Friday, July 15, 2005

Volunteers Urgently Needed in Mallee Next Weekend

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:20 pm
The Mallee
The Mallee:
Looking for volunteers.
According to this press release, "Drought Recovery Worker in the Mallee, Rev. Brad Harris, urgently needs four car loads of willing volunteers to help plant native trees at Sea Lake in the Mallee. The trees will make a long term difference in soil quality and prevent erosion. People from the city with a heart to support rural communities are encouraged to volunteer." For those of you who are reading this and are interested in camping, this is a great opportunity to not go camping next weekend, and at the same time also help the environment, and those who have been hit hard by drought. But even for those of you who aren't, the call for volunteers illustrates some interesting points, witin the context of recent debates in the blogosphere (read on to see why). An effort has been organized for next weekend to bring together a group of campers, from both the city and country, who are willing to plant trees in the Mallee region of Northwestern Victoria. The trees that get planted will help both the environment, by soaking up salt from the soil, and by improving the soil, will also help farmers who have been hit hard by drought. By inviting us city-slickers along, the organisers also hope to help build ties between the city and the country. For those of you who are interested in the volunteer effort (and even those of you who are not), here is the full text of the press release:

DROUGHT ASSISTANCE: URGENT NEED TO PLANT 4000 TREES
Drought Recovery Worker in the Mallee, Rev. Brad Harris, urgently needs four car loads of willing volunteers to help plant native trees at Sea Lake in the Mallee. The trees will make a long term difference in soil quality and prevent erosion. People from the city with a heart to support rural communities are encouraged to volunteer.
...
Mallee Farmers have expressed concern that their needs and problems are not well understood by city people. Offers of material aid, and of work parties, are difficult to respond to, but conservation measures needing real hands-on efforts are very much needed as farmers embrace long term Government offers to restore flora and fauna values, combat salinity and erosion, and make farming operations more sustainable.

If you can garden and walk all day, you will keep up. Garden gloves, raincoats, boots. Training in planting, lunch and dinner on Saturday and the chance to attend Sea Lake worship on Sunday will give you a window on life in the Mallee as people try to recover lost ground. The tree lines (four trees wide and 2 kms or more long) are local species planted as part of a national design to recover natural values and part of the Biolinks program to rebuild animal migration corridors to increase habitat. Two sites are prepared in this area, Nandaly and Tyrrell near Sea Lake.

Drought Recovery Worker in the Mallee Rev Brad Harris is attempting to garner support from Uniting Church people to help with the task. He urgently needs four carloads of willing volunteers to help plant native trees at Sea Lake in the Mallee. People from the city with a heart to support rural communities are encouraged to volunteer. Camp at the Manse or at Green Lake Friday 21st and Saturday. Contact Brad Harris 0417 550 822 or try 5026 3125.

SOURCE: http://vic.uca.org.au/media/releases/2005/DROUGHT_ASSISTANCE.pdf

Reading this press release, notice that the organizer for this community and environment building project is a Uniting Church Reverend. Also notice the line "... hands-on efforts are very much needed as farmers embrace long term Government offers to restore flora and fauna values, combat salinity and erosion, and make farming operations more sustainable." You could say that it's a a case of church and state uniting - to help the environment.

I mention this against the backdrop of the recent debate that was sparked by Treasurer Peter Costello visiting the evangelical Hillsong Church in Sydney, and the electoral success of the right-wing Family First party at the last Federal election. In the wake of this, some secular humanists - those who don't actively participate in religious activities - have attacked organised religion. I'm sure many of those reading this will be familiar with most of the arguments; how religion is used to justify war, or how it is used to hold the disadvantaged and underpriviliaged down.

Such arguments overlook the essential role that religion, and compassionate and truthful religious people, play in helping the downtrodden and advancing social justice in our society. Think about the countless hours put in for volunteers of a range of religious charities like the Salvation Army, the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, Anglicare, UnitingCare, the St. Vincent dePaul Society, and numerous others. Thnk about the front line advocacy and lobby work put in by numerous religious groups for a number of social justice causes, like workers rights and the environment. Think about the rallies in facor of refugee rights and against war over the past few years, which featured contingents of people from all faiths - Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddist, Muslim, and Hindu. Think of the example I discussed above, where a Uniting Church Reverend is doing thankless work for the environment and drought relief. Are their acts of conscience and compassion somehow less worthy because of the fact that those who undertake them also believe in a benevolent deity? Or is there a shared common sense of conscience and compassion with those secular humanists who, while not actively participating in any religion, also share a belief in social justice, and put in countless hours to advance the cause of social justice in Australia, and around the world?

The real enemy, both for compassionate people of faith and secular Humanists alike are those who try to hijack religion to push for radical, destructive agendas. Personally, it makes me thoroughly sick when I hear someone use religion as an excuse for racism; especially when it cuts against the fundamental message of their religion. Unfortunately, even within Australia, there are numerous so-called 'religious' groups actively trying to recruit people to their hateful cause. Such groups don't put their effort into social justice, but rather they actively undermine it. The goal of such wackos is to further their agendas of personal power, wealth, and hatred. And unfortunately, both in Australia and abroad, they seem to be growing in power, while giving people of good faith a bad name.

The time has come to build bridges and unite. To unite all people of good faith, from all good faiths, and all those of good faith who don't actively participate in any faith. To unite and work together to build and strengthen the cause of social justice in Australia, against the thugs and wreckers who seek to undermine and attack it. We can make this country a great place to live, but it will take all of us.

Together.