This is an article by one of our American friends which continues our discussions on Eastern Orthodox ecological perspectives.
Endangered Species: Christian Responsibility
By Fred Krueger
The abuse by contemporary man of his privileged position in creation and of the Creator’s order “to have dominion over the earth” (Genesis 1.28) has already led the world to the edge of apocalyptic self-destruction, either in the form of natural pollution which is dangerous for all living beings, or in the form of the extinction of many species of the animal and plant world…. – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios
For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation… these things are sins. – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
A good steward is careful to protect the things of his Master’s house: he protects against destruction and decay. He would never permit pollution, rainforest burning, or the extinction of entire species. – HE Metropolitan +Nicholas of Amissos
SHOULD ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS BE CONCERNED ABOUT SAVING ENDANGERED ANIMAL SPECIES?
Critics sometimes claim that they get in the way of progress and development, and if they die out, it doesn’t really matter. There are thousands of other species. Is this a proper way for Christians to respond to this question? What is an appropriate way for Orthodox to understand the endangered species issue? As background, let us recall that North America was originally blessed with some of the world’s most amazing wildlife. When European settlers first visited this continent they encountered Eastern elk and wood buffalo populating the forests of Appalachia; a huge 10′ to 11″ tall golden grizzly bear was in the river valleys of California; a unique jaguar roamed the Arizona desert. On the coastal waters of the Pacific the Stellar sea cow – a large 35′ relative of the Florida manatee – was hunted to extinction because of 1 its tasty flesh. In the Atlantic the sea mink and the grey whale are now gone. In the skies, tens of millions of passenger pigeons filled the air; large flocks of colorful Carolina parakeets were in the forests, and the flightless great auk was on Atlantic islands. These creatures are all gone – extinct by the hand of a rapacious human society – as are many others including the once massive schools of salmon and steelhead that crowded western rivers; the huge flocks of ducks and geese that filled the skyways; and spectacular pods of whales that swam the oceans.
Pioneers saw this original abundance as evidence that God “shed His grace on Thee,” as the 19th century hymn “America, the Beautiful” proclaims. They arrived at this conclusion because the Scriptures repeatedly teach a respect and care for the animals. This we read in many different places in the Bible so that it becomes an inescapable conclusion for Christians. Here are several examples from Scripture.
The Witness of the Bible on Animals
When God created the animals – even before He created people – He gave them a divine mandate to multiply and fill the earth. They therefore have a command from God to continue their species. As humans we are to honor their responsibility to fulfill what God has commanded regarding the design of the world. Humans are given dominion over creation, including the animals. Dominion means that we are to treat God’s creation as the Lord would treat it. (The English word “dominion” derives from the Latin word “dominus” which means Lord, or to be as the Lord.) This implies love, care and thoughtfulness as well as concern for the welfare and the future of what God has placed into human care. It does not and never did mean a simplistic domination of the animals or the earth.
God tells us to replenish the earth – which means to put back what we take. Replenishment applies to the earth and everything in it, including the animals. We may take from creation to live, but we must ensure the continued fruitfulness of the land and the species which dwell on it. The mass killing of the buffalo on the American plains or the extermination of the passenger pigeons disregarded this command to replenish the earth – i.e., to maintain its fruitfulness.
God directed Adam to name the animals. This was not an arbitrary process. In Hebrew each letter has meaning that relates back to the qualities in the nature of God. The naming of each animal required a deep discernment of its inner essences and an identification of those attributes within creatures that connect them back to their Creator. The ancient responsibility to name the creatures reminds us that humans are priests of creation, charged by God with its care and keeping, but also with an accountability for a right relationship between heaven and earth.
At the time of the Flood, God commanded Noah to save each animal species. Notice in this story that God was more concerned about saving each species than He was about saving the sinful people. After the rains fell, God allowed those people to 2 drown who would not listen to Noah, but He ensured that the animal species were all preserved.
After the Flood God makes his covenant with Noah but also with all the animals in the ark. This covenant declares that as long as they obey God, there will not again be another great flood. If God can make covenant with Noah and his descendants in perpetuity, including the animals, His acknowledgment of them in a contractual manner means that He intends for them to survive into the future. Humans should not abrogate what God has intended by causing any species to be exterminated.
In the Psalms the author repeatedly presents images in which animals, plants, and trees coexist in a cosmic harmony. We read an epic vision in Psalm 103/104 in which there are places appointed for the animals and the Lord oversees the whole creation. The author then concludes “in wisdom hast thou made them all” (Ps. 103:24). Several lessons emerge from this sequence. As creation gives praise to God and exists in adequacy and simple sufficiency, not excess, this serves as a model for human behavior. The fact that creation is imbued with wisdom means that the order, balance, harmony, and beauty with which God has assembled the world should serve as the model and guide for how we are to structure and build human society. The implication is that we should make room for the animals and plants, and not allow their elimination.
A further implication is that wisdom is essential for a harmonious world. Because wisdom is accessed only by theosis, spiritual striving is fundamental for each person. This allows us to live consciously connected to God’s wisdom and therefore to discern and foresee the consequences that our actions have upon each another and the biotic world.
In the last book of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, St. John the Evangelist writes that in the end, all the animals of earth and the creatures of the sea will join us in heaven and “sing in the choir,” giving praise to God (Rev. 5:13). If the animals are destined to sing in the heavenly choir, we should recognize this by respecting their place in the world.
The Witness of the Fathers and Saints
Just as the Scriptures are clear in their teaching about animals and their importance, so are the saints. They offer a rich and varied commentary that takes us deeper into an awareness of the connectedness of life. In particular we should note the different reasons that the saints offer for respecting animals.
Tertullian (160-230), an early father from the second century, declared that not only are the animals created by God, but they have their own form of prayer.
Cattle and wild beasts pray, and bend their knees, and in coming forth from their stalls and lairs 3 they too look up to heaven, their mouths not idle, Making the Spirit move in the fashion of their own kind.
Origen (185-254), considered “the Father of Theology” by early Christians, tells us that there is a divine art in the structure of the world and in the distribution of the creatures.
The divine art that is manifested in the structure of the world is not only to be seen in the sun, the moon and stars; it operates also on earth on a reduced scale. The hand of the Lord has not neglected the bodies of the smallest animals – and still less their souls – because each of them is seen to possess some feature that is personal to it, for instance, the way it protects itself. Nor has the hand of the Lord neglected the earth’s plants, each of which has some detail bearing the mark of the divine art, whether it be the roots, the leaves, the fruits or the variety of species. In the same way, in books written under the influence of divine inspiration, Providence imparts to the human race a wisdom that is more than human, sowing in each letter some saving truth insofar as that letter can convey it, marking out thus the path of wisdom. For once it has been granted that the Scriptures have God himself for their author, we must necessarily believe that the person who is asking questions of nature, and the person who is asking questions of the Scriptures, are bound to arrive at the same conclusions. Commentary on Psalm 1, 3 (PG 12, 1081)
St. Jerome (341-420), one of the western fathers and a historian of the Early church, reminds us that we admire the Creator for His creation of the animals, even the insects. He tells us that the mind of Christ is present even in the small creatures as well as the large.
We admire the Creator, not only as the framer of heaven and earth, of sun and ocean, … but for bears and lions, and also as the Maker of tiny creatures: ants, gnats, flies, etc. So the mind that is given to Christ is equally earnest in small things as in great, knowing that an account must be made in the end for even an idle word.
St. Basil the Great (329-379) says that we should care about the animals because the Lord has promised to save and redeem them as well as we humans.
For those, O Lord, the humble beasts that bear with us the burden and heat of the day 4 and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; And for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, We supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou has promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.
St. John Chrysostom (347-407) writes that we should respect animals for many reasons, but “especially because they have the same origin as we do.” This should remind us that we are all connected.
St. John Climacus (509-603) relates that each animal embodies some portion of the wisdom of God.
Nothing is without order and purpose in the animal kingdom; each animal bears the wisdom of the Creator and testifies of Him. God granted man and animals many natural attributes, such as compassion, love, feelings… for even dumb animals bewail the loss of one of their own.
St. Isaac the Syrian (640?-8th century) describes a person who has a charitable heart in terms of how that person relates to the animals.
What is a charitable heart? It is a heart which is burning with a loving charity for the whole of creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons – for all creatures. He who has such a heart cannot see or call to mind a creature without his eyes being filled with tears by reason of the immense compassion which seizes his heart. A heart which is so softened can no longer bear to hear or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain, being inflicted upon any creature. This is why such a man never ceases to pray for the animals, for the enemies of truth, and for those who do him evil, that they may be preserved and purified. He will pray even for the lizards and reptiles, moved by the infinite pity which reigns in the hearts of those who are becoming united with God.
St. Guthlac (673-714), one of the most revered and beloved of the early British saints, tells us that holiness tames the animals.
Brother, hast thou never learned in Holy Writ, that with him who has led his life after God’s will, the wild beasts and wild birds are tame? (Felix’s Life of St. Guthlac)
His biographer, Cynewulf, considered the first great Anglo-Saxon poet, called St. Guthlac “the great hero of our time.” He then describes the saint through a narration on how the animals related to him.
Triumphant came he [St. Guthlac] to the hill; And many living things did bless his coming. With bursting chorus and with other signs The wild birds of the hill made known their joy Because this well-loved friend had now returned. Oft had he given them food when they were hungry, even starving, they had come straight to his hand and from it they ate their fill. … The Song of Guthlac
Fyodor Doestoyevski (1821-1881), the great Russian novelist who was spiritually formed by the monks of Optina Pustyn monastery, teaches readers to look beyond the superficial appearance of things into the mystery of Christ hidden in all people and all things. In this view, he reflects the traditional Russian Christian attitude toward the land and the loving respect which is required of each person toward the earth and all its creatures.
Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Do not trouble their joy, do not harass them, do not deprive them of their happiness, do not work against God’s intent. Man, do not pride yourself on superiority to animals; they are without sin, and you, with your greatness, defile the earth by your appearance on it, and leave the traces of your foulness after you – Alas, it is true of almost everyone of us! The Brothers Karamazov
A simple conclusion from the foregoing is that the Scriptures and the Saints agree that care for animals is a Christian concern. Both sources point to a spiritual obligation to respect the animals. They remind us that Christians have a responsibility to treat animals with a holy regard because they are God’s creatures and because they have an appointed place in His creation.
The Conclusion of Biologists and Scientists
The studies of biologists and scientists indicate that we have not done a good job at preserving the world’s living endowment of creatures.
Even though God has bestowed a great abundance of animal and plant species on the world, that abundance is in fast decline. As a society we are causing a rapid drop in the diversity of creatures that is threatening extinction for a quarter of all mammals, a third of amphibians, and half of all coral reef species, according to a 2009 report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
In assembling their report on endangered species, the IUCN found that many more species are now in peril of extinction than when a similar study was conducted five years ago. According to report editor Jean Christophe Vie, “Biodiversity continues to decline. It’s happening everywhere.” Mr. Vie said biodiversity threats need to be highlighted and combated, even at a time when world leaders are preoccupied with economic recession. Unlike financial markets and debts, extinction is irreversible. Once a species disappears, it is gone forever.
Mr. Vie urged that governments and citizens undertake a series of lifestyle changes to lessen the use of energy and reduce consumption, redesign cities, and reassess the environmental consequences of globalization – producing goods in poor countries where wages are low and transporting them thousands of miles for sale in places where wages are high, such as the United States and Europe. Vie added that the danger from global climate change will only make this situation worse.
In Europe, “about 50 percent of all animal species are vulnerable,” observes Barbara Helfferich, a European Union spokeswoman. “Habitats are shrinking and a lot needs to be done. We are not doing enough to halt biodiversity loss.” Part of the problem is that most people fail to see how their actions have consequences for the natural world.
To illustrate the interconnectedness between human actions and creatures, examine the story of a malaria epidemic in Borneo. The World Health Organization (WHO) tried to control the disease by eradicating mosquitoes by using DDT, a pesticide now banned in most countries. The DDT did its job and eradicated most of the mosquitoes. But then a series of unexpected consequences began to unfold. The pesticide also wiped out the wasps that had controlled the local thatch-eating insects. The result was that the straw roofs on the local huts began to collapse. At the same time the DDT poison accumulated in the lizard population because the lizards ate the dying mosquitoes. This caused the cats which dined on the lizards to bioaccumulate the DDT and die from pesticide poisoning. Without cats the rat population multiplied and unleashed a ferocious epidemic which infested fields and villages and decimated the food crops. To cure this larger problem, the WHO was forced to parachute in 14,000 new cats to control the rats in what officially became known as “Operation Cat Drop.”
The lesson from this situation is that by using a dangerous pesticide to remove a serious insect pest, nature’s balance was disrupted and the intended solution caused far more problems for the local population than the problem which originally existed. This sequence of unexpected consequences shows that solutions to problems must be in harmony with nature and they must not create additional new problems.
Why are we concerned about losing animal and plant species?
God gave the world such an abundance of different animals and plants, it might seem that if we lose a few, it wouldn’t make too much difference. In fact this is not true. Each creature is important and should be preserved. Here are several perspectives that should help to understand this situation.
When humans cause a species to go extinct, this demonstrates that we are living out of harmony with God’s commands and His creation.
The very existence of species that are threatened because of human impact tells us that we are living in a manner that is destructive to the life of the world. Endangered species are evidence of a failure to respect and have holy regard for what God has created on earth. If we disregard these species, retribution will likely come through a loss of the services which animal and plant species provide. For example, the island of Borneo possesses some of the world’s most amazing orchids. Estimates are that between 2,500 and 3,000 orchid species grow in its humid, but botanically unexplored rainforests. Many of these flowers are not yet catalogued by science. These orchids are highly valued for their exotic aromas and their amazing color combinations. But these orchids are endangered because of illegal logging, gold mining, and the clearing of forests to grow palm oil, and especially the illegal collecting and selling of wild orchids by orchid hunters who respond to high consumer demand for these beautiful flowers. Already these pressures in just the past decade have led to the extinction of hundreds of orchid species. According to a Global Forest Watch report, Indonesia is losing its forestlands so quickly that at the current rate of loss, Borneo’s forests could vanish entirely by 2015.
Our lifestyle is causing an accelerating rate of animal and plant extinctions
Presently the world is losing an estimated 8,500 species per year. These species are disappearing for a variety of reasons, including pollution, habitat destruction, the introduction of invasive species, the early impacts of climate change, hunting and over harvesting, and the sprawl of cities due to growing human populations. This represents the loss of roughly one unique species every hour, or about 2% of all animal and plant species over the year. When this total is added to new estimates of how global climate change will increase the extinction rate, scientists report that by the middle of this 21st century (by the year 2050), we will be faced with the extinction and disappearance forever of roughly 50% of all the world’s species! Imagine how the world would be if half of all the animal and plant species disappear?
The extinction of animal and plant species threatens the food supply
The world’s food supply is dependent upon the entire web of life for vigor, vitality and an ability to provide sustenance for a hungry human population. Every biological process has excess capacity built into its design to ensure strength and resilience. If one species disappears, there are sometimes others which can be substituted. However as we lose species, we remove components from a working biological system. For perspective, imagine you car. How would your car run if someone removed a few parts from your automobile each week? It would not take long before the car would no longer operate properly. The food chain is similar. If we lose the ability to pollinate crops, a service which insects, birds and small mammals provide, about one-third of all fruit and vegetable crops would no longer bear fruit.
Presently the U.S. is experiencing a steep decline in bee populations, mostly because of pesticides. Some top pollinating species are now down to only 4% of their historic numbers. As we lose pollinating insects, the food chain becomes at risk. This is a sobering situation because the world has a growing population, but a declining agricultural base. A declining food supply coupled with a growing population means future hunger and starvation in some parts of the world. Protection of endangered species becomes protection for a healthy food chain and a healthy population.
The human economy is dependent upon the right functioning of nature
Humans depend on ecosystems such as coastal waters, prairie grasslands, and ancient forests to purify their air, clean the water, and supply food. When species become endangered, this indicates that these ecosystems are degrading. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that losing just one plant species can trigger the loss of up to thirty other insect, plant and higher animal species. Some individuals who have not examined the issue declare that the economy is what is important, not these species. They forget that the economy rests upon the right functioning of the air, water, soils, plants and all of the other elements of the living environment. The fact is, the economy should be seen as a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Healthy human society rests upon clean air, clean water and a vigorous ecosystem. Without a healthy environment, healthy families or a healthy economy cannot exist.
Nature holds cures for diseases that have not yet been discovered
Public health advocates add another argument for protecting plant and microbial species. They observe that we scarcely know what valuable medicines many of these unexamined species contain. For perspective only a small percentage of the world’s plants have been examined for medicinal values. To elaborate on an example from the previous chapter, just twenty-five years ago, loggers considered the Pacific yew tree a “trash tree.” Pharmacologists then discovered that the bark of this thin, scraggily tree contained a unique compound, taxol. This bioactive chemical turned out to be a potent drug in the fight against lung and ovarian cancers. Because of the unique substances in the bark of the Pacific yew tree, tens of thousands of people now live who previously would have died. Like unread books in a library, species may have value that only becomes apparent after they are properly studied.
What Are the Solutions?
Solutions to save endangered animal and plant species take place at several levels: (1) in the home and local parish, (2) in the community by the shaping attitudes and influencing public policy on endangered species, and (3) in the halls of government.
Here are suggestions on what you can do in your home and parish:
— Develop respect and reverence for all life, including animals. Cultivate a consistent pro-life attitude. As you respect God’s life in creation through the creatures, you are respecting what God has created. Know that in a reduced and diminished manner, the animals also bear some portion of the image of God.
— Learn about the endangered species in your area. Before you can protect endangered species, you should identify them. Learn about their place in the local environment. Find out where they live and why they are endangered. Education and information are essential in protecting them. Make an effort to observe them and see them as God’s creation. Tell your friends and family about the birds, fish, and plants that live near you and your community.
— Minimize herbicide and pesticide use. Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice, but they are hazardous pollutants that harm wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade; they build up in the soils and from there migrate into the food chain. Predators such as hawks, owls and coyotes are harmed if they eat tainted or poisonous animals. Amphibians, especially frogs and toads, are especially vulnerable.
— Recycle all wastes and buy sustainable products. Buy recycled paper, and other sustainable products like bamboo and certified Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forests and forest species. Never buy furniture made from rainforest wood. Recycle your cell phones because a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics is mined in gorilla habitat. Minimize the use of palm oil because forests where tigers live are being cut down to plant palm plantations.
— Plant native vegetation. Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies helps to pollinate your plants. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat. They can even prey on native species directly, forcing native species towards extinction.
— Make your parish and home wildlife friendly. If you live in a rural area, secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals. Reduce the use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live nearby can have a better chance of survival. Disinfect bird baths to avoid disease transmission. Place decals on windows to deter bird collisions. Millions of birds die unnecessarily every year because of collisions with windows. You can help reduce the number of collisions simply by placing decals on the windows in your home and office.
— Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species. Overseas trips can be exciting, but souvenirs are sometimes made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the illegal wildlife market. Avoid items made from ivory, tortoise-shell, or coral. Be careful of products made from or including fur from lions, tigers, polar bears, sea otters, crocodile skin, live monkeys or apes, most live birds including parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches, some snakes, turtles and lizards, some orchids and cacti, or medicinal products made from rhinos, tigers, Asiatic black bear, or any other endangered wildlife.
— Restrain harassment of threatened and endangered species. Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction. Don’t participate in these activities, and report them as soon as you see an incident to your local, state, or federal wildlife enforcement office.
— Protect wildlife habitat. The greatest threat that many endangered species face is the destruction of their habitat (i.e., the places where they live). Scientists say that the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live. Wildlife, just like people, must have places to find food, shelter and raise their young. Logging, over-grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling, and development all cause habitat destruction. As you protect habitat, you also protect whole communities of animals and plants.
— Encourage parks and protected wild areas. Parks, wildlife refuges, and other open space should be protected near your community. Open space provides great places to visit and enjoy. Support wildlife habitat and open space protection in your community. When you are buying a house, consider your impact on wildlife habitat.
— Harmonize your lifestyle with God’s creation. As Orthodox Christians who submit to the Scriptures and Holy Tradition, we must face the seriousness of the extinction threat. We are to take the steps in attitude and lifestyle that will prevent the extinction of species and preserve the abundance and biodiversity which is essential to the flourishing of life.
Action must also take place by the larger community and by state and national government. Without government participation, individual action will not be sufficient.
— Preserve the Endangered Species Act. Legislation by Congress provides a first line of protection for most U.S. endangered species. This is our modern Noah’s Ark. Once designated as endangered or threatened, a species cannot be destroyed nor can its habitat be eliminated. Private landowners should be recognized and applauded who voluntarily protect rare plants and animals. All these efforts need to continue and expand to keep our natural heritage alive.
— Develop parish public policy advocacy. Orthodox parishes must become informed and active regarding the preservation of habitats and biodiversity. They must learn how to stand up for what God has created. This means that they should consider advocacy together with other community groups to ensure that development and industrialization do not impair the integrity of wetlands, streams, fields, and forests.
— Acknowledge and support positive actions. Parish creation care ministries should acknowledge and commend companies that have pledged to stop purchasing lumber from endangered forests. They should encourage Church and other purchasers of wood and paper products to make serious efforts to avoid purchasing products made from endangered forests.
— Cultivate civic responsibility for our nation’s laws and policies. Write the United States Congress and the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Interior Department (especially its Fish and Wildlife Department), as well as state governments, and urge these departments to refrain from efforts to abolish or undercut established policies and initiatives to protect endangered species. Ask them to preserve wetlands, to minimize road building in national forests, and to preserve roadless wilderness areas.
— Urge local government to refrain from unnecessary development. The parish ministry of God’s creation should ask the President and the Congress to respect God’s creation. They should call upon our leaders to drop plans to explore for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This will have serious adverse effects on this unique but fragile ecosystem upon which many kinds of wildlife as well as indigenous people depend. We should urge government, industry, agriculture and individuals to face the urgency of energy conservation and to accelerate the transition from a fossil fuel base to a solar and alternative energy base for the economy.
— Teach young people respect for animals in parish schools. We should educate young people and encourage parish members to acknowledge the Orthodox vision of creation. This vision discerns Christ and the Holy Spirit as our “Heavenly King” who is “everywhere present and fills all things.” The implications of this vision should be taught to all children and emphasized to all adults. The statements of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and our other hierarchs on the care of God’s creation should be read and there should be opportunities to deepen faith through awareness that Orthodoxy implies a lifestyle of restraint, conservation and frugality in our use of the world’s resources.
Through the actions listed above, we extend the life of the Church into the life of the home and society. In the process we articulate an Orthodox way of life that is consistent with Jesus Christ, constructive, and earth healing. The more these guidelines are embraced, the more the consequences extend beyond endangered animal species into the larger society. These actions fortify the parish in virtue, strengthen families in the love of God, and teach children in a manner that provides stability into the future. For those who embrace these guidelines, the practice of respect for creation will strengthen spiritual vitality and bestow an ability to withstand the assaults of a coarsening culture upon those who strive to follow the Way and the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Scientists emphasize that climate change has the potential to destroy the entire ecosystem which sustains not only the human species but also the wondrous world of animals and plants. The choices and actions of what is otherwise civilized modern man have led to this tragic situation, which in essence is a moral and spiritual problem which the divinely inspired Apostle Paul articulated with colorful imagery in underlining its ontological dimension. “For creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who subjected it… For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now” (Romans 8:20,22). – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew September 1, 2008
We in the Orthodox Church see Creation as the foundational concept by which we understand all environmental issues. When a creature is created, that creature has meaning, value and purpose. This is true whether that creature is a human person, an animal, an insect, a plant, a tree, a geological formation, or an astronomical body. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of creation as a foundational concept. It means that we must accept the reality of every creature as meaningful. – HE Metropolitan +Nicholas of Amissos Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002
In affirming the sacred images, the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea, 787) was not primarily concerned with religious art, but with the presence of God in the heart, in others and in creation. For icons encourage us to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary, to be filled with the same wonder of the Genesis account, when: “God saw everything that He made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1.30-31)….
Icons are invitations to rise beyond trivial concerns and menial reductions. We must ask ourselves: Do we see beauty in others and in our world? The truth is that we refuse to behold God’s Word in the oceans of our planet, in the trees of our continents, and in the animals of our earth. In so doing, we deny our own nature, which demands that we stoop low enough to hear God’s Word in creation. We fail to perceive created nature as the extended Body of Christ. Eastern Christian theologians have always emphasized the cosmic proportions of divine incarnation. For them, the entire world is a prologue to St. John’s Gospel. And when the Church overlooks the broader, cosmic dimensions of God’s Word, it neglects its mission to implore God for the transformation of the whole polluted cosmos. On Easter Sunday, Orthodox Christians chant:
Now everything is filled with divine light: heaven and earth, and all things beneath the earth. So let all creation rejoice. – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Fordham University, October 27, 2009
It is unfortunate that we lead our life without noticing the environmental concert that is playing out before our eyes and ears. In this orchestra, each minute detail plays a critical role. Nothing can be removed without the entire symphony being affected. No tree, animal, or fish can be removed without the entire picture being distorted, if not destroyed. – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Moscow, Russia, May 26, 2010
Far too long have we limited our understanding of community, reducing it to include only human beings. It is time that we extend this notion also to include the living environment, to animals and to trees, to birds and to fishes. Embracing in compassion all people as well as all of animal and inanimate creation brings good news and fervent hope to the whole world. – HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew June 30, 2004
A painstaking five-month long investigation by Crispin Dowler [@CrispinDowler] shows that a small group of wealthy families control huge swathes of the country’s fishing quota. Just five families on the Sunday Times Rich List hold or control 29% of the UK’s fishing quota. The finding comes from a new Unearthed investigation that traced the owners of more than 95% of UK quota holdings – including, for the first time, those of Scotland, the UK’s biggest fishing nation.
It reveals that more than two-thirds of the UK’s fishing quota is controlled by just 25 businesses – and more than half of those are linked to one of the biggest criminal overfishing scams ever to reach the British courts. Meanwhile, in England nearly 80% of fishing quota is held by foreign owners or domestic Rich List families, and more than half of Northern Ireland’s quota is hoarded onto a single trawler.
The news comes as the government is preparing to publish a new fisheries bill, which will set the legal foundations for the UK’s fishing industry after Brexit. Small scale fishermen told Unearthed that successive governments have mismanaged fishing rights, allowing quota to be consolidated on a handful of supertrawlers while smaller-scale, low impact fishermen had been progressively starved of access. Jerry Percy, director of the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, told Unearthed successive government in a situation where the smaller inshore vessels that make up 77% of the fleet had ended up with “less than 4% of the quota”.
“This is privatisation of a public resource,” added Mr Percy, who campaigns on behalf of fishermen with smaller, under-10m long, vessels.
But while the government is hoping it can net access to more fishing rights in the Brexit negotiations, it has said the new bill will not see any redistribution of the UK’s existing quota rights. As Unearthed’s investigation shows, this will leave the bulk of UK fishing rights in the hands of a small domestic elite and a handful of foreign multinationals. It reveals:
- The five largest quota-holders control more than a third of UK fishing quota
- Four of the top five belong to families on the Sunday Times Rich List
- The fifth is a Dutch multinational whose UK subsidiary – North Atlantic Fishing Company – controls around a quarter of England’s fishing quota
- Around half of England’s quota is ultimately owned by Dutch, Icelandic, or Spanish interests
- More than half (13) of the top 25 quota holders have directors, shareholders, or vessel partners who were convicted of offences in Scotland’s £63m “black fish” scam – a huge, sophisticated fraud that saw trawlermen and fish processors working together to evade quota limits and land 170,000 tonnes of undeclared herring and mackerel
- One of the flagships of the “Brexit flotilla” – which sailed up the Thames in 2016 to demand the UK’s exit from the EU – is among the UK’s 10 biggest quota-holders
- Around 29% of UK fishing quota is directly controlled by Rich List families. Some of these families have investments in dozens of other fishing companies, meaning companies holding 37% of UK quota are wholly or partly owned by these Rich List families.
Most fishing rights in the UK are distributed by fixed quota allocations (FQAs). An FQA gives the holder the right to land a certain share of the UK’s “total allowable catch” (TAC) of a particular stock. The TAC for each stock varies from year to year, based on scientific advice and negotiations in Brussels. There is an active market in the trading and leasing of FQAs. The latest revelations follow Unearthed’s 2016 investigation into English quota holdings which revealed that a tiny fiberglass dinghy apparently “held” more than a fifth of the fishing quota for the entire South-West.
Now, Unearthed’s first UK-wide dive into the opaque world of fishing rights has uncovered further striking statistics. Those with the biggest hoards of quota can earn millions leasing it to others without casting a net. In one recent case a company got rid of its boat and – while waiting for a new one – carried on earning millions from its quota alone. That boat, the Voyager, holds more than half (55%) of Northern Ireland’s fishing quota. In late 2015 the owners disposed of their old, 76m trawler and ordered a replacement . Company accounts show that the new Voyager was not delivered until September 2017, and in the meantime, the company made money by leasing out the quota. In 2016-17 the company made an income of nearly £7m from its quota – reporting an operating profit of £2.5m – despite having no vessel for the full financial year. Despite holding more than half of the country’s quota, the new 86m-long Voyager has not landed its catches in Northern Ireland, because it is too big for Kilkeel Harbour. Instead the vessel operates out of the Republic of Ireland port of Killybegs. Unearthed approached Voyager Fishing Company and its owners, but they were unavailable for comment.
The black fish millionaires
In Scotland – the biggest fishing nation in the UK, with two-thirds of the quota – the domination of the fishing industry by Rich List families is most pronounced. Five Rich List families control a third of Scottish quota and have minority investments in companies that hold a further 11%. This means, in total, companies holding close to half (45%) of all Scottish fishing quotas are wholly or partly owned by five wealthy families. But the investigation also reveals how many of those at the centre of one of Scottish fishing’s most infamous episodes – the black fish scandal – continue to dominate the industry. The scandal came to light in 2005, when Scottish officials raided fish factories to uncover “serious and organised” schemes to systematically evade quota restrictions for mackerel and herring, using underground pipes, secret weighing machines, and extra conveyor belts to land 170,000 tonnes of over-quota fish over several years.
A multi-year police investigation followed, resulting in a series of court cases over 2011 and 2012 in which three fish factories and more than two dozen skippers were hit with fines and confiscation orders for “black landings” of undeclared fish. Unearthed’s investigation found that of the 20 biggest holders of Scottish quota, 13 have directors, shareholders, or vessel partners who were convicted of sea fishing offences in the black fish scandal. Among those prosecuted were four members of the Tait family – worth £115m according to the Rich List – whose Klondyke Fishing Company is the second-largest quota holder in Scotland. The four men – all skippers on its vessels – were hit with fines and confiscation orders of more than £800,000 for their part in the scam. Two years later, one of those skippers, Peter Tait, 50, reportedly bought the most expensive house sold in Scotland that year. Over the past five years Klondyke has paid out shareholder dividends totalling £56m. Unearthed has reached out to Klondyke but the company declined to comment.
The Scottish top 10 also includes the vessel partnership that runs the trawler Christina S. In 2012, two men involved in that partnership – Ernest Simpson, 71, and his son Allan Simpson, 49, both of Aberdeenshire – were handed fines and confiscation orders totalling more than £800,000 for their involvement in the black fish scam. Four years later, the Christina S was among the flotilla of vessels that sailed up the Thames with Nigel Farage, to protest EU fisheries policy weeks before the Brexit referendum. John Anderson is chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation, a huge fish producer organisation which has several members – including the Christina S – that were involved in the black fish scandal. He told Unearthed: “The pelagic fishermen and processors involved will be the first to acknowledge that, in the past, mistakes were made.” As a result, he continued, the sector had founded the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group to oversee the certification of its main fisheries to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards. Since that time, he added, “98% of the group’s stocks have been certified as sustainable and well managed by the MSC.”
In England, the UK’s second largest fishing nation, three Rich List families control around 30% of the quota. A further 49% is ultimately held by Dutch, Spanish and Icelandic interests who have bought up English vessels and quota. The most significant of these interests is Cornelis Vrolijk Holding, a Dutch multinational whose UK subsidiary alone holds 24% of English quota, making it the biggest quota-holder in England, and one of the five biggest in the UK.
Matthew Cox, chief executive of North Atlantic Fishing Company, Cornelis Vroljik’s UK subsidiary, said the company had been established in the UK since 1984, employed around 60 UK fishermen, had two UK offices, and had launched a UK apprenticeship scheme. He also suggested that the type of fishing his company does is not well suited for small-scale fishermen. He added: “North Atlantic does not operate at the expense of small-scale fishermen. Pelagic [midwater fish such as mackerel and herring] and whitefish fishing are very different and a simple comparison/substitution between each is not possible.
“The deep sea nature of the environment make pelagic fishing difficult, dangerous and not very attractive for artisanal fishermen who tend to focus on low volume, high value fish such as cod or monkfish.”
The bulk of the company’s quota is for pelagic fish – which swim at midwater – and it has always emphasised the fact that its nets do not damage the sea bed. However, after the Brexit vote in 2016 the company bought a beam trawler – with nets attached to a heavy beam designed to trawl for “demersal fish” that are found close to the sea bed – and bought up quotas for plaice and sole. Mr Cox said: “Following the 2016 decision for the UK to leave the EU it was very clear early on, to the directors of North Atlantic Fishing, that there would be changes to the UK fishing industry. North Atlantic had always focused on pelagic fishing and it was therefore decided that the company should spread its risk in the interests of the company and its workforce and enter the demersal fishing industry in a very limited manner.”
Large scale fishing interests consistently argue that their businesses generated hundreds of direct and indirect jobs, and that it was misleading to rank businesses by quota holdings alone, when the amount and value of fish that can be landed against those holdings varies between species, and area, and from year to year. Several also pointed out that many of the biggest quota holders identified by Unearthed were trawlers focused on midwater pelagic stocks, like mackerel and herring. These fisheries, they claimed, were environmentally friendly – with a low carbon footprint and no impact on the seabed – but the fish were too low-value and far from the coast to be attractive to small-scale fishermen.
John Anderson is chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation – a huge fish producer organisation with several of the top 25 in its membership. He told Unearthed: “While it is true that there has been considerable consolidation within the pelagic catching sector over the past 20 years, with a trend towards fewer, more efficient vessels each with a greater concentration of fishing opportunity, the economic reality is that small-scale, inshore fishermen, many of whom are also members of the SFO, do not have the necessary capacity or markets needed to fully utilise the pelagic quotas that are already available to them.”
Mr Percy retorted: “If you go back years ago, there was any number of smaller inshore boats that were reliant on mackerel and especially herring in the North Sea before the inshore herring fisheries were decimated by overfishing by larger-scale interests.”
Nick Underdown, of the Scottish campaign group Open Seas, said it was hard for smaller boats to take up mackerel quota without investment in onshore facilities to support them. “At the moment, the supply chain infrastructure favours bigger boats,” he told Unearthed. “But if we invest in processing with the strategic intention to help the smaller-scale fleet, then inshore fishery could bounce back. “This would be a lifeline for those harbours where fishing has declined due to consolidation.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are clear fishing communities and our wider economy should benefit as much as possible from those fishing the UK’s quota, and we are working closely with fishermen to review and reform the rules around the economic link condition.”
Please see our latest Mini-Post for details.
WORLD WILD ANIMAL DAY AND GLOBAL WARMING
I have just received an email outlining the latest research on global warming. It is indeed harrowing but those of us who have followed the science know that this only confirms what some scientists have been discussing these past decades. Attached to that email is the following statement from American Bishops in 2007 and unusually they include scientific statistics from that time (2007). Today the situation is far worse, yet we as individuals and as societies stumble towards the abyss in some sort of collective psychosis, seemingly incapable of altering our ways. As today is World Wild Animal Day (4th Oct) I thought I would pull together some strands in the hope of highlighting the interconnectedness of our creation and how we as individuals may take an important step in both reducing climate change and the suffering of animals. I present the Bishop’s Statement, followed by a short piece on extinction. I continue with some comments and science from my forthcoming book on how we as individuals can make an immediate difference to the situation, followed by an article outlining the latest research.
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge (May 23, 2007).
The following statement, “Global Climate Change: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge,” was adopted by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) at their May 23, 2007 session at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY. The document conveys a theological understanding of the role of the human person and the environment, with particular emphasis on climate change.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and temperate seasons, Let us pray to the Lord.” At every Divine Liturgy the Orthodox Church repeats this petition.
The Book of Prayers (Euchologion) contains numerous prayers for gardens, animals, crops, water and weather conditions. In her wisdom, then, the Church has always known that human beings are dependent upon the grace of God through the world around us to nurture and sustain civilized society. Indeed, “God has worked our salvation through the material world” (St. John Damascene, “On the Divine Images,” 1, 16). While God is the Source of all that we have, and His presence fills the entire world (see Acts 17.28), we humans share a God-given responsibility to care for His creation and offer it back to Him in thanksgiving for all that we have and are. “Thine own of thine own, we offer unto thee, in behalf of all and for all.”
The action of returning creation back to God in gratitude and praise summarizes the commands that God gave humanity in the first chapters of Genesis. These commandments are intended to guide us into a fullness of the spiritual and material goods that we need. God tells us to “have dominion over the earth” (Genesis 1.28), which means that we are to care for the earth as the Lord would care for it. In the original Hebrew, the word for dominion (radah) means to rule in the place of the Lord. In the Greek Septuagint, the word for full dominion (katakyrieuo) contains the root word kyrios, the same word that we use for Christ as Lord Ruler over all. From this, it follows that our responsibility as human beings is to enter into His will and to rule as the Lord would rule.
“We are all personally responsible to identify and adopt appropriate moral and ethical approaches to the changing conditions of the world.”
God also tells us that we are “to cultivate and keep the Garden of Eden” (Genesis 2.15, LXX). The literal meaning of this passage is that humans are required to serve the earth as well as to protect it from desecration or exploitation. We are responsible to God for how we use and care for the earth in order that all people may have a sufficiency of all that is needful. It is through our proper use of the material and natural world that God is worshipped:
“Through heaven and earth and sea, through wood and stone… through all of creation visible and invisible, we offer veneration and honor to the Creator” (Leontius of Cyprus, Sermon 3 on Icons).
What is further implied in the same commandment is thanksgiving to God for all that we have received through the physical world. Thus, each person has a “priestly” responsibility before God (1 Peter 2.5) to offer back to God that which belongs to Him. All this is implied in the Divine Liturgy, when the presbyter offers back to God what He has placed into human care. Indeed, the commandment “to cultivate and keep” the Garden implies an expectation that we are to share the things of the world with those who are suffering, with those in need, and to have concern for the good of humanity and the entire creation. Even though our first parents fell away through disobedience, our Lord restored this priestly responsibility to humanity through His life-giving Death and Resurrection.
“Immediate measures must be taken to reduce the impact of these changes to the world’s climate. If we fail to act now, the changes that are already underway will intensify and create catastrophic conditions.”
In our day, however, society has failed to remember these holy mandates about the right conduct of human beings. In our pride, gratitude has often been replaced with greed. As a people, we have forgotten God and foregone our mandated responsibilities. We no longer strive for sufficiency and moderation in all things. Too often, instead of receiving the gifts of God as He would bestow them, we heedlessly take from the earth and needlessly waste its resources, disregarding the impact at our greed exerts upon the life of our neighbors and the life of the world. There is no doubt that the pollution and degradation of the world is directly related to the pollution and the degradation of our hearts. “Look within yourself,” writes St. Nilus of Ancyra, “and there you will see the entire world.” (Epistles 2,119)
As Church leaders, our concern is service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who’s Gospel of love teaches us that our response to the welfare of our neighbor and respect for the creation are expressions of our love for God. This means that we are all personally responsible to identify and adopt appropriate moral and ethical approaches to the changing conditions of the world.
Faithful to the responsibility that we have been given within God’s good creation, it is prudent for us to listen to the world’s scientific leaders as they describe changes occurring in the world’s climate, changes that are already being experienced by many people throughout the world. Global climate change assumes many different shapes and appearances within our own country. In Alaska, for instance, the average temperature has risen by 7º, causing glaciers to retreat and the Arctic Ocean to lose its summer ice. In Florida, Hawaii and the islands of the Caribbean, coral reefs are dying. In ocean waters such as those off the coast of San Francisco, higher temperatures now result in lower concentrations of plankton, reducing a primary food source for fish and bird life, and ultimately, for humans. Across the western states, a modest increase in temperature has contributed to a six-fold increase in forest fires over the past two decades. In many parts of America, previously distant tropical diseases, such as West Nile virus, are appearing as a direct result of rising temperatures.
These are all clear signs of a rapidly changing climate. It cannot be predicted in precise detail how climate change is going to unfold, but the seriousness of this situation is widely accepted. And, while it is true that the world’s climate has also undergone changes in past centuries, three crucial considerations make the current changes serious and unprecedented:
The rapid extent of temperature increase is historically unparalleled. Past changes in climate occurred over extended periods of time and were considerably less severe.
The human role in changing the climate is unique today. In earlier centuries, people did not have the technological capability to make such radical changes to the planet as are now taking place.
The impact that climate change will exert upon society is great and diverse, inevitably including conditions which deeply disrupt the lives and livelihoods of people on an unprecedented scale.
Climatologists label these changes as the result of measurable increases of carbon dioxide and other so-called “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. These gases are produced primarily by the burning or combustion of gasoline, coal and other fossil fuels. Among the many consequences, the atmosphere and the oceans are warming; wind and rainfall patterns are changing; and sea levels are rising. Forces of climate change also increase the acidity of the oceans; they raise the ferocity of storms, especially hurricanes; they cause droughts and heat waves to become more intense; and, in some areas, they disrupt normal agriculture. Furthermore, the changes are not occurring evenly: some parts of the world experience drought and others greater rainfall, even flooding. Importantly, the conditions that we observe now are only the early alterations to our climate. Much larger and far more disruptive changes will result unless we reduce the forces causing climate change.
It should be clear to all of us that immediate measures must be taken to reduce the impact of these changes to the world’s climate. If we fail to act now, the changes that are already underway will intensify and create catastrophic conditions. A contributing root cause of these changes to our climate is a lifestyle that contains unintended, but nevertheless destructive side effects. It may be that no person intends to harm the environment, but the excessive use of fossil fuels is degrading and destroying the life of creation.
“We wish to emphasize the seriousness and the urgency of the situation. To persist in a path of excess and waste, at the expense of our neighbors and beyond the capability of the planet to support the lifestyle responsible for these changes, is not only folly; it jeopardizes the survival of God’s creation…. In the end, this is not only is it sinful; it is no less than suicidal.”
Moreover, the impact of our thoughtless actions is felt disproportionately by the poorest and most vulnerable, those most likely to live in marginal areas. By our lack of awareness, then, we risk incurring the condemnation of those who “grind the face of the poor” (Isaiah 3.15). As Church leaders, it is our responsibility to speak to this condition inasmuch as it represents a grave moral and spiritual problem.
Therefore, we wish to emphasize the urgency of the situation. To persist in a path of excess and waste, at the expense of our neighbors and beyond the capability of the planet to support the lifestyle directly responsible for these changes, is not only folly; it jeopardizes the survival of God’s creation, the planet that we all share. In the end, not only is it sinful; it is no less than suicidal.
But there is hope. Society can alter its behavior and avoid the more serious consequences of climate change. To do this, however, we must work together to reduce the way that we have exploited the earth’s resources, especially its fossil fuels. As Americans, we comprise barely 4% of the world’s people; yet we consume over 25% of its resources and energy. Justice and charity for our neighbors demand a more frugal, simple way of living in order to conserve the fruits of creation.
In order to make the required changes, we are called to pray first and foremost for a change in our personal attitudes and habits, in spite of any accompanying inconvenience. Such is the depth of metanoia or repentance. The issue is not merely our response to climate change, but our failure to obey God. We must live in a manner that is consistent with what we believe and pray. Our heart must be “merciful, burning with love for the whole of creation” (Abba Isaac the Syrian, Mystic Treatises, Homily 48). At minimum, this means caring about the effect of our lives upon our neighbors, respecting the natural environment, and demonstrating a willingness to live within the means of our planet. Such a change will invariably require reduction in our consumption of fossil fuels as well as acceptance of alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power, and other such methods that minimize our impact upon the world. We can do these things, but it will require intentional effort from each of us.
Nevertheless, we cannot stop there. We must also learn all that we can about the emerging situation of climate change. We must set an example in the way that we choose to live, reaching out and informing others about this threat. We must discuss with parishioners and – since climate change is not only an issue for Orthodox Christians –– we must raise the issue before public officials and elected representatives at the city, state and national levels. We are all responsible for this situation, and each one of us can do something to address the problem.
In each generation, God sends some great tests that challenge the life and future of society. One of the tests for our time is whether we will be obedient to the commands that God has given to us by exercising self-restraint in our use of energy, or whether we will ignore those commands and continue to seek the comforts and excesses that over-reliance on fossil fuels involves.
At every Divine Liturgy, we pray for seasonable weather. Let us enter into this prayer and amend our lives in whatever ways may be necessary to meet the divine command that we care for the earth as the Lord’s. If we can do this, if we can render our lives as a blessing rather than a curse for our neighbors and for the whole creation, then, God willing, we may live and flourish. This is not an optional matter. We will be judged by the choices we make. The Scriptures bluntly tell us that if we destroy the earth, then God will destroy us (see Revelation 11:18).
Let us all recall the commands of God regarding our use of the earth. Let us respond to the divine commandments so that the blessings of God may be abundantly upon us. And let us responsibly discern the right, holy and proper way to live in this time of change and challenge. Then we shall “perceive everything in the light of the Creator God” (St. John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 4, 58).
As previously stated, this was 2007 and yet despite our Patriarchs and Bishops continuing to highlight the problems of global warming, little effective action is being taken by our governments. I now present extracts from a short article on extinction in the non-human animal world to focus attention of the loss of Wild Animal species.
ANIMALS THAT HAVE GONE EXTINCT IN THE LAST 100 YEARS
The following article by Laura Goldman in September 2018 informs us that nearly 500 species have gone extinct during the last century–and that in most cases, we humans are to blame. Of course this is an underestimate, for we cannot tell how many unknown species have disappeared due to the destruction of native rainforests across the globe. Nonetheless it is a reminder that when we speak of climate change and human actions we tend to forget the devastation to non-human animal species that also comes from our selfish indulgences.
According to a 2015 study by the National Autonomous University (UNAM), 477 species have disappeared since 1900 due to our degradation and destruction of their natural habitats. The researchers said it was the largest mass extinction of species in history. Last year, Stanford University biologists discovered declining populations for more than 30 percent of all vertebrates. On average, two vertebrate species go extinct every year. One of the researchers referred to this as “a biological annihilation occurring globally.”
These are just some of the animals that have gone extinct in the past 100 years. To help prevent more species from meeting the same fate, the Stanford biologists recommend curbing human overpopulation and consumption. Humans must stop believing “the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet,” the researchers urged. For a photograph see Wikimedia Commons
- Passenger pigeons, which disappeared just over a century ago, once numbered in the billions and were the most populous birds on Earth. They could reach speeds of up to 60 mph as they flew over North America, the huge flocks actually darkening the sky. Unfortunately, when Europeans arrived, they found the pigeons to be a source of cheap meat. Every year, tens of millions of the bird were killed. By the early 20th century there was only one captive survivor, Martha, who died at the Cincinnati Zoo in September 1914.
- Carolina Parakeet (1918)
Once the only parrot species native to the eastern United States, Carolina parakeets had the heartfelt but dangerous habit of remaining beside injured or dead flock members, making them easy targets for hunters.Bottom of Form Although flocks were still occasionally being observed from New York to the Rocky Mountains in the early 1900s, they had disappeared by 1918, when the last captive Carolina parakeet died at the Cincinnati Zoo – in the same cage where the last passenger pigeon had died four years earlier. For a photograph see Wikimedia Commons
- Heath Hen (1932)
These hens, native to the northeast U.S., were once known as a source for “poor man’s food.” Although the state of New York passed legislation back in 1791 protecting this species, they continued to be hunted. By the mid-1800s, they could only be found on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Within 50 years, poaching, disease and feral cats led to their near demise. Thanks to a 1908 hunting ban and the creation of a preserve, the heath hen population rebounded to over 2,000. Tragically, a fire six years later killed most of the hens. The last surviving heath hen, Booming Ben, died in 1932.
- Tasmanian Tiger (1936)
Looking more like a dog than a tiger, the Tasmanian tiger was the largest modern carnivorous marsupial. It roamed Australia and Tasmania until its extinction due to hunting, disease, human encroachment and the introduction of dogs. The last known survivor died in captivity at Tasmania’s Hobart Zoo in 1936. For a photograph see Wikimedia Commons
- Gravenche (1950)
These freshwater whitefish were once plentiful in Lake Geneva, between France and Switzerland. In fact, over two-thirds of the fish caught in the lake were these bottom feeders, and that’s what led to their demise. The last Gravenche was seen back in 1950. For a photographs see Wikimedia Commons
- Japanese Sea Lion (1974)
These sea lions used to make their homes in the Sea of Japan, where they were hunted for their skins, bones, fat and even their whiskers. By the early 20th century, over 3,000 of them were being killed every year, and their natural habitat was pretty much destroyed during the sea battles of World War II. The last unofficial sighting of a Japanese sea lion was about 30 years later, in 1974. For a photograph see: Wikimedia Commons
- Pyrenean Ibex (2000)
This subspecies of the Spanish ibex made the Pyrenees Mountains its home. It’s not known what caused them to start disappearing in the 19th and 20th centuries. By 2000, they were extinct. A 2009 attempt to clone a Pyrenean ibex failed when the female died shortly after she was born. For a photograph see: Wikimedia Commons
- Caribbean Monk Seal (2008)
Hunted since the late 1600s for their meat, fur and oil, the final nail in the coffin for this species was coastal development that led to the destruction of their habitat in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The Caribbean monk seal was declared extinct in 2008. It has the sad distinction of being the first type of seal to go extinct because of humans.
- Western Black Rhinoceros (2011)
These rhinos used to roam sub-Saharan Africa. Because of poaching, their population dropped to just a few hundred in the 1980s. By 2001, as demand for rhino horn grew, only five of these rhinos remained on earth. None have been seen since 2006, and the species was officially declared extinct in 2011.
10. Pinta Island Tortoise (2012)
While these tortoises were once plentiful on this small island, the last survivor—Lonesome George, who was believed to be around 100 years old—died six years ago. The causes of their extinction were being hunted by sailors and fishermen, as well as the introduction of goats to the island, which destroyed the vegetation the tortoises ate to survive. For a photographs see: Wikimedia Commons
In light of the above I present some arguments from my book where I argue that we as individual can make a difference and that our Church can play an important part in effecting change.
A WAY FORWARD FOR ALL CREATED BEINGS
If our governments cannot provide meaningful legislation to curb our excesses, and of course they cannot do so in democratic societies, is there a way forward for us as individuals and leaders of our Church? I have already written on how St Cyril of Jerusalem defines hunting as the “pomp of the devil” and a “soul-subverting exercise” and we have a recent statement from Bishop Isaias of Tamasou in Cyprus, that hunting for fun is a sin. I argue that it is time for our leaders to make a statement that killing animals for fun, ‘sport’ or ‘recreation’ is against the teachings of Christianity and should be banned from Church land. Here, I focus on how we as individuals can make a difference and if our Church made a similar declaration the effect would be considerable. Whilst it might seem a radical suggestion I propose that if we chose/advocated the non-violent diet of veganism, God’s original choice for us, this would not only reduce the number of animals who suffer in the ‘animal industries’ but in so doing would quickly reduce the many environmental problems associated with animal food production. Most people are unaware of the impact of our diet on global warming and so it is important to highlight some points here. Our increasing desire to consume animal products has resulted in the breeding of such vast numbers of animals that serious negative impacts have arisen for our environments. Knight (2013) provides us with the following important scientific information.
- In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (Steinfeld et al,) calculated that when measured as carbon dioxide (CO2), 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gases (GHGs) – totaling 7.5 billion tons annually, result from the production of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs and poultry. These emissions result from land-clearing for feed crop production and grazing, from the animals themselves, and from the transportation and processing of animal products. In contrast, all forms of transportation combined were estimated to produce around 13.5 percent of global GHGs.
- The GHGs produced by animal production are composed of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia. Steinfeld and colleagues calculated that the livestock sector is responsible for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions-that is, those attributable to human activity-which mostly arise from deforestation caused by the encroachment of feed crops and pastures. Animal production occupies some 30 percent of the Earth’s land surface and is increasingly driving deforestation, particularly in Latin America. [Circa] seventy percent of previously forested Amazonian land has now been converted to pastures, with feed crops covering a large part of the remainder.
- Animals kept for production emit 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, which has been calculated as exerting seventy-two times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, over a twenty year time frame, mostly from gastrointestinal fermentation by ruminants (particularly, cows and sheep). They also emit 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide with 296 times the GWP of CO2, the great majority of which is released from manure. They also emit 64 percent of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and ecosystem acidification.
- In 2009 Goodland and Anhang calculated that at least 22 billion tons of CO2 emissions attributable to animal production were not counted and at least 3 billion tons were misallocated by Steinfeld and colleagues. Uncounted sources included livestock respiration, deforestation and methane underestimates. They concluded that animal production actually accounts for at least 51 percent of worldwide GHGs and probably significantly more. Although the precise figures remain under study, it is nevertheless clear that the GHGs resulting from animal production are one of the largest contributors to modern climate change.
These are some of the important facts for us to consider. Despite these facts, the impact of the animal-based diet on global warming continues to be underestimated and underreported. I have fluctuated between being a vegan or vegetarian, depending on the country I lived in, these past 50 years and until recently have never sought to influence others for I believed that my own ethical choices should not be imposed on others (husband, children, society in general). Today the situation is different – it is vital for us to understand the ramifications of our dietary choices and that we can make a difference if we change them. It is not at all easy to give up animal products but Christianity informs us that we are to sacrifice and repent if our actions cause harm to others.
In addition to this argument, we may use the argument of self-interest as a motivating factor, for there is significant scientific evidence of how our abstinence from an animal-based diet could have immediate beneficial results for our water sources, climate change and thus our future survival. We do not need to wait for world/government agreements in order to effect change.
This brief extract from the book partially outlines the human and environmental aspect of this theme but what about the animals, what do we know of their suffering in these industries? If we as individuals or as leaders of our Church are to engage with the subject of the suffering creation, we need to acquaint ourselves with the available knowledge not only on the environmental impact of an animal-based diet but also on the suffering involved for the animals in the systems used for there are clear soteriological implications resulting from our choices. There is a huge amount of research in this area and here I condense some of that research whilst referencing others:
- In order to meet the requirements of industrial production and high-density housing, animals are routinely branded with hot irons, dehorned, de-beaked, de-tailed and castrated without any sedation or painkillers…piglets have tails cut off and males are castrated by crushing or pulling off their testicles without analgesics, even though these procedures cause “considerable pain” (Broom and Fraser 1997). The same happens to lambs…The price for the mutilation is high for individual animals. Piglets show signs of pain for up to a week afterwards (including trembling, lethargy, vomiting and leg shaking). In lambs, stress hormone levels take a huge leap and they show signs of significant pain for four hours or more. Dairy calves who are dehorned show pain for six or more hours afterwards (Turner 2006). Birds too are mutilated without analgesics; beaks are trimmed and at times inside toes are also cut. After debeaking the animals will experience acute pain for circa two days and chronic pain lasts for up to six weeks (Duncan 2001). As stock numbers are vast, illness and injuries are likely to go undetected and result from high density, lack of space, lack of mental stimulation and physical exhaustion; physical and mental health problems quickly arise (Broom & Fraser 2007). Veal calves are often kept in tiny enclosures and tied down by their necks and quickly succumb to “abnormal behaviour and ill health” (Turner 2006; European Commission 1995). Intensive egg production weakens bones and leads to lameness, osteoporosis and painful fractures as all calcium and minerals are used for eggs causing “both acute and chronic pain”…it can also lead to internal haemorrhages, starvation and ultimately death which will be painful and “lingering” (Webster 2004:184). Cows suffer from mastitis and lameness (Stokka et al, 1997) and kept pregnant to keep milk yields high, (Vernelli 2005; Turner 2006).
There is no other reason for these practices other than the desire for increased profit; the “evil profit” that Met. Kallistos describes in Chapter Six of my forthcoming book. From this arises the challenging question that once we know of the suffering involved in the production of our food and we continue to consume those products are we guilty of being indifferent to the suffering of a large portion of God’s creation? The subsequent question is whether the required “spiritual revolution” so often called for by our Patriarchs and Bishops should apply to our treatment of the animals within these industries? If the answer is no, we ought to examine why we have made the choice to exclude billions of animals from receiving compassion, mercy and justice. If we conclude that they are simply for that use, then I believe we are in danger of continuing the mind-set of domination rather than dominion spoken of above, which in turn, indicates that only human suffering is relevant to God. I submit that this mind-set is against the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church and tantamount to the type of heresy the early Fathers fought so hard to overthrow. …………………………………………………………………………………….
To conclude this piece, I present an edited version of the article by Dahr Jamail, 1st Oct 2018, who introduces the dangers of runaway climate change and the existential threat that this represents for all of us.
How Feedback Loops Are Driving Runaway Climate Change
IF you think this summer has been intense as far as record warm temperatures, wildfires, drought, and flooding events around the Northern Hemisphere, you haven’t seen anything yet — unless you happen to live in the Arctic.
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), air temperatures there are increasing at an “unprecedented rate” — twice as fast as they are around the rest of the globe. NOAA’s 2017 Arctic Report Card states unequivocally that the Arctic “shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.” The Executive Summary of the report also adds, “Arctic paleo-reconstructions, which extend back millions of years, indicate that the magnitude and pace of the 21st century sea-ice decline and surface ocean warming is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and likely much longer.”
A recent report from National Geographic revealed that some of the ground in the Arctic is no longer freezing, even during the winter. Along with causing other problems, this will become yet another feedback loop in the Arctic, causing yet more greenhouse gasses to be released from permafrost than are already being released and impacting the entire planet.
The simplest explanation for a positive climate feedback loop is this: The more something happens, the more it happens. One of the most well-known examples is the melting of sea ice in the Arctic during the summer, which is accelerating. As greater amounts of Arctic summer sea ice melt away, less sunlight is reflected back into space. Hence, more light is absorbed into the ocean, which warms it and causes more ice to melt, and on and on.
Dr. Ira Leifer is an academic researcher who specializes in bubble-related oceanographic processes (such as subsea bubble plumes emanating from the ocean floor), satellite remote sensing, and air pollution. Working closely with NASA on some of his projects, Leifer uses the agency’s satellite data to study methane in the Arctic and its role in climate disruption. One of his concerns about a feedback loop already at play in the Arctic is how the heating of that region is already being amplified by ocean currents that transport warmer, more southerly waters northwards into Arctic seabed waters where it can affect methane deposits in submerged permafrost and sub-seabed methane hydrates.
“The release of this methane contributes powerfully to overall warming – methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, which actually has a bigger effect [on] the atmosphere’s radiative balance than carbon dioxide on decadal timescales” (Dr. Leifer).
Although climate is generally thought to occur on century timescales, human timescales and ecological adaptation timescales are measured in decades instead of centuries, and this is now how many climate processes are being monitored given the rapidity of human-forced planetary warming.
Dr. Peter Wadhams is a world-renowned expert who has been studying Arctic sea ice for decades. His prognosis for the Arctic sea ice is grim: He says it is in its “death spiral.”
“Multi-year ice is now much less than 10 percent of the area of the ice cover; it was 60 percent or more before 2000,” Dr. Wadhams states that “[Sea ice] extent in summer is down to 50 percent of its value in the 1980s.”
Dr. Wadhams, who is also the President of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean (IAPSO), noted that this primary feedback loop is much further along than most of us realize.
“I see the summer sea ice disappearing by the early 2020s,” Wadhams said. He noted that the change of albedo (a measure of reflection of solar radiation) due to the loss of sea ice and snowline retreat across the Arctic “is sufficient to add 50 percent to the warming effect of CO2 emissions alone.”
Alarmingly, on August 21, Arctic scientists told The Guardian that the oldest and strongest sea ice in the Arctic had broken up for the first time in recorded history. One of them described the event as “scary,” in part because it occurred off the north coast of Greenland, which is normally frozen year-round. The region has long been believed to be “the last ice area”: It was thought, at least until now, to be the final place that would hold out against the melting impacts from an increasingly warmer planet.
Temperatures are rising most strongly in the Arctic, with some areas already showing an increase of as much as 5.7 degrees Celsius (10.26 degrees Fahrenheit). Dr. Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute in Washington, DC, explained how, now that the Arctic is warmer, the temperature gradient between the tropics and the traditionally cold Arctic is reduced. With a reduced gradient, the movement of warmth from low to high latitudes is slowed. As Earth rotates, this leads to a wavier jet stream that can carry low latitude warmth up to Alaska and elsewhere in the Arctic, and the southward reach of cold air in the Arctic to lower latitudes. This explains why New Orleans, for example, has recently experienced unusual freezing winter weather.
“In addition, the waves in the jet stream that result are shifting to the east less rapidly, which means the unusual weather patterns that are more frequently occurring are moving eastward less rapidly,” Dr. MacCracken explained. “So both wet and dry periods are lasting longer, contributing to both excessively wet (e.g., flooding) and excessively dry (e.g., wildfire) conditions.”
Dr. Wadhams is concerned about this as well.
“The jet stream effect is because Arctic air is warming faster than tropical air, so the temperature difference is decreasing,” he explained. “This reduces the driving force on the jet stream, so it then meanders, which brings hot air to the higher latitudes (and cold air to some low latitudes).”
Summer weather patterns are now increasingly likely to become stalled out over places like North America, portions of Asia, and Europe, according to a recent climate study that showed how a warming Arctic is causing heatwaves in other places to become more intense and persistent due to a slowing of the jet stream. Dr. Leifer warned that as these processes continue and the Arctic continues to heat up faster than the tropics, the pole-equator temperature difference that controls our weather and causes three major weather circulation “cells” — tropical, mid-latitude, and arctic — will merge into a single weather cell. A similar merging of weather cells occurred during the time of the dinosaurs.
“The jet stream, which controls seasonal storms in the midlatitudes, is a result of these three cells, and would disappear in a single weather cell planet, dramatically altering rain patterns and almost certainly heralding an ecosystem catastrophe,” Leifer explained. “The plants that underlie the food chain would be replaced by others that the local animals (insects to apex predators) could not utilize — in short, an abrupt acceleration of the current Great Anthropocene Extinction event.”
The diminishment of the jet stream also contributes to another potentially catastrophic feedback loop within the Arctic seabed: Changes to the jet stream are causing longer and more intense heat waves to occur across the Arctic, which of course causes the Arctic Ocean to warm further. Kevin Lister, an associate with the Climate Restoration Foundation in Washington, DC, co-authored a paper with Dr. MacCracken for the United Nations that addressed the crisis in the Arctic, among other climate disruption-related issues. Unlike the most commonly accepted idea that global temperatures should not be allowed to increase by more than 1.5°C, Lister stated that the planet reaching 1.5°C above baseline “is fundamentally dangerous and that the rate of change we are seeing today means we will not even be able to stop the temperature at this level.”
Lister said this conclusion was reached, in part, due to initial observations from Dr. Wadhams regarding how the loss of sea ice was amplifying rates of change in the Arctic. Lister states that “methane emissions [in the Arctic] are already a severe risk,” and that he and Dr. MacCracken’s UN paper shows that once temperatures started rising they would be largely unstoppable due to the interacting nature of the feedback mechanisms.
“Thus, one feedback mechanism, such as sea ice melting, can trigger another, such as methane releases, which then accelerates the first in a tightening spiral,” he explained. “In reality, there are many critical feedback mechanisms and the interlocking effects between them means that the climate is far more unstable and irreversible than we are led to believe, and the climate’s change is likely to follow a super exponential progression once the temperature rises above a certain level.”
Dr. Leifer, who has been studying Arctic methane for years, shares the same concern.
“There is the potential for seabed methane deposits off Greenland to be destabilized by the input of warm melt water and also heat transport,” he said, in addition to having pointed out that this process has been occurring in other areas around the Arctic for many years.
As I have written in the past, we are currently facing the very real possibility of a major methane release in the Arctic. Such a release would be a catastrophe for the global climate — and the survival of humans and other species.
Could a Dire Situation Lead to a “War for Survival”?
Lister and Dr. MacCracken both believe that the global focus on a maximum allowable temperature increase target of 1.5°C above baseline is both dangerous and unachievable. Most media and governmental attention has centered on keeping the Earth from warming 2°C over pre-industrial revolution baseline temperatures, and ideally limiting warming to 1.5°C. This is based on a politically agreed upon goal set forth during the 2015 Paris Climate talks, which were nonbinding.
“It reflects the way that intergovernmental climate change policy has been managed which has been to arbitrarily set a temperature target, which was firstly 2°C and then latterly 1.5°C, and then to see if economic and political policy can deliver an appropriate carbon budget,” Lister explained. “This is clearly not a rational way to develop climate change policy.”
Lister and Dr. MacCracken both believe that, in an ideal world, the process would be the other way round; governments would decide a safe temperature rise based on the best science and then set an appropriate climate change policy. But this is not the world we live in.
Mark Serreze, the director of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, recently pointed out how the Arctic climate system has entered uncharted territory, so that even computer models are “no longer providing a reliable guide to the future.”
Dr. Leifer said that even if we prepare for the inevitable sea level rise from Greenland melting alone, accelerated melting there is “very bad,” as it reduces the time to implement plans. However, he noted, most countries are not in preparation mode to begin with.
“For example, a forward-looking society would encourage relocation through, say, tax incentives and disincentives from, say, most of Florida, to higher ground — even purely on a hurricane insurance basis,” he said. “Sadly, forward-looking is incompatible with our political system’s biannual money festival, aka elections. Still, very few other countries are doing better — excepting some northern European countries, like Holland — despite differences.”
The impacts of climate disruption aren’t waiting for our preparations, or lack thereof. Dr. Leifer believes that, sooner or later, the sea levels will rise dramatically. Once this happens, he believes coastal cities will have to be abandoned due to sea level rise and increasingly destructive hurricanes. He believes that the sooner that departure happens, the less destruction and loss of human lives we will experience.
The Slowing and Potential Failure of the Gulf Current (AMOC)
Dr. Leifer also expressed concern about the changes to the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which is currently weakening and already at its weakest in at least the last 1,600 years. Dr. MacCracken states that his greatest concern about Arctic feedback loops is that of the melting of the plateau of the Greenland Ice Sheet. He explained that the meltwater and warmth at the surface is penetrating down into the ice sheet, softening it enough that the glacial ice has started flowing outward, and as this happens, the surface of the ice sinks to lower altitudes. This kicks in a feedback loop that ultimately causes warming to accelerate, which causes the ice to flow faster, which further accelerates the melting.
“The ice making up the Greenland Ice Sheet holds about the equivalent of 6-7 meters (~20 feet) of global sea level rise, and glaciological evidence makes clear that an order of approximately half of that melted during the last interglacial about 125,000 years ago, contributing significantly to the 4-8 meter rise in sea level at that time,” Dr. MacCracken said. He pointed out that this rise was caused by a 1°C temperature increase, similar to the temperature increase Earth is experiencing right now (1.16°C above baseline).
“At that time, the atmospheric CO2 concentration was near 300 ppm and the warming was due to differences in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Today, the orbital parameters are less favorable to significant warming, but the CO2 concentration is a good bit higher and growing,” Dr. MacCracken said. “And its warming influence acts all year long, making it not surprising that the loss of mass of ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet is going up rapidly with a stronger and stronger influence on sea level around the world.”
The rapidly melting Greenland Ice Sheet is precisely what is causing the AMOC to slow. Moreover, an Arctic that is continuing to warm could lead to the failure of the Gulf Current, Dr. Leifer said.
“The resultant deep freeze that would hit Europe would destroy European agriculture and likely lead to a massive war for survival,” he warned.
Full article available at : https://truthout.org/articles/how-feedback-loops-are-driving-runaway-climate-change/ …………………………………………………………………………………..
We may now better understand the urgency in the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s recent 1st September declaration. This World Wild Animal Day focuses our attention, or should do, that is time for us all to take stock and make changes in the choices we make and the way we live.
 Knight, A, “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change,” in The Global Guide to Animal Protection, ed. A. Linzey, 254-256. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2013.
 The carbon footprint produced by animals is as follows: cow 16Kg CO2 per 1Kg of meat; sheep 13Kg CO2; pig 5Kg CO2; chicken 4.4Kg CO2 as compared to mussels, which hardly register on the scale, Horizon, “Should I Eat Meat?” Also, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Report (2006) “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues & Options.” UNFA Report (2013) “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock.” European Commission, (2010) “Roadmap for Moving to a Low-Carbon Economy in 2050.” International Food Policy Research Institute, (2009) “Climate Change: Impact on Agriculture and Costs of Adaptation.” Organic Centre State of Science Review, “Impacts of Organic Farming on the Efficiency of Energy Use in Agriculture.” The Royal Society, (2010) “Energy and the Food System.” United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biodiversity (2007) “Biodiversity and Climate Change.” World Bank Agriculture & Rural Development Department, Report (2009) “Minding The Stock: Bringing Public Policy to Bear on Livestock Sector Development.” International Panel on Climate Change “Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change.”
 Aaltola, Animal Suffering, 34-45. Aaltola provides many other reports and scientific studies, which outline numerous examples of suffering. Also, Broom & Nimon, 1999, 2001; European Commission, 1995, 2001, 2012; Mench, 2002, 2008; Sanotra, Berg and Lund, 2003; Julain, 2004; Appleby 2007. For other references to misuse and cruelty, see the European Commission Reports (1995, 2001, and 2012) and the Compassion in World Farming website: http://www.ciwf.org.
The Icon depicts archangel Michael entrusting a herd of horses to Saints Flores and Laurus who were protectors of domestic animals.
Because of the veneration they received in the early church, Russian icons depict them in the company of Elijah, Nicholas and James, Bishop of Jerusalem and patron saint of Novgorod.
Bearing in mind HAH 1st Sep 2018 comments below and remembering St Cyril of Jerusalem’s teaching that hunting and horseracing are examples of the pomp of the devil, this edited email received earlier today seems one way we can help by asking our respective councils or Church to ban ‘sport’ hunting on its land.
Pheasant Shooting to end on public land in Wales
Today is a good day for pheasants, a bad day for shooters and a memorable day for all of us – that includes you – who have campaigned so hard for so long.
Today, in a landmark move, Natural Resources Wales agreed to end pheasant shooting on Welsh public land. The announcement comes off the back of a three-year-long campaign by Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports, which included over 12,500 people signing a petition to the government agency.
We couldn’t have done it without you.
This outcome reflects strong opposition to the practice from the Welsh Government, the 74% of the public who oppose shooting birds for sport, and an urgent need to reverse damage to wildlife and the environment on the public estate.
The life of a pheasant reared for sport is horrific. They live for months crammed inside small wire mesh cages that often don’t even meet the welfare standards of intensively farmed chickens. That is until one day, the pheasant is suddenly released into Welsh government woodland, along with thousands of other birds – only to be gunned down by shooting parties for ‘sport’. Many pheasants are not killed instantly and hit the ground suffering from painful wounds and injuries. They are pitifully killed by having their necks broken or being hit over the head with a beater’s stick.
But this cruelty is coming close to an end in Wales, as the leases for shooting estates will not be renewed when they come to an close in March 2019. This means that pheasants living on public land owned by Natural Resources Wales can live without fear of being shot.
We thank those who have relentlessly pursued an end to pheasant shooting in the Welsh national forest, including Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn AM and you; our supporters. This is as much a victory for you as it is for the wildlife which has now been spared the gun.
But this is only the beginning of the end of ‘game’ bird shooting in the UK. There has never been a better time than now to push for a nation-wide policy against shooting covering not only Wales, but England, Scotland and Northern Ireland too.
To make this happen we must keep this momentum up. Talking with MPs. Rallying even more people like you against shooting. And making the national parties take note that a majority of the public want to see an end to shooting birds for sport.
Thank you for your support.
Prot. No. 738
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plenitude of the Church: Grace, peace and mercy
From the Creator of All, our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Twenty-nine years have now passed since the Mother Church established the Feast of Indiction as the “Day of Protection of the Environment.” Throughout this time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has inspired and pioneered various activities, which have borne much fruit and highlighted the spiritual and ecological resources of our Orthodox tradition.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ecological initiatives provided a stimulus for theology to showcase the environmentally-friendly principles of Christian anthropology and cosmology as well as to promote the truth that no vision for humanity’s journey through history has any value if it does not also include the expectation of a world that functions as a real “home” (oikos) for humanity, particularly at a time when the ongoing and increasing threat against the natural environment is fraught with the possibility of worldwide ecological destruction. This evolution is a consequence of a specific choice of economic, technological and social development that respects neither the value of the human being nor the sanctity of nature. It is impossible to truly care for human beings while at the same time destroying the natural environment as the very foundation of life, essentially undermining the future of humanity.
Although we do not consider it appropriate to judge modern civilization on the grounds of criteria related to sin, we wish to underscore that the destruction of the natural environment in our age is associated with human arrogance against nature and our domineering relationship toward the environment, as well as with the model of eudemonism or disposition of greed as a general attitude in life. As incorrect as it is to believe that things were better in the past, it is equally unfitting to shut eyes to what is happening today. The future does not belong to humanity, when it persistently pursues artificial pleasure and novel satisfaction—living in selfish and provocative wastefulness while ignoring others, or unjustly exploiting the vulnerable. The future belongs to righteous justice and compassionate love, to a culture of solidarity and respect for the integrity of creation.
This ethos and culture are preserved in Orthodoxy’s divine and human ecclesial tradition. The sacramental and devotional life of the Church experiences and expresses a Eucharistic vision, approach and use of creation. Such a relationship with the world is incompatible with every form of introversion and indifference to creation—with every form of dualism that separates matter from spirit and undermines material creation. On the contrary, the Eucharistic experience sensitizes and mobilizes the believer toward environmentally-friendly action in the world. In this spirit, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church emphasized that “in the sacraments of the Church, creation is affirmed and human beings are encouraged to act as stewards, protectors and ‘priests’ of creation, offering it in doxology to the Creator” (Encyclical, par. 14). Every form of abuse and destruction of creation, along with its transformation into an object of exploitation, constitutes a distortion of the spirit of the Christian gospel. It is hardly coincidental that the Orthodox Church has been characterized as the ecological expression of Christianity inasmuch as it is the Church that has preserved the Holy Eucharist at the core of its being.
Consequently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ecological initiatives were not simply developed in response or in reaction to the modern unprecedented ecological crisis, but as an expression of the Church’s life, an extension of the Eucharistic ethos in the believer’s relationship to nature. This innate ecological conscience of the Church was boldly and successfully declared in the face of the contemporary threat to the natural environment. The life of the Orthodox Church is applied ecology, a tangible and inviolable respect for the natural environment. The Church is an event of communion, a victory over sin and death, as well as over self-righteousness and self-centeredness—all of which constitute the very cause of ecological devastation. The Orthodox believer cannot remain indifferent to the ecological crisis. Creation care and environmental protection are the ramification and articulation of our Orthodox faith and Eucharistic ethos.
It is clear, then, that in order to contribute and respond effectively to the ecological challenge that we face, the Church recognize and research the relevant issues. We all know that the greatest threat to our world today is climate change and its destructive consequences even for our survival on the planet. This topic was paramount in the 9th Ecological Symposium, entitled “Toward a Greener Attica: Preserving the planet and protecting its people,” organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate last June on the Saronic Islands of Spetses and Hydra. Unfortunately, the recent devastating fires in Attica and the impending consequences of this immense environmental destruction constitute tragic proof of the views shared by the symposium participants on the severity of the ecological threat.
Venerable hierarchs and beloved children in the Lord,
The ecological culture of the Orthodox faith is the realization of its Eucharistic vision of creation, summarized and expressed in its church life and practice. This is the Orthodox Church’s eternal message on the issue of ecology. The Church preaches and proclaims “the same things” “at all times” in accordance with the unassailable words of its Founder and Leader, that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk. 21:33). Adhering to this tradition, the Mother Church calls upon its Archdioceses and Metropolises, as well as its parishes and monasteries throughout the world, to develop initiatives, coordinate projects, organize conferences and activities that foster environmental awareness and sensitivity, so that our faithful may realize that the protection of the natural environment is the spiritual responsibility of each and every one of us.
The burning issue of climate change, along with its causes and consequences for our planet and everyday life, offer an opportunity to engage in dialogue based on principles of theological ecology, but also an occasion for specific practical endeavours. It is vitally important that you emphasize action at the local level. The parish constitutes the cell of church life as the place of personal presence and witness, communication and collaboration—a living community of worship and service.
Special attention must also be directed to the organization of Christ-centered educational programs for our youth in order to cultivate an ecological ethos. Ecclesiastical instruction must instil in their souls a respect for creation as “very good” (Gen. 1:26), encouraging them to advocate and advance creation care and protection, the liberating truth of simplicity and frugality, as well as the Eucharistic and ascetic ethos of sharing and sacrifice. It is imperative that young men and women recognize their responsibility for the practical implementation of the ecological consequences of our faith, while at the same time becoming acquainted with and promulgating the definitive contribution of the Ecumenical Throne in the preservation of the natural environment.
In conclusion, we wish you all a blessed ecclesiastical year and abundant benefit in your spiritual struggles, invoking upon you the life-giving grace and boundless mercy of the Giver of all good things, our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, through the intercessions of Panaghia Pammakaristos, whose honourable icon, the sacred heirloom of all Orthodox people, we reverently and humbly venerate today.
September 1, 2018
✝ Bartholomew of Constantinople
Your fervent supplicant before God
Whilst we welcome this report, the reduction needs to be much quicker than 2050. If we each decided to change our diet rather than wait for governments to stand against vested interests, it could easily be achieved.
Europe’s meat and dairy production must halve by 2050, expert warns
Policymakers, farmers and consumers face ‘deeply uncomfortable choices’, says author of report advising urgent reduction of unsustainable livestock sector
Study advises that the livestock industry needs to achieve a 74% drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Europe’s animal farming sector has exceeded safe bounds for greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient flows and biodiversity loss, and urgently needs to be scaled back, according to a major report. Pressure on livestock farmers is set to intensify this century as global population and income growth raises demand for meat-based products beyond the planet’s capacity to supply it.
The paper’s co-author, Professor Allan Buckwell, endorses a Greenpeace call for halving meat and dairy production by 2050, and his report’s broadside is squarely aimed at the heart of the EU’s policy establishment. Launching the report, the EU’s former environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said: “Unless policymakers face up to this now, livestock farmers will pay the price of their inactivity. ‘Protecting the status quo’ is providing a disservice to the sector.” The study calls for the European commission to urgently set up a formal inquiry mandated to propose measures – including taxes and subsidies – that “discourage livestock products harmful to health, climate or the environment”.
Livestock has the world’s largest land footprint and is growing fast, with close to 80% of the planet’s agricultural land now used for grazing and animal feed production, even though meat delivers just 18% of our calories. Europeans already eat more than twice as much meat as national dietary authorities recommend – far beyond a “safe operating space” within environmental limits, says the Rise foundation study. As a result, huge sectoral “adjustments” will be needed by 2050 to rebalance the sector, including a 74% drop in greenhouse gas emissions and a 60% cut in nitrate-based fertiliser use, it finds.
Long before then, policymakers, farmers and society as a whole face “deeply uncomfortable choices”, according to Buckwell.
“We’re talking about fewer meat meals, less meat portions and moving to flexitarian diets without being dogmatic about it,” he said. “There is a role for softer public health messaging but harder messages are necessary too.” Such a transformation “won’t happen spontaneously”, he added. “It requires strong signals from government so the policy proposal must include measures to discourage consumption of livestock products harmful to public health and the environment.”
Buckwell called for targeted taxes on harmful practices, with subsidised meat for low-income consumers, and a realignment of funding regimes to advise, retrain and hire more farmers for work in rural landscape management and animal welfare. The hope is that consumers will eventually pay more for high quality meat produced in environmentally safe conditions, where countryside protection and animal welfare have been guaranteed.
Sent to us from our friend James with the following link: https://foma.ru/kotyi-v-tserkvi-v-podmoskove-otsluzhili-neobyichnyiy-moleben.html#comment-77132
Translated from the Russian.
Cats in the church: in the suburbs served an unusual prayer
On Saturday, August 18, a prayer service for the preservation of God’s creation dedicated to homeless animals was held in the village of Lemeshovo near Ilyinsk near Podolsk near Moscow.
“We pray for people who, by their mercy, are ready to share their love with unfortunate homeless dogs and cats and participate in their salvation,” said the abbot of the church, Protopriest Peter Dynnikov.
Believers came to worship together with their cats. At the end of the moleben Fr. Peter sprinkled the animals with holy water.
In the moleben, the following words were heard: “Look down from Heaven, God, and see, as the earth mourns, and the trees and the past disappear and the beasts and the birds of heaven perish for the wickedness of those who dwell on it. For this reason, in repentance, we fall and cry out to Thee, so do not destroy your peace and us with our iniquities, but grant treatment to the insane son of man and save them and their creatures conquered. ”
At the Church in Lemeshovo, there is a shelter-hospice for dogs and cats and everyone can donate food to them.
This is an article from BirdLife Cyprus on concerns for the Akrotiri Peninsula which comes within the UK’s Overseas Territory. Those with Cypriot connections might wish to alert their MP on the issue.
Ηow many of us have truly explored this site, its natural, cultural and traditional aspects? And why are we now worried about its preservation?
One of the most important sites for birds in Cyprus is the Akrotiri Peninsula-Episkopi Cliffs Important Bird Area (IBA), at the southern tip of the island and within the UK Overseas Territory. This extensive site comprises the largest complex of wetlands on the island, as well as a mosaic of coastal scrub, dunes, agricultural areas and impressive coastal cliffs that mesh together to form a unique and complex landscape. It is, in fact, one of the most species-rich and important areas of the island for birds and other wildlife and a top destination for any nature lover. But how many of us have truly explored this site, its natural, cultural and traditional aspects? And why are we now worried about its preservation?
What is at stake at the Akrotiri Peninsula-Episkopi Cliffs IBA?
This IBA site is a mosaic of habitats. The seasonal Akrotiri Salt Lake occupies the centre of the peninsula and is part of a wider aquatic system with a number of saline and freshwater habitats such as the Zakaki and Akrotiri marshes, Akrotiri merras (gravel pits area) and Bishop’s pool. This habitat type is the rarest of wetland habitats, comprising only approx. 0.5% of the global wetland surface area. Subsequently, the Akrotiri wetland complex is a Ramsar Wetland site since 2003, recognising it as a wetland of international importance.
This area is the most important wetland IBA in Cyprus with 300 recorded bird species. Its diversity and extent support great congregations of waterbirds in winter and spring and it supports important populations of many of the island’s key breeding species. Up to 20,000 birds may gather at Akrotiri Salt Lake at any one time, and can include globally important numbers of Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus and Eurasian Curlews Numenius arquata. Furthermore, it is the best site in Europe to catch sight of the Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo, in late August, as they come to roost overnight at the main salt lake before soaring with the thermal currents to continue their migratory journey early the next day. Moreover, one cannot miss the White Storks Ciconia ciconia, that pass through the site from March to May and August to October; in 2012, one of the largest flocks ever seen in Cyprus was recorded, consisting of around 2.600 birds!
Needless to say, the peninsula is important for breeding species, resident and migrant alike, including the Globally Threatened Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, while Episkopi and Akrotiri Cliffs support breeding Eleonora’s Falcons Falco eleonorae and Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus. Episkopi Cliffs are also home to the most important breeding colony of the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus on the island. The site is also a bottleneck for migrating raptors in autumn, when more than 3,000 raptors pass through, including small but globally important numbers of Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus and Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, plus larger congregations of Red-footed Falcon Falco Vespertinus.
Of course, the importance of this site is not only restricted to birds. Priority habitats such as the Posidonia beds – meadows formed by the seagrass Posidonia oceanica – are found here, a major food source for marine turtles. The western part of the peninsula provides important nesting grounds for two marine turtle species: the Vulnerable Loggerhead Caretta caretta and Endangered Green Τurtle Chelonia mydas. The partly submerged sea caves at Akrotiri cliffs provide one of the last remaining breeding refuges of the Εndangered Mediterranean Monk Seal Monachus monachus on the island, as well as important roosting sites for bat species. And in terms of flora, as one would expect in such a mosaic of habitats, the IBA supports one of the largest, most pristine and ecologically complex coastal ecosystems in Cyprus. The site is pre-eminent in Cyprus for threatened plants with more than 800 indigenous plants occuring on the peninsula, which amounts to around 40% of the all plant species found on the island!
This IBA is not only rich in natural beauty, but also in history, tradition and culture. The numerous archaeological sites such as the Ancient Kourion city and Kolossi Castle, the various chapels and churches, as well as the tradition of basketry, still practiced at Akrotiri village, provide a plethora of options for any culture enthusiast exploring the area.
Why is this unique area under threat then?
This IBA is one the best sites in Cyprus for birdwatchers and nature lovers, rivalling Akamas Peninsula and Karpasia Peninsula IBAs. So one would logically expect that it would be strictly protected and properly managed to preserve its rich biodiversity, as well as promoted as a go-to nature destination for tourists and locals. Sadly, not only it lacks proper management, it is now at risk of serious degradation.
The greatest threats are habitat loss and fragmentation, as a result of pressures for development, both military and civilian, including tourist developments, roads, renewable energy infrastructure and many others. The latest threat for this site is the huge Zakaki casino development that is to be built to the north east of the peninsula. Sadly, this development is going ahead, fast tracked with the ‘blessings’ of the Cyprus government, without any proper assessment being done on the impacts on the environment and the wildlife.
This frantic race for development is very worrying. A golf resort next to the casino has been given the green light. South of that, proposals from the Electricity Authority of Cyprus for the construction of the largest 20MW photovoltaic park in Cyprus are already on the table. To the east, restaurants along the Lady’s Mile beachfront are constantly expanding their parking spaces by illegally destroying the coastal sand dunes. Additional threats include the disturbance by visitors (walking, dog walkers, vehicles), off-road driving and opportunistic rallying, predation by feral cats, stray dogs and natural predators, illegal shooting and trapping, the extensive antenna installations and supporting guy wires (serious collision risk for migrating and breeding birds) and the illegal dumping of rubbish.
On top of all this, there is the Non-Military Development agreement, signed between the Republic of Cyprus and the UK Government in January 2014, which is also of great concern. The political discussion for the finalisation of this agreement concerning changes in the planning regulations within the Sovereign Base Areas, is still ongoing. Hence, it is not an overstatement to say that the protection and preservation or the destruction and degradation of the Akrotiri Peninsula is directly dependent on the outcome of this agreement and the likely planning zones and uses to be proposed.
For us, the protection and proper management of this IBA is a top priority and we are following closely any developments, lobbying the competent authorities and politicians to safeguard and conserve this treasured natural area not just for now, but for generations to come.
This is an edited and revised article first published in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review 61:3-4 2016
Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering
Dr. Christina Nellist
Abstract: In this paper I advance the opinion that the Eastern Orthodox Church has the potential to develop a theology that tackles the difficult subject of animal suffering. Certainly there has been considerable debate on matters concerning the protection and care of the environment, but very little is said on the need to care for and protect the individual animals within that environment, with even less commentary on their suffering. There are positive comments that denounce cruelty, but there is also ambiguity regarding our use and relationship with animals. This paper aims to address this lack of engagement with this subject by providing an anamnesis of an alternative, though less prominent Orthodox tradition—one that promotes loving, compassionate relationships with animals, where friendship with animals is acknowledged as a positive act and their suffering viewed as against God’s will. It is hoped that my research will provide a platform/framework not only to raise awareness and stimulate Orthodox discussions on the important subject of animal suffering and its sub-themes, but also in order to facilitate the formulation of an Orthodox animal theology and ethics of love.
Through my historical reading of patristic texts and contemporary works, such as those by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Dr. Sebastian
Brock, and Rev. Prof. Andrew Linzey, I gradually formed the hypothesis that the Eastern Orthodox Church has sufficient teachings to develop a theology that tackles the difficult
subject of animal suffering. Undoubtedly, this is different to the dominant tradition, which has centered its focus on humanity’s relationship with God and role in the cosmos, yet
I advance the opinion that this is not the only tradition available to us. There is another, though less prominent tradition, one which advocates a more inclusive theology, where “all things” are blessed, saved, and protected from harm. This tradition provides guidance for a more humane treatment of animals than is currently the case. In essence, it reminds us that all animals are loved and protected by God and that their
suffering is against his will. By causing harm to animals or by our indifference to it, it is suggested that human salvation is jeopardized.
Initially, we can state that biblical and patristic teachings reveal types of righteous behaviors that are advocated by God in both the Old and New Testaments.(1) For example, the compassionate behavior proffered in Deuteronomy and Exodus (2) is repeated in Christ’s teachings on the Sabbath in Matthew and Luke.(3) Acknowledging the importance of these righteous behaviors developed in early writers such as
Clement of Alexandria and the authors of the hagiographies of the saints. For example, Clement teaches that Christ:“pities, instructs, exhorts, admonishes, saves, shields…That we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world…Is it not then monstrous…that while God is ceaselessly exhorting us to virtue, we should spurn His kindness and reject salvation?” (4) Of interest is Climacus’ extension of virtuous behaviors to animals:“While vices and passions are not in us by nature, the virtues, including faith, hope, and love, are set in us from God by nature; [they] are even to be seen in the animals.” (5) The importance of teachings on the virtues for the subject of animal suffering is obvious.
Unfortunately for animals, certain aspects of Western and Eastern theology were heavily influenced by the flawed science of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle,(6) and some of this discredited science was incorporated into their homilies and teachings.(7) This tradition left a discernible trail primarily in Western theology and philosophy via the teachings of Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, and Descartes, which resulted in a dominant theology that separated the human creature from the rest of God’s creation.(8) Zizioulas speaks to the point:
“In the past, philosophers made this distinction by saying that humans were specially characterized by intelligence or rationality. However, ever since Darwin showed that intelligence can also be found in other animals, and that the difference is a matter of degree and not of kind, philosophy no longer insists on rationality as the special characteristic of man.” (9)
A question to raise here is that if philosophy no longer insists on rationality as a special characteristic of man, is this also the case for theology? Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew speaks to this point when suggesting that the Church should “cultivate a more comprehensive picture of scientific principles and demands in environmental issues.”(10) That being the case, it seems reasonable to include the large corpus of scientific research on animal language, rationality,and cognition rather than simply ignoring it.(11) This research raises serious questions for aspects of Christian theology that were/are based upon the now untenable scientific, philosophical, and theological premise that animals do not have these capacities. The key point to make here is that while it is important for the Orthodox Church to keep its tradition, it is likely to lose credibility, both in society and academic debate, if it insists on holding fast to flawed concepts that are the theological equivalent of a ‘flat earth’. There is enough sound theological material to secure the special role of the human, without holding fast to flawed historical teachings, especially when they have resulted in incalculable suffering to God’s nonhuman created beings.
I argue that it is not theological or philosophical arguments that focus on souls or rights that hold the key to understanding and dealing with the subject of animal suffering, but rather, patristic and biblical teachings on our role as being made in the image of a loving God. This image moving toward likeness demands of us a love of all created beings and requires a life lived in accordance with our original nature, rather than one that turns from it in sinful actions. In this context, it is my contention that biblical and patristic guidance has the potential to reveal God’s thoughts on animal suffering and protection,
just as they do on many other issues. Conversely, it follows that there would be an anti-Christ like behavior that represents the opposite of God’s goodness and the opposite of His will. Evagrius gives us the classification of eight types of evil λογισμοi (thoughts or cogitations): gluttony, fornication, avarice, grief, anger, accidie (spiritual sloth, apathy, depression, distraction, despair), vainglory (boastful vanity), pride (conceit, egotism, vanity).(12) Certainly, patristic teachings are full of such guidance together with warnings of the soteriological implications of these antitype behaviors. St. Cyril, for example, calls hunting and horseracing examples of the “pomp of the devil.”(13) It would seem reasonable to suggest, therefore, that cruelty, abuse, and exploitation in all its forms are evil and against God’s will.
The contemporary Orthodox environmental debate developed through its reflections on our role as image(14) and is indeed grounded in patristic teachings, such as those of
Cyril of Jerusalem,(15) Ephrem the Syrian,(16) and Gregory Nazianzus.(17) While human sovereignty is acknowledged and debated via humanity’s role as steward and priest of creation, the interpretation of the created world as mere utilities or commodities is rejected.(18) Met. Kallistos teaches that we are to see the world as God’s gift that may be developed and transfigured, while consistently emphasizing that this ‘use’ is not to be understood or enacted in a destructive way.
A central theme of the Orthodox theological and ethical environmental debates has focused on the sin of environmental abuse. However, while Mantzarides,(19) Stylios,(20) Zizioulas,(21) and others refer to the sin in the abuse, misuse, and exploitation of the environment,comments on the sin of exploitation and misuse of animals such as those found in the animal industries are rare. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew again offers us guidance by describing sins against creation as “mortal sins”(22) and “an unforgivable insult to the created God.”(23) I argue that it would be incongruous to suggest that such teachings exclude the suffering of animals within that suffering environment. Teachings such as these are important not only for discussions on animal suffering, but also for discussions on the implications of that suffering for human salvation.
It is important to note that these are not new teachings, but ones grounded in patristic commentary, such as St. Isaac’s famous teaching on the compassionate and merciful heart that “cannot tolerate any harm to animals and plants.”(24) More recently, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia and Bishop Isaias of Tamasou and Orinis have confirmed that any misuse of animals is a sin.(25) We are therefore gradually beginning to see the sin of abuse, misuse, and exploitation of the nonhuman animal creation being included in modern theological discussions on human salvation.
It also seems reasonable to suggest that teachings on the nature and consequences of evil are as relevant for discussions on animal suffering as they are for every other theological discussion on suffering. There are useful developments by Bartholomew and others, and here Zizioulas recognizes that while many will scoff at describing ecological problems as ecological evil:
“There are hardly any responsible scientists or politicians who would not agree with it. If we follow the present course of events the prediction of the apocalyptic end of life on our planet at least is not a matter for prophecy but of sheer inevitability.”(26)
Up until now, there has been very little discussion on the evil of animal abuse and exploitation by Orthodox theologians or scholars. My argument is that animal abuse and exploitation arise from the same evil. In our interview Net. Kallistos specifically teaches on the “evil profit” in some farming practices, which are used in order to feed “the desire of a larger profit.” He describes this as “an immoral use of living creatures” and was shocked that the monks at one location he visited did not recognize the process as “un-Christian.” His teachings on “evil profit” and “immoral use” would be equally applicable to other harmful practices in animal industries and align with Bartholomew’s teachings on mortal sins. Boff (1997) links evil with the ethical dimensions of responsibility and restraint arguing that: “Evil is whatever harms and does away with beings or destroys the condition for their reproduction and development.”(27) While he is not Orthodox, he echoes, as many Western theologians do, the teachings of the Fathers. This definition helps us move from an environmental debate that focuses on habitat to one that includes the creatures within it.
Such teachings cross a wide range of animal suffering issues and concur with comments by Goodall (28) at the Winchester Symposium on Hunting concerning the unsustainable commercial hunting of African wildlife (bushmeat) for food and Rowland’s example of a non-invasive clinical psychology experiment on dogs in his paper entitled the “The Structure of Evil”. (29) Many believe that ‘non-invasive’ experiments do not cause harm to animals, but a reading of the process involved and the intensive suffering and death from that experiment would quickly dispel that assumption.
I would like to add a little more here for experimentation on animals involves some of the most extreme cases of animal abuse, exploitation, and suffering. It is a common belief that the case for using animals in experiments for the good of humankind is proven. However, if we examine the evidence, that is, reports specifically on animal experimentation such as Linzey and Linzey (30) and Bailey and Taylor (31) we find this is not the case; it is in fact a hotly disputed issue within the scientific community. Importantly, Pound (32) found there were few systematic studies examining the validity of animal experiments and concludes that it is “nearly impossible to rely on most animal data to predict whether or not an intervention will have a favourable clinical benefit-risk ratio in human subjects.” Knight (2011) had already alerted us to this problem: “the utility of many animal experiments in advancing human healthcare or even biomedical knowledge of significance is poor.”(33) Significantly, there is also recognition of this problem from leaders in the drug development industries: “The poor predictability of animal experiments is one of the major challenges facing the drug discovery industry.”(34) While Messer (35) acknowledges the complexity and difficulty of this theme, Knight provides evidence of “a widespread failure of ethical oversight” due to “an over-reliance on the assumption that invasive experiments on chimpanzees and other laboratory animals were likely to be of substantial use in advancing biomedical knowledge.”(36) Such findings challenge long-established views on the benefits of animal experimentation. As a result, it is time for us to become better educated on this theme and review the many scientific studies and Western academic works available, in order to arrive at a consensus on this important issue.(37)
In order to help us in our theological discussions on this particular theme, I suggest that we again reflect upon our role as image moving toward the likeness of God and the patristic teachings that “no part of Creation is left void of Him: He has filled all things everywhere”(38) and, “nothing in creation may be thrown away as worthless, as says the Apostle, or be left without its portion of the Divine fellowship.” (39) This should concern us, for in our cruel, abusive, and exploitative treatment of God’s creatures, is it possible that we are continuing to inflict some form of suffering upon our beloved God?Our view of certain non-human animals as ‘disposable life’, is equally “monstrous and unseemly” (40) and this too ought to alarm us.
We might also remember the traditional patristic teachings that Christ abhors all forms of violence and is commonly depicted as the archetype of the virtuous man who is “mild and tranquil…He would neither break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. The mild and peaceful response of His kingdom was indicated likewise.”(41) The subject of animal suffering, therefore, not only has relevance for Orthodox debates on sin and evil, but also for its discussions on living a life that reflects the image and likeness of God.
Crucially, Bartholomew and Zizioulas counsel us to extend our understanding of community,(42) to give a voice to the rest of creation whose rights are violated,(43) and to extend our love to the nonhuman world. Bartholomew also advocates extending justice “beyond one’s fellow human beings to the entire creation” and, remarkably, speaks on the “rights” of the nonhuman creation:
“Justice extends even beyond one’s fellow human beings to the entire creation. The burning of forests, the criminal exploitation of natural resources…all of these constitute expressions of transgressing the virtue of justice.” (44)
This is a formidable and profound teaching that crushes the false teachings of philosophers and theologians throughout the ages such as Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, and Descartes, who deprived animals of justice and mercy due to their supposed lack of language and rationality. Such teachings are also important for determining the ‘right’ use of animals. However, this is the theory. Important questions on practice arise here, such as: what does justice mean for the nonhuman animal beings who suffer from abuse and exploitation in intensive farming or laboratories, and who will decide if we do not use the “image of God” as our guiding principle? We might consider such teachings to be untraditional or outside the boundaries of Orthodox teachings, yet similar teachings on justice and mercy being extended to the nonhuman creation are also found in biblical and patristic texts, the Psalms and early patristic poetry.
Many Orthodox commentators suggest that it is humanity’s failure to apply biblical and patristic guidance that gives rise to our contemporary moral and ecological crisis, and I am in full agreement, but I extend this disconnect between theory and practice to the Church and Orthodox academia regarding its lack of engagement with the animal suffering and protection themes.(45) Certainly, nonhuman animals are part of ‘all creation’ but they are different to mountains, seas, rivers, and the air we breathe, and the crucial difference is that they are proven to suffer pain, fear, and terror as we do.
Grounding my belief in the Orthodox teachings that all suffering and abuse is against the will of an all-loving God, I suggest He would not ignore cries for help from any of His
creatures. I suggest the possibility that God facilitates the release of their suffering by sending ‘agents of cooperation’ throughout history, who try to save or reduce animal suffering. Historical “agents” would be the prophets and saints, who act as exemplars of compassionate, merciful, and righteous behavior,(46) with their contemporary equivalents being theologians and ethicists who warn of environmental disaster,
together with those who actively work in conservation and animal protection movements.(47) While this might seem an unlikely suggestion, it is supported by Stylios,(48) who states, “This in practice means that Christians will be leaders in every ecological movement which seeks to maintain and protect the natural environment.”
Similar views are expressed by Bartholomew when he acknowledges that humanity is both indifferent and unjust in its treatment of creation. He teaches that Orthodox Christians should be convinced environmentalists:
“It is a pledge that we make to God that we shall embrace all of creation. It is what Orthodox theologians call in “inaugurated eschatology,” or the final state already established and being realized in the present.” (49)
Bartholomew also recognizes the biblical teaching that creation cries for liberation, and that it is not too late to act.(50) He urges us to develop practical programs and for the “clergy and others in parish ministry to encourage and promote love for nature.”(51) In light of such statements and initiatives, it seems incongruous to suggest that involvement with animal protection and conservation groups would be excluded by Orthodox Church leaders or from parish involvement. If Orthodox Christians have authority to be leaders in environmental matters, I submit that they are also given authority to create initiatives in the field of animal protection and conservation. If they are not the leaders, they should, at the very least, be willingly engaged in those discussions. Yet there is also ambiguity here, for there are those who teach a different message.(52) This in part is due to ignorance of what is involved in animal protection, a large part of which is responding to human calls for assistance.(53) This benefit to humanity is recognised by Bishop Isaias of Tamasou and Orinis, who has, since our interview, established an Orthodox Animal Welfare group in Cyprus.(54)
Throughout this paper I have argued that our relationship and use of animals should be based upon love and compassion and that we should take as our guiding principle, God’s great love for his creation. We, as image moving toward likeness, are to allow each creature to flourish as God originally intended. This would come easily to us as we move from image to likeness, yet in our fallen state we see such simple statements as challenging and against our vested interest. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.(55)
Nonetheless, many questions remain concerning our theology and its practice. Theokritoff informs us of the “disturbing gulf between the implications of our theology and tradition” and the attitudes and behavior toward animals that is “typical of Orthodox societies.”(56) There is therefore a pressing need for the Church and academics to discuss the evil perpetrated against animals, for it is the very same evil as that perpetrated against children, women, and men. I advance the opinion that any evil perpetrated against any of God’s created beings will have serious soteriological implications both for those involved, for those who know but are indifferent to the suffering, and for those who know and are concerned but fail to act to prevent or highlight the evil acts to the appropriate authorities.
I believe the sin and evil of abuse to animals is important enough to be discussed at Synodical level, yet to my knowledge, other than the recent proclamation from the Holy Synod in Cyprus,(57) there have been no proclamations from the patriarchs on the specific subject of animal suffering. It is hoped that this article will facilitate engagement from the Church and the academic community by producing evidence of historical and contemporary themes, texts, and voices in order to provide a framework for Orthodox theologians and ethicists to develop, thus ensuring their crucial role in both the saving of human souls and the reduction of animal suffering.
1 Here we are reminded of the Orthodox understanding that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16) and John’s teachings in John 1:1–3, that Christ is the incarnation of the Word and the Word was God. In this sense we may argue that Christ as Word inspires the Old Testament texts andreiterates their teachings in his incarnate form in the New.
2 Deut 22:4; Exod 23:5.
3 Matt 12:11–12; Luke 14:5.
4 Exhortation to the Heathen, in Philip Schaff, ed., The Complete Ante- Nicene & Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Fathers Collection, O2, chap.1, Catholic Way Publishing, Kindle E-Book.
5 John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent (PG 88:624–1028); See also D. J. Chitty, The Desert A City Crestwood, NJ: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995:173.
6 Aristotle, History of Animals, trans. A. L. Peck, Loeb Classical Library Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk: St. Edmundsbury Press Ltd., 1970.
7 Basil’s Hexaemeron; John of Damascus’s Exact Exposition on the Orthodox Faith, bk. 2, CANNPNF 2:09; Gregory Palamas, “Topics of Natural and Theological Science,” in the Philokalia, 4:346–417.
8 This has recently been recognized in the Catholic Church in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’.
9 J. Zizioulas, “Proprietor or Priest of Creation?” Keynote Address of the Fifth Symposium of Religion, Science and the Environment, June 2, 2003, available at: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles2/Met-JohnCreation.php.
10 Message for the conference entitled “Orthodoxy and the Environment,” Kavala, Greece, September 7, 1993 in J. Chryssavgis, ed., Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer: The Ecological Vision of the Green Patriarch Bartholomew I ,Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009:378.
11 E. Theokritoff, Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology, Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009:240.’Other’ theologians are unreferenced.
12 Evagrius Ponticus (PG 40:1272–1274A).
13 Cyril of Jerusalem, “First Mystagogical Catecheses” 6, in The Catechetical Homilies of St Cyril Archbishop of Jerusalem, ed. D. M. Kalogeraki, Orthodox Missionary Fraternity of Thessaloniki, 2011.
14 Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I, “Message on Environmental Protection Day”, September 1, 1989; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, “Caretaker of the Environment” International Conference, June 30, 2004. Both available at: http://www.ec-patr.org.
15 Cyril of Jerusalem, Homily 15.26, in Kalogeraki, ed., Catechetical Homilies of St Cyril.
16 R. Murray, “The Ephremic tradition and the theology of the Environment,” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 2, no. 1 (2010):67–82; Beth Mardutho, The Syriac Institute and Gorgias Press.
17 Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45, in H. Bettenson, ed., The Later Christian Fathers New York: Oxford University Press, 1970:101.
18 D. Staniloae, “The World as Gift and Sacrament of God’s Love,” Sobornost 5, no. 9 (1969): 662–673; K. Ware, “The Value of the Material Creation,” Sobornost 6, no. 3 (1971): 154–165; J. D. Zizioulas, “Preserving God’s Creation: Three Lectures on Theology and Ecology. Parts 1–3,” King’s Theological Review 12 (Spring 1989): 1–5; 12 (Autumn 1989): 41–45; 13 (Spring 1990):1–5; also “Man the Priest of Creation,” in A. Walker and C. Carras, eds., Living Orthodoxy in the Modern World, London: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2000:178–88.
19 G. Mantzarides, Introduction to Ethics: Ethics in the Crisis of the Present and Provocation of the Future,Thessalonike: P. Pournaras Publications, 105, in S. Harakas, “Ecological Reflections on Contemporary Orthodox Thought in Greece,” Epiphany Journal 10, no. 3:46–61, at 54.
20 Bishop E. K. Stylios, “Man and Natural Environment: A Historical- Philosophical-Theological Survey of the Ecological Problem”, in Harakas, “Ecological Reflections…”
21 Zizioulas, “Preserving God’s Creation,” pt. 1, King’s Theological Review 12 (Spring 1989): 1.
22 “Christmas Encyclical,” 1994, in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer, 127. Bartholomew often comments on the sin and evil in the abuse of creation in his discussions on greed and its effects on the poor.
24 “Message of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the Day of the Protection of the Environment,” 1997, in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer, 49.
25 In order to provide the academic community with theological commentary and address the confusion arising from the lack of Orthodox engagement with this subject, I conducted interviews with Met. Kallistos Ware in Oxford and Bishop Isaias of Tamasos and Orinis, Cyprus, in 2014. These are available on the panorthodoxconcernforanimals.org website and in my forthcoming book entitled Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering, publication in late 2018. See also Met. Kallistos’s comments at the Religion, Science and Environment Symposium at Patmos: www.rsesymposia.org.
26 Zizioulas, “Preserving God’s Creation,” pt. 1 (Spring 1989): 1–5.
27 L. Boff, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, trans. P. Berryman. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1997:136.
28 Conference notes from video provided for the Winchester University’s Hunting Symposium on November 28, 2015, by Jane Goodhall on Hunting in Africa (online), available at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFcSZizooL63hyILbzM9Bflwi2fs0n37s.
29 M. Rowland, “The Structure of Evil,” in A. Linzey, The Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2009:201–205. Here a dog was continually electrocuted in order to jump over a barrier which increased in height with each electric shock. The result was extreme suffering and death.
30 A. Linzey and C. Linzey, Normalizing the Unthinkable: The Ethics of Using Animals in Research is a report by the Working Group of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, March 2015. This incorporates over 200 studies and reports into animal experimentation. Details are available at: http://www.oxfordcentreforanimalethics.org.uk.
31 J. Bailey and K. Taylor, “Non-human Primates in Neuroscience Research: The Case Against its Scientific Necessity,” ATLA 44:43–69.
32 Pound et al., “Is animal research sufficiently evidenced based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research?” British Medical Journal [BMJ] 348:3387; also BMJ editor F. Godlee’s accompanying editorial “How Predictive and Productive is Animal Research?” BMJ 348:3719.
33 A. Knight, The Costs and Benefits of Animal Experiments. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011: 4, 57–59. For the number of animals used, see pp. 9–17. For species, sources and categories of use, see pp. 18–28. It is important to note that many of these procedures are done without anaesthetic. Another important report is the USFDA (2004) Innovation or Stagnation: Challenge and Opportunity on the Critical Path to New Medical Products, available at: http://fda.org/ScienceRsearch/ SpecialTopics/CriticalPathInitiative/CriticalPathOpportunitiesReports/ucm077262.html.
34 M. G. Palfreyman, C. Vinod, and J. Blander, “The importance of using human-based models in gene and drug discovery,” Drug Discovery World (Fall) 2002:33–44, available at: http://www.ddw-online.com/fall- 2002/p148472-the-importance-of-using-human-based-models-ub-gene-and- drug-discovery.html.
35 N. Messer, “Human, Animals, Evolution and Ends,” in C. Deane- Drummond and D. Clough, eds., Creaturely Theology: On God, Humans and Other Animals. Norwich: SCM Press, 2009: 211–227.
36 Knight, Costs and Benefits.., 189.
37 To help us through the literature, I recommend two studies: firstly, the Linzey report, note 31 above; and secondly, E. Aaltola, Animal Suffering: Philosophy and Culture. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.
38 Athanasius, On the Incarnation 8; also Against the Heathen 42.
39 St. Gregory of Nyssa, Great Catechism VI.
40 Athanasius On the Incarnation of the Word.
41 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.20.10. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Reprints.
42 J. Chryssavgis, ed., Speaking the Truth in Love: Theological and Spiritual Exhortations of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. New York: Fordham University Press, 2011:297, 280.
43 Bartholomew, ‘Caretaker of the Environment International Conference’, June 30, 2004, available at: http://www.ec-patr.org.
44 “Justice: Environmental and Human” composed as a foreword to proceedings of the fourth summer seminar at Halki in June (1997), in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer, 173.
45 My social science research has relevance here and is part of my thesis, entitled Towards an Animal Theology in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
46 E.g., Gregory of Nyssa’s homily ‘Love for the Poor’, in S. R. Holman, The Hungry Are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001:193–199.
47 Although I do not suggest that the latter are saints.
48 Bishop Euthymios K. Stylios, “Man and Natural Environment: A Historical- Philosophical-Theological Survey of the Ecological Problem,” 1989:66, in S. Harakas, “Ecological Reflections,” Epiphany Journal 10, no. 3:46–61.
49 Encountering the Mystery: Understanding Orthodox Christianity Today: His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. New York: Doubleday, 2008:107.
50 “Climate Change,” 2007, in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer, 350–351.
51 “Education and Parish Action,” 1994, in Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer, 109–110. I have written an outline for a seminary module and master’s dissertation to facilitate this process.
52 S. Sakharov, St Silouan the Athonite. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991:95–96.
53 The public requests help for various reasons ranging from domestic violence, marriage breakdown, loss of employment, through to family members developing allergies, entering the hospital or care homes, or death.
54 We have now established panorthodoxconcernforanimals.org, which is a registered charity, with Met. Kallistos of Diokleia and Bishop Isaias as its patrons.
55 For example, the detrimental impact of eating an animal based diet on the environment, land and water resources and climate change is well documented both in scientific and UN reports.
56 Theokritoff, Living in God’s Creation, 240.
57 This statement was made as a result of my presenting my Cyprus case-study to Bishop Isaias in 2014.
See the latest mini-post which highlights the fact that research is beginning to prove that TB can be spread in the countryside by hunting dogs.
This is an interesting post from the Orthodox Christianity website:
PROPHET ELISHA AND THE SHE-BEARS
Wasn’t Elisha being cruel when he sent those bears against those children who were teasing him about being bald in 2 Kings 2:23-25? And why was it precisely two she-bears? Fr. John Whiteford talks about the inciident near Bethel, when St. Elisha cursed the gang of disrespectfuil young men.The impression that these were toddlers is a false impression, and it should be noted that the Prophet Elisha is not said to have called for the bears to attack the children, but rather to curse them. And it may well be that he was pronouncing the curses of the Covenant for those who disobey:
And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate (Leviticus 26:21-22).
Here is more background on this story from another post:
This event is often construed very negatively:
“How can I believe in a God who would send bears to devour little children for innocently teasing an old man whose appearance probably was unusual even for that day?”
But a closer look at the passage show that most of the assumptions in that position are false, and that other elements (not explicit in the words, but present in the historical situation) illumine the situation.
First, the passage itself:
He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” 24 When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.
Now, let’s look at some of the elements of the historical background, and the various players in the event:
1. First of all, they weren’t “little kids”!
“‘Little children’ is an unfortunate translation. The Hebrew expression neurim qetannim is best rendered ‘young lads’ or ‘young men.’ From numerous examples where ages are specified in the Old Testament, we know that these were boys from twelve to thirty years old. One of these words described Isaac at his sacrifice in Genesis 22:12, when he was easily in his early twenties. It described Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was seventeen years old. In fact, the same word described army men in 1 Kings 20:14-15… These are young men ages between twelve and thirty.” [HSOBX]
2. Elisha wasn’t “old”—he was the same age as they were!
“But was Elisha an old man short on patience and a sense of humor?”
This charge is also distorted, for Elisha can hardly have been more than twenty-five when this incident happened. He lived nearly sixty years after this…” [HSOBX]
3. Elisha had JUST FINISHED doing a mercy-miracle for the entire city of nearby Jericho!
“The chapter closes with two miracles of Elisha. These immediately established the character of his ministry—his would be a helping ministry to those in need, but one that would brook no disrespect for God and his earthly representatives. In the case of Jericho, though the city had been rebuilt (with difficulty) in the days of Ahab (1 Kings 16:34, q.v.), it had remained unproductive. Apparently the water still lay under Joshua’s curse (cf. Josh 6:26), so that both citizenry and land suffered greatly (v. 19). Elisha’s miracle fully removed the age-old judgment, thus allowing a new era to dawn on this area (vv. 20-22). Interestingly Elisha wrought the cure through means supplied by the people of Jericho so that their faith might be strengthened through submission and active participation in God’s cleansing work. (EBCOT)
4. This event took place around a cult city (somewhere between Bethel and Jericho, a distance of approximately 10 miles), a center of anti-YHWH worship:
“Elisha’s sweet memories of Jericho received a souring touch at Bethel (v. 23). The public insult against Elisha was aimed ultimately at the God whom he represented. Indeed Elisha’s whole prophetic ministry was in jeopardy; therefore the taunt had to be dealt with decisively. The sudden arrival of the two bears who mauled forty-two youths to death would serve as both an awful sentence on unbelievers—and thus, too, on Jeroboam’s cult city—and a published reminder that blasphemy against the true God and his program would be met with swift and certain consequences (v. 24).” [EBCOT]
5. The harmless “teasing” was hardly that—there was a direct confrontation between the forces of Baal and the prophet of YHWH that had just healed the water supply (casting doubt on the power and beneficence of Baal!). This was a mass demonstration (if 42 were mauled, how many people were in the crowd to begin with? 50? 100? 400?):
“As Elisha was traveling from Jericho to Bethel several dozen youths (young men, not children) confronted him. Perhaps they were young false prophets of Baal. Their jeering, recorded in the slang of their day, implied that if Elisha were a great prophet of the Lord, as Elijah was, he should go on up into heaven as Elijah reportedly had done. The epithet baldhead may allude to lepers who had to shave their heads and were considered detestable outcasts. Or it may simply have been a form of scorn, for baldness was undesirable (cf. Isa. 3:17, 24). Since it was customary for men to cover their heads, the young men probably could not tell if Elisha was bald or not. They regarded God’s prophet with contempt… Elisha then called down a curse on the villains. This cursing stemmed not from Elisha pride but from their disrespect for the Lord as reflected in their treatment of His spokesman (cf. 1:9-14). Again God used wild animals to execute His judgment (cf., e.g., 1 Kings 13:24). That 42 men were mauled by the two bears suggests that a mass demonstration had been organized against God and Elisha” [Bible Knowledge Commentary].
6. There may have been elements of public safety involved:
“A careful study of this incident in context shows that it was far more serious than a “mild personal offense. It was a situation of serious public danger, quite as grave as the large youth gangs that roam the ghetto sections of our modern American cities. If these young hoodlums were ranging about in packs of fifty or more, derisive towards respectable adults and ready to mock even a well-known man of God, there is no telling what violence they might have inflicted on the citizenry of the religious center of the kingdom of Israel (as Bethel was), had they been allowed to continue their riotous course” [EBD].
7. Elisha didn’t actually call out the bears—he merely pronounced judgment on these demonstrators. God decided what form the response took:
“Perhaps it was for this reason that God saw fit to put forty-two of them to death in this spectacular fashion (there is no evidence that Elisha himself, in imposing a curse, prayed for this specific mode of punishment), in order to strike terror into other youth gangs that were infesting the city and to make them realize that neither Yahweh Himself nor any of His anointed prophets were to be threatened or treated with contempt” [EBD].
8. This curse/judgment was part of the covenant stipulations—it was a reminder of Israel’s responsibilities (and opportunities for blessings, as well):
“Elisha pronounced a curse similar to the covenant curse of Lev 26:21-22. The result gave warning of the judgment that would come on the entire nation should it persist in disobedience and apostasy (see 2 Ch 36:16). Thus Elisha’s first acts were indicative of his ministry that would follow: God’s covenant blessings would come to those who looked to him (vv. 19-22), but God’s covenant curses would fall on those who turned away from him [NIV Study Bible notes, in loc.].
“If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. 22 I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.” (Lev 26.21f)
9. This visible display of YHWH’s power and reality (like the previous display of His kindness and activity for them) was designed to avert a far greater calamity:
“The savagery of wild animals was brutal enough, but it was mild compared to the legendary cruelty of the Assyrians who would appear to complete God’s judgment in 722 BC. The disastrous fall of Samaria would have been avoided had the people repented after the bear attack and the increasingly sever divine judgments that followed it. But instead of turning back to God, Israel, as would Judah in a later day, ‘mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy’ (2 Chron 36:16)” [HSOBX].
So, this was hardly the atrocity that it is often construed as—the historical data casts the event into a TOTALLY different light. It WAS a very significant event for the religious fortune (and therefore, future welfare) of the Northern Kingdom … and it called for decisive revelation from God about the severity of the people’s condition and situation…
But to answer the question regarding the meaning of the two she-bears, St. Caesarius of Arles has a very interesting explanation:
“Now according to the letter, dearly beloved, we are to believe, as mentioned above, that blessed Elisha was aroused with God’s zeal to correct the people, rather than moved by unwholesome anger, when he permitted the Jewish children to be torn to pieces. His purpose was not revenge but their amendment, and in this fact, too, the passion of our Lord and Savior was plainly prefigured. Just as those undisciplined children shouted to blessed Elisha, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead,” so at the time of the passion the insane Jews with impious words shouted to Christ the true Elisha, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” What does “Go up, you baldhead” mean except: Ascend the cross on the site of Calvary? Notice further, brothers, that just as under Elisha forty-two boys were killed, so forty-two years after the passion of our Lord two bears came, Vespasian and Titus, and besieged Jerusalem. Also consider, brothers, that the siege of Jerusalem took place on the Paschal solemnity. Thus, by the just judgment of God the Jews who had assembled from all the provinces suffered the punishment they deserved, on the very days on which they had hung the true Elisha, our Lord and Savior, on the cross. Indeed, at that time, that is, in the forty-second year after the passion of our Lord, the Jews as if driven by the hand of God assembled in Jerusalem according to their custom to celebrate the Passover. We read in history that three million Jews were gathered in Jerusalem; eleven hundred thousand of them are read to have been destroyed by the sword of hunger, and one hundred thousand young men were led to Rome in triumph. For two years that city was besieged, and so great was the number of the dead who were cast out of the city that their bodies equaled the height of the walls. This destruction was prefigured by those two bears that are said to have torn to pieces forty-two boys for deriding blessed Elisha. Then was fulfilled what the prophet had said, ‘The boar from the forest lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed on it [Psalm 79:14 [80:13]],’ for as was indicated, after forty-two years that wicked nation received what it deserved from the two bears, Vespasian and Titus” (Sermon 127:2).
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE ANIMAL FOOD BASED DIET.
In an article entitled ‘Energy for the Common Good’ Sachs informs us that earlier this month, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis each convened business, scientific and academic leaders, in Rome and Athens, respectively, to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to safe renewable energy. He states:
According to Francis and Bartholomew, we need politics, economics, and technology to serve a far greater purpose than power, wealth, or economic growth. We need them to promote human wellbeing today and for future generations.
Efforts to persuade the leaders of governments and industry are laudable but we are all aware that extremely powerful vested interests will continue to block their efforts. Another important factor is the time it will take to implement any changes that are eventually agreed and to be frank, we do not have that luxury.
My main point is that both the recent declaration and Sachs’s article continue to focus on the production of fossil fuels whilst ignoring the impact of the animal based diet on climate change. Whilst these powerful Christian leaders are right to continue their efforts, it is argued that they would be far more effective in producing real and lasting changes to our climate if they encouraged their faithful to immediately adopt a fully vegetarian diet or significantly reduce the amount of animal based food in their diets. In 2013, Knight provided us with the following important information.
- In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (Steinfeld et al,) calculated that when measured as carbon dioxide (CO2), 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gases (GHGs) – totaling 7.5 billion tons annually, result from the production of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs and poultry. These emissions result from land-clearing for feed crop production and grazing, from the animals themselves, and from the transportation and processing of animal products. In contrast, all forms of transportation combined were estimated to produce around 13.5 percent of global GHGs.
- The GHGs produced by animal production are composed of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia. Steinfeld and colleagues calculated that the livestock sector is responsible for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions-that is, those attributable to human activity-which mostly arise from deforestation caused by the encroachment of feed crops and pastures. Animal production occupies some 30 percent of the Earth’s land surface and is increasingly driving deforestation, particularly in Latin America. Seventy percent of previously forested Amazonian land has now been converted to pastures, with feed crops covering a large part of the remainder.
- Animals kept for production emit 37 percent of anthropogenic methane- which has been calculated as exerting seventy-two times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, over a twenty-year time frame, mostly from gastrointestinal fermentation by ruminants (particularly, cows and sheep). They also emit 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide-with 296 times the GWP of CO2, the great majority of which is released from manure. They also emit 64 percent of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and ecosystem acidification.
- However, in 2009 Goodland and Anhang calculated that at least 22 billion tons of CO2 emissions attributable to animal production were not counted and at least 3 billion tons were misallocated by Steinfeld and colleagues. Uncounted sources included livestock respiration, deforestation and methane underestimates. They concluded that animal production actually accounts for at least 51 percent of worldwide GHGs and probably significantly more. Although the precise figures remain under study, it is nevertheless clear that the GHGs resulting from animal production are one of the largest contributors to modern climate change.
Despite these facts, the impact of the animal food based diet on global warming continues to be underestimated and unreported.
Dr. Christina Nellist,
 Available at https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/climate-change-pope-ecumenical-patriarch-by-jeffrey-d-sachs-2018-06
 Knight, A, “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change.” In The Global Guide to Animal Protection, ed. A. Linzey, 254-256. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2013.
This is a short edited post that came through to us from Global Citizen. Easy read based on good science.
All around the world, countless products are harming countless animals. Some products are cultivated in ways that cause deforestation, others use ingredients that pollute ecosystems, and others kill animals directly. All told, these products embody the destructive practices that are all too common in international commerce.Many of these goods are hard to go without — but environmentally sustainable alternatives exist, and they’re easy to find. Here are six common products hurting the animals/environment and some better, friendlier options you should try instead.
What it’s hurting: Coral
A common chemical in sunscreens — Oxybenzone, also known as BP-13 — is “highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life,” according to a 2015 study published in the journal “Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.” It causes damage and other deformities to baby coral DNA, and even accelerates the process known as coral bleaching , which is devastating reefs around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The substance is found in more than 3,500 skincare products — a reminder that many widely used chemicals have unintended environmental consequences. Hawaii recently banned suncreens with BP-13 because it has caused so much harm to its famous reefs.
Alternatives: Sustainable sunscreens that don’t harm coral are available and are just as effective in protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays.
2. Bread and Cookies Made With Palm Oil
What they’re hurting: Orangutans
Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash
Palm oil production is often unregulated and leads to the indiscriminate razing of vast swaths of the Sumatran and Borneo rainforests. The practice contributes to terrible forest fires that destroy habitats, burn animals alive, and cause others to breathe heavily polluted air. Products with palm oil include:
- Ice cream
- Pizza dough
- Instant noodles
Orangutans, in particular, have been severely harmed by palm oil production due to lost habitats, and a number of conservation groups have emerged to protect them.Fortunately, these advocates have spurred more responsible palm oil production and interventions have been made to save orangutans.
Alternatives: Any product with a sustainable palm oil certification.
3. Red Meat
What it’s hurting: Birds (and other animals)
Raising livestock is the leading cause of deforestation around the world. In South America, for instance, raising livestock for beef was responsible for 71% of deforestation between 1990 and 2005 and one of the leading threats facing the Amazon rainforest is the production of beef. As all of this land is lost, animals are being stripped of their sources of food and ecosystems. In fact, habitat loss from deforestation is the leading threat facing animals today. Birds, in particular, are seeing their habitats rapidly shrink around the world, and now more than 1 in 8 bird species are at risk of extinction.
Alternatives: Seek out sustainably rasied beef, or eat a tasty imitation like the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, or veggie burgers.
4. Mass-Produced Jeans
What they’re hurting: Fish
An essential part of any wardrobe, jeans happen to have a huge environmental impact. Jean factories often use large volumes of highly toxic chemicals to stain denim, and these toxins are often released in local waterways, making them uninhabitable for marine creatures like river fish. The Ganges River in India, for example, is the site of continuous pollution and no longer supports the vast ecosystems that it once did. When toxic dumping was halted in the River Thames, on the other hand, wildlife suddenly returned.
Alternatives: More than 200 major brands are a part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which promotes environmentally sound practices, but only select brands like Patagonia enforce these standards across their portfolios.
5. Commercial Seafood
What it’s hurting: Dolphins and whales
Photo by darin ashby on Unsplash
More than 90% of the world’s fish populations are fully fished or overfishedbecause of a lack of coordinated marine regulations and lack of enforcement of existing regulations, according to the UN. This lawless exploitation is also leading to the wholesale slaughter of dolphins and whales. It’s estimated that up to 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises get entangled and killed by discarded fishing nets each year. The single biggest threat to sea turtles, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is fishing gear. In the Gulf of Mexico, a small species of porpoise called the vaquita has been reduced to a population of less than 30 primarily because of the improper disposal of gillnets — enormous nets known as “walls of death.”
Alternatives: There are companies dedicated to the responsible extraction of fish that have been vetted by environmental groups and others that are developing sustainable fish farms. Both are viable alternatives to unmarked commercial fish found in supermarkets.
6. Plastic Straws
What they’re hurting: Turtles
Americans use 500 million plastic straws every year and the vast majority of these straws end up in landfills or waterways, where they harm marine life. Turtles often get straws jammed into their orifices, and mistake straws for food, only to starve to death when their guts fill with indigestible materials. The story of one turtle, in particular, has helped to galvanize the movement against plastic straws after a video captured the creature with a straw painfully stuck in its nose.
Alternatives: Check out seven eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws here.
This is a short post from Fr. J. Breck on the Orthodox Church in America website
March 2, 2004
The other day we had one of our dogs “put down,” that is, euthanized. Actually he wasn’t even our dog. The neighbor had received him as a gift from his sister, had no interest in him, and neglected him completely, other than to toss a little food out to him in the evening. He was a beautiful animal, despite the matted hair, myriad ticks, and mud up to his tail from tramping through the marshes.
He was a thoroughbred English Spaniel, black and white, and gentle as a fawn. He had a fawn’s eyes, too, large, liquid and a little sad. His owner had named him Poker. When the fellow said we could keep him, the poor animal was afflicted with heart worms, hook worms, ear mites and an eye infection. When we got him back from the vet, some $300 later, he clung to us so closely we began to call him Cody, for “co-dependent.” But Poker he was, and Poker he remained.
The veterinarians, a man and a young woman, cared for Poker often during the three years he was ours. Last week, just before his tenth birthday, he stopped eating. Lethargy set in so that he could hardly get around. For a couple of days we nursed him at home, hoping it would pass. By the weekend, those deep, sad eyes told us we had to take him to the clinic. A blood test showed what we had feared: he had massive kidney failure. We could subject him to aggressive and painful treatment, the vet said, with no real chance of improvement. Or we could accept to put him to sleep. I thought about it, tried to pray about it—I loved this little creature—then called my wife, who drove up to join me.
The vets came in, both of them, and wrapped Poker in very genuine affection. One of them pulled out a box of tissues in case we needed them. His eyes reddened, and he reached for one himself. Then the young woman, in a gesture of remarkable tenderness, inserted the needle, as I cradled Poker’s head in my arms.
A moment later his heart stopped. The doctor touched his open eye with the tip of her finger and said quietly, “He’s gone.”
Gone where? She didn’t say “He’s dead,” rather, “He’s gone.” Trying to hold back my own tears, my mind went back to the first time I carried a cadaver. It was in a small Swiss village, in 1968. An elderly friend named Paul, a leader in his local parish, died one morning in the shower. His wife, choked with grief, called the pastor, and he called me. We found Paul where he had fallen, lifted him up, carried him to the bed, and covered him to the chest with a sheet. I looked at him, and realized that he was “gone.” Not dead, but simply gone, not there. This body stretched out on the bed was a shell, nothing more. Where was “Paul,” the real Paul that we had known and loved? Like Poker, he was gone.
In the few minutes we stayed with Poker, who was warm yet lifeless, I thought too of the first meeting I had with Father Lev Gillet, the much revered spiritual elder who wrote many brief and beautiful books under the name of “A Monk of the Eastern Church.” It was the summer of 1967, and he and I, together with my wife and our infant son, were strolling down a street in London (he was for many years chaplain of the London-based Society of St Alban and St Sergius).
I don’t recall how we got on the subject. I just remember Father Lev expressing the firm conviction that animals—particularly domestic animals who have lived with and been loved by people—experience some form of afterlife. He was a brilliant man, a highly respected theologian, whose writings on Scripture and Prayer of the Heart had offered spiritual nurture to multitudes of people throughout Europe and, to a lesser degree, in the United States. His words were not pious wishful thinking; they emerged from a life of thoughtful reflection and prayer.
Animals have an afterlife? At the time I couldn’t quite believe it. Do animals have souls? And can those souls be what we call “eternal”?
If, like Father Lev, we can answer that question in the affirmative, it can only be by adjusting altogether our way of looking at God and His creation. He is the Creator and Lord of all, and in some special way, of every living thing. The mystic perceives heaven in a blade of grass, the petal of a flower, or a child’s uplifted face. Heaven is not “out there.” It’s all around us, enveloping everything and everyone in light and beauty that once in a great while we can perceive as a gift of sheer grace. And perceiving it, we enter into it, even in the midst of our daily routine, despite our distractions, despite our sin.
Everything that lives derives its life from God, from participation in the Life of God. In some inexplicable way, all living things come forth from God and return to Him. The life they share, again in some unfathomable and mysterious way, is God’s own life. Perhaps this is what theologians mean by “panentheism”: God is in and through all things, not ontologically as a “pantheist” would hold, but by grace—the dynamic and life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, “who is everywhere present, filling all things.”
Is it conceivable that life simply disappears, ends, vanishes? Nothing vanishes, physicists tell us. If matter is transformed into energy, maybe something analogous occurs between the physical realm and the spiritual realm, between life and death. We know this happens with human persons, endowed with what we call an “immortal soul.” A theologian would reply, “But persons are unique, made in the image of God.” And my musings he would probably dismiss as nostalgic self-deception, a pointless and empty attempt to assuage the grief I feel over the loss of a little dog who used to cling to me like my shadow, a friend and companion whom I loved. Do dogs, too, have immortal souls? Does a blade of grass?
I can’t answer these questions in any reasoned way, a way that is theologically convincing. All I can do is recall Father Lev’s conviction that every creature finds its true destiny in the heart of the merciful God, because there it has its true origin. If God has shared our life in the person of Jesus, it is because we, from the moment of our creation, share His life. And that life is eternal. Is it permissible to make a logical leap here, to conclude that therefore not only our human life, but every life, is likewise eternal?
I don’t know. All I know is that I miss Poker, and somehow in my simple fantasy, I hope that he misses me. I hope that he is not dead, but that he is really “gone”: gone home to the Creator of his life, that life that brought me warmth, laughter, love and occasional tears. I hope that for him, as for all of us, R.I.P. means not so much “Rest in Peace” as “Rejoice in Paradise.” It’s a naïve, childlike hope. And maybe it’s vain, even heretical. But when I think of Poker—as when I think of our friend Paul, and everyone and everything that we love and cherish—I want very much for it to be a hope fulfilled.
Available at the O C A website https://oca.org/reflections/fr.-john-breck/poker-r.i.p
Why does the melting Arctic sea ice matter?
With soaring Arctic temperatures becoming more and more common, we asked leading scientists why it matters if sea ice disappears. Every year, at roughly the same time, the Arctic hits its ‘maximum sea ice’ as the Antarctic reaches its ‘minimum sea ice’. And this year’s event was record-breaking.
In a widely-covered release, the National Snow & Data Center (NSIDC) said the Arctic sea ice on March 7 was “the lowest maximum in the 38-year satellite record.” Meanwhile, just a few days earlier, the Antarctic had a historic amount of sea ice — “the lowest in the satellite record.” The data reinforced what has become a relentlessly frequent observation: polar sea ice is melting at a rapid rate. 2017 was the third straight year in which the Arctic’s sea ice maximum set a new record low — and it had been tracking at consistently record-low conditions for several months before that. Things are, however, less straightforward in the Antarctic.
“It’s been quite extraordinary for several months in the Arctic,” Dr Julienne Stroeve said at a recent media briefing held by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) in London. “There is a massive increase in variability happening right now,” said Stroeve, a polar professor at UCL and senior researcher at the NSIDC. She explained: “When you have really thin ice, you could have a very warm summer that melts out a tonne of ice and you get a huge drop. “You could also have a colder summer that keeps a thin layer of ice around. So that variability from year to year starts to increase quite a bit, and we’re actually starting to see that now.” This, she said, is “something you see in climate models as your transition to ice-free Arctic conditions.” “Is this a sign of maybe where we’re headed?” As you’d expect, the likelihood of an ice-free Arctic depends massively on how much carbon dioxide people keep pumping into the atmosphere.Another 1,000 gigatonnes would make it very likely indeed, the latest research suggests. At the moment, global CO2 emissions are roughly 30-40 gigatonnes a year — which suggests we could hit that 1k mark around the middle of the century.
At this point, Dr Emily Shuckburgh, a climate expert from Cambridge University, was keen to stress that the same cannot be said for the other pole. “It’s slightly artificial to lump Antarctic and Arctic sea ice together,” she said. “The processes determining sea ice really are quite different, on a basic level that’s because the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by land while the Antarctic is land surrounded by ocean.” The Antarctic has actually seen a slight overall increase in sea ice over the long-term, a trend which has obscured a lot of regional variability. “There’s a lot of year-to-year variability in the Antarctic. Perhaps even more so than in the Arctic, regional changes matter.”
All this talk of a possible ice-free Arctic brings us to a column in The Times last year, written by well-known climate sceptic and coalmine owner Matt Ridley. Ridley wrote: “Some time in the next few decades, we may well see the Arctic Ocean without ice in August or September for at least a few weeks, just as it was in the time of our ancestors.“The effect on human welfare, and on animal and plant life, will be small. For all the attention it gets, the reduction in Arctic ice is the most visible, but least harmful, effect of global warming.”
The scientists on the panel were irked by that ‘least harmful’ comment. “These changes do not happen in isolation to the rest of the planet,” said Dr James Screen, senior lecturer at Exeter University. “They certainly can, and very likely are affecting weather and climate thousands of miles to the south, including the UK and North America.”
That’s just the start of it, he said forcefully. “Take that comment to the people living on the north shore of Alaska, where all their homes are falling into the sea because of coastal erosion. “Speak to the polar bear ecologist, who would say this is a habitat issue. There is no way that polar bears can thrive when their habitat is being lost.” Indeed, there is new research that suggests the already at-risk Beluga whale is facing a fresh threat from the melting Arctic, which is deeply disrupting the basis of its food-chain. For a blow by blow of the impact on wildlife and people, check out this Unearthed piece from 2015.
At the heart of the climate crisis is rising sea levels, and the Arctic plays a major role in that. “The warming of the Arctic is exacerbating the melting of the Greenland icecap,” said Screen, “and that’s contributing – I believe – about 1/3 to sea level rise.” “That’s a big chunk of a huge problem for all of us.” Which brings us to the permafrost, which holds more carbon than is currently in the atmosphere.
Recent studies suggest warming in the Arctic – which is happening at twice the rate of the rest of the world – is already impacting permafrost — in northern Canada for instance.
ICON – CHRIST BREAKING THE BONDS OF ANIMAL SUFFERING
Here is a brief post on a new Icon representing Christ’s concern for animal suffering. It is on the basis of the arguments laid out in my PhD and forthcoming book that led me to instigate discussions with one of the United Kingdom’s most experienced iconographers Aidan Hart. Our collaboration on this theme has led to the creation of a beautiful triptych entitled Christ Breaking the Bonds of Animal Suffering.
I also asked Aidan to write a brief explanation of the meaning behind some of the symbols in the Icon:
The icon suggests Paradise by the inclusion of trees, sea, grass, bees, birds, fish, snake and lizard, all of which look healthy. These creatures, and Saints Irenaeus and Isaac, face Christ, acknowledging Him as their Creator and Sustainer. One of the bees flies towards Him. This attitude of praise lies at the heart of Edenic life, just as ingratitude lies at the heart of the hellish life… This triptych shows Christ in the midst of creation, like a second Adam in paradise. He blesses with it His right hand, and directs it with His left. He is a prophet, priest and king of creation.
In our discussions I expressed the desire for the icon to depict different aspects of animal suffering in the contemporary world whilst ensuring that it was grounded in both Eastern Orthodox theology and in the Patristic teachings of Luke 13:15 and 14:5. I gave Aidan some ideas on how Christ might be depicted surrounded by a variety of animals, some emaciated, emerging from cages with broken doors, whilst others would be shown with broken chains, thus symbolising the breaking of the bonds of death and power of Satan. Aidan beautifully captures this brief in the center panel and explains that the icon:
...shows Christ blessing and liberating them, the tiger and chicken from their cages and the dog from its chains. Christ has come to set not just humanity free, but all creation. 
Cruelty to animals not only causes physical suffering to the victims but also introduces a tragic dissonance to this cosmic hymn. Such behaviour is therefore a sin not only against the animals, for it is also a failure of us humans to be conductors of the Eucharistic choir.
Aidan also explains that the image doubles as an image of Christ’s second coming:
Rome is home to numerous apse mosaics dating from the first millennium. Some of them show Christ in the midst of brightly coloured clouds. Examples are found in the churches of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Santi Cosma e Damiano, Santa Constanza, Santa Prassede, and Santa Maria Trastevere. What do these clouds represent? They are clouds of a sunrise, and thus indicate Christ’s Second Coming in glory:
…then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory… (Matthew 24:30)
Most of these apses also bear a cross at the apex. This is the “sign of the Son of Man” that will appear in the skies at Christ’s coming, a sign traditionally understood by the Orthodox Church to be the cross. The stars that surround our cross in the triptych represent the host of heavenly angels that will accompany Him.
On either side of Christ are Saints Irenaeus of Lyon and Isaac the Syrian who are depicted holding scrolls of texts which refer to two of their important teachings for this theme. On the left panel we have one text from St Irenaeus (Against Heresies 2:2:5) which reminds us, should we forget: ‘Now, among the “all things” our world must be embraced.’ It is as a result of our failure to remember this teaching and others like it, that has resulted in our current ecological crisis and incalculable animal suffering.
On the right panel is St. Isaac with a lesser known teaching from Mystic Treaties, (Ch.1): ‘Oppression is eradicated by compassion and renunciation.’ Here we are reminded that it is through compassion – and we could add other virtuous behaviours – together with a recognition and renunciation of our sins against ‘all things’ in creation, that will enable us to rid ourselves and those we are to care for, of all forms of oppression and harmful vested interests.
Both of these teachings are grounded in the Saint’s love and desire to reflect the true image of God. The icon above reflects just that.
 Drawn either side of Christ in the centre panel. The discussion on Patristic teachings on Luke 13:15 & 14:5 has been discussed in greater detail in my article in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review,Volume 61 Fall-Winter 2016 Numbers 3-4:125-140.
 Rom 8:19-23.