.  And that is why I buy carbon offsets every month, to account for my family's carbon footprint, and even more when I take big trips like this one.   And that is the point of our covenant, our work together, to try to do something where our abundance might help their need for rubber tree nurseries, (a tree that is great for the earth and the pocketbook!) and other aid to them.  You might consider looking at how you can tithe to our earth, to God's creation, and get directly involved in giving back to the earth that has given so much to us.   Just below this blog I give you some links to places to go to learn more. 

southern-philippines-018.jpgOn that hillside, which was repeated over and over again in my visit, I realized finally, that every tree planted was not just helping the earth, or the people that farmed that land; it was a gift to me, to my family, to everyone on the planet.  That effort did have a cause and affect, a very real one.  That tree breathes, 24/7.  It lives, like you and me, and gives us what we need, as we give it what it needs.  It is a cleansing reality for our earth, and for our very existence.  I give thanks daily for that hillside on the other side of the world, and for all like it, which add up to restoration and resurrection of our earth, this island home we have been given to cherish and protect. 


The Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel, Bishop of Olympia

Please do your own research, in your area, etc, and if you can do this directly as described above, do it!  But here is a start.

Links for Carbon Footprint Calculators

Links for ways to tithe to the earth to carbon offset your footprint   (The one I currently use)

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