by Cathryn Hamilton
Am I a tree-hugging greenie? A caring grandmother? A steward of God’s creation? Or all of the above? Well yes, I love trees, but I love birds, orchids (like the Pink Fairy Orchids I photographed, above), food, and spending time with my grandchildren, too! These are all God’s gifts and they all need to be cared for.
Earth care is a topic that has long interested me. During my childhood near Murray Bridge in South Australia, my parents were market gardeners before venturing into raising chickens. I learned about sustainability, the value of recycling chicken manure, conserving water, buying local, and living simply and in community. I grew up in the Lutheran church. Many members were farmers, although I didn’t see evidence of environmental action in the 1960s and 70s.
Studying science at university, I heard about US marine biologist Rachel Carson, whose writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement, particularly regarding the impact of pesticides. My early work was agriculture-based – dairy research, soil and water conservation and plant quarantine.
A marriage, a mortgage and two children later, I took much-needed contract work with the department which is now SA Water, and at the SA Health Commission. I had also joined the Lutheran church in 1991 at Salisbury to help my children learn about Jesus.
While my work was all environment-related, my interests were turning to how the community could do more. In 2011, I finished a PhD researching carbon-neutral communities and realised we can’t rely on government to protect God’s creation – it’s a bottom-up task. While politicians struggle for agreement on climate change policy, in the meantime I believe we are called to act. As Christians, we have no choice but to care deeply about the life-giving planet we call Earth.
God calls each of us differently to use our gifts and his gifts – my story and his story. In my life I hope that others see the connection I feel to God’s creation, a respect for conserving resources by building an energy-efficient home, and my desire to share what I have learned with others through my work.
In 2015 I was asked by Tanya Wittwer, the chair of the LCA’s Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions (CSBQ), to nominate to the commission. The aim was to help the church experience ‘eco-reformation’ – that by its stewardship actions the LCA shows it values and cares for God’s gift of creation. My prayer is that, through the Holy Spirit, the work of CSBQ and its Environmental Action Working Group, with Lutheran Education Australia and Australian Lutheran World Service, continues and expands across the LCA/NZ to bring about some bottom-up action.
Dr Cathryn Hamilton is Convener of the CSBQ Environmental Action Working Group and a member of Salisbury Lutheran Church in suburban Adelaide.