WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Responding to the call for ecological conversion

Lisa Beech

The idea that some four-year-olds in Australia have never seen rain is behind the creation of a new Catholic agency to focus on environmental issues across the Tasman.

Col Brown of Catholic Earthcare Australia was keynote speaker at four seminars organised in the Palmerston North Diocese to consider the Social Justice Week focus on environmental justice.

Col told people gathered in Palmerston North, Napier, Whanganui and Stratford that since 2001 the Australian Bishops have taken seriously the call of Pope John Paul II for ecological conversion.

An environmental lawyer, Col has taken many environmental cases on a pro bono basis – ‘a matter of selling a lot of pavlovas and lamingtons to fight the good fight’ – when he was asked by the Australian Bishops to draft their 2002 Social Justice Week statement on the environment.

Out of the interest and enthusiasm generated by that work, came the creation of Catholic Earthcare Australia. It has found huge support among Catholics but also from environmental and conservation groups.

Col has found that many people involved in environmental organisations in Australia give credit to their Catholic schooling for forming their consciences ‘even though they are on long service leave from the Sunday event’.

The work of Catholic Earthcare Australia has included drafting statements on the Great Barrier Reef for the bishops of Queensland, and on the Murray River basin for the bishops of the South Australian diocese that have a geographic connection to the region that supplies 60 percent of Australia’s food.

Australia is currently experiencing a drought, in which some four-year-old children in parts of New South Wales have never experienced rain. He showed pictures of dust clouds crossing the Tasman Sea – ‘We’re exporting our dirt to New Zealand’ [pictured left] and said that Australian dust has been found on New Zealand ski slopes.

Col finds recognition of his work in the call of Pope John Paul II shortly before his death for ‘ecological vocations’. He said he had wondered at times as he undertook environmental legal battles what was the connection with his faith. He understands it now as an ecological vocation. ‘I am following Jesus in the way that I have been given.’