Role of Church in conservation of our forests and wildlife
N. Lokeswara Rao, IFS
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he grave social, economic and environmental problems facing the world show that human beings have violated the laws of nature with impunity and woefully failed to protect God’s creation. Greedy consumption patterns have goaded us to abuse nature. We have not exercised responsible management of God’s creation.
Unfortunately, we seem not to be learning any useful lessons that the problems confronting the world had resulted from the mistake in not considering the environment as the basis for the survival of humanity but had placed economic and financial considerations above environment issues.We are destroying the basis of our lives for a pittance and not taking counsel from the Biblical statement that it is unprofitable to gain the whole world and lose one’s soul.
The misplaced priorities have been exacerbated already destroyed environment but by the development programmes whether these so-called development programmes would worsen environmental destruction or not. Issues relating to climate change, biodiversity destruction, natural resource extraction, gender, conflicts, social and environmental justice have caught up with us and become too important to be ignored. The high temperatures and phenomenal weather changes that we are experiencing have turned what was previously regarded as abstract global issues into real life experiences.
Nagaland is rich with forests and biodiversity; it is one of the biodiversity hot spot falling under Indo- Myanmar biodiversity hotspot. The forest cover in the State, based on Forest survey of India report 2011 is 80.33% of the State’s geographical area. In terms of forest canopy density classes, the State has 1,293 km2 area under very dense forest, 4,931 km2 are under moderately dense forest and 7,094 km2 under open forest.
As per the Forest Survey of India Report 2011 there is a loss of 146 kms of forest cover compare with previous report of 2009. Main reason for the change in forest cover is the shifting cultivation practiced widely across the State. Sustainable consumption is all about ‘doing more and better with less,’ through reducing resource use, degradation and pollution while increasing the quality of life for all. The massive consumption of both renewable and non-renewable resources contributes to a massive loss of biodiversity – with current extinction rates of birds, mammals and amphibians estimated to be at least 100 times, but possibly over 1,000 times, higher than pre-industrial rates.
The poorest population is most affected by such changes giving that they rely directly on natural resources—such as fishing, small-scale agriculture or forestry—for their livelihoods. Our forests are degrading because of large scale shifting cultivation; mining, indiscriminate felling of trees, poaching and killing of wildlife and unplanned development are creating problems. Jhum cultivation is a way of life in Nagaland.
Nagaland has tremendous capacity for wood production, more potential for making Nagaland rich. These vast stretches jhum areas can be planted which will produce timber, and provide livelihood to our village communities and plantation in fallow areas will also act as carbon sink.
As per the scientific report of Prof Ravindranath of Indian Institute of Science Bangalore, Nagaland is vulnerable to climate change. Our forest area is dwindling, there will be shifting of the plant species to higher altitudes and in due course of time some plant species will disappear. There is scarcity of water in different parts of the state especially during the winter. People set fire to forests and destroying the pristine forests. This is happening in many parts of the State.
It may come as a surprise to some, but the Bible has a great deal to say about the environment and its conservation some 20 centuries since it was written. Perhaps among the most surprised will be Bible-toting church-goers who may have never heard a sermon related to the “environmental crisis” which has become such a concern to so many around the world. Based on the Bible, Christianity’s positive contribution to environmental conservation is consistent with its positive contributions to other fields such as literature, art, music, education, health, and science.
God reminds us in Leviticus 25:23-24- that “The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession you must provide for the redemption of the land”. According to U. Utah Phillips, “The Earth is not dying—it is being killed. And the people killing it have names and addresses.”
Recently concluded NBCC platinum jubilee adopted a resolution III on environment.
• Baptist churches will initiate climate change adaptation strategies and other eco-friendly action sensitive to conservation of forest and preservation of wildlife, and work closely with the community leaders and concern departments for addressing the environment alarm.
• Abstain from using jungle meat during church gatherings
• Discourage churches from offering wild animals during thanks giving service
Recently the forest department has involved “Church” in conservation of Amur Falcon. Wokha Forest Division has extended “Save Amur Falcon Devotional Service and Signature Campaign” to several other churches of Sungro, Englan and Sanis ranges encircling Doyang reservoir during the last Sunday Devotional Service after last campaign in Pangti, Sungro and Aasha villages. Special sermons were given quoting relevant verses from The Holy Bible by the Church Pastors enshrining concept of wise stewardship towards creation of the God.
Last Sunday, Pastor Ellis Lotha of Thillong Baptist Church guided the programme. “Owing to important role played by apex predator in the ecosystem, Chapter 11 of Leviticus in The Holy Bible clearly prohibits consumption of ‘Birds of Prey’ like Falcons,” he said while addressing huge gathering of ‘England Range Youth Sports Ministry cum Crusade. “But it should not be interpreted but we shoulf abide by the law for protection of whole wildlife,” he added.
“The bird comes from Mongolia-Siberia which is land of our ancestors according to cultural songs and that is reason enough to get attached to the bird emotionally,” mentioned Pastor Zamben Kithan of Yikhum Baptist Church.
“Conservation awareness programme” is the theme of the Forest Department on the occasion of fifty years of statehood. The awareness programme will be conducted all over Nagaland for next one year i.e. from December 1, 2013 to November 30, 2014. Recognising the effective and crucial role of the Churches in conservation, the department would like to solicit Church support and co-operation towards achieving this objective.
The Forest Department Nagaland is delighted to draw kind attention to the efforts of the department in the crusade for “Conservation awareness programme” by Forest Department on the occasion of the 50 years of Statehood of Nagaland. Lot of forests and biodiversity have been lost for the last fifty years, while the biggest problem to mankind is to protect forest and conserve wildlife.
The recent efforts made by the Forest Department to prevent hunting of Amur falcons in Doyang area, Wokha, have resulted in great success due to the active participation of Churches. The Churches participated and played crucial role in various awareness programmes like satellite tagging of birds, signature campaigns, prayers, marathon race and special sermons were given by the church pastors highlighting biblical perspective of conservation which have drawn worldwide attention.
Even from other parts of Nagaland the Churches continue to support in the crusade for conserving our magnificent wildlife and rich forests. To achieve this, Forest Department is providing message write-ups and awareness material, “Green Pledge calendar” and providing seedlings for distribution.
All the Churches are requested to devote some time monthly, preferably on Sundays, during devotional service to spread conservation awareness message. Along with this, the department requests you to include “Green Theology” as a theme for Crusade, Revival workshop and Sunday school celebration and Inclusion of “Green Days” under church calendar would be of great value. This will go a long way in conserving the forests and wildlife of Nagaland. Our forest officers will also participate in the programme.
The Forest Department has requested NBBC and other churches to instruct all Executive Secretaries of all districts to co-ordinate with respective Divisional Forest Officers to collect awareness material, Green pledge calendar, seedlings and provide all possible help for this noble cause for conservation of rich biodiversity on the Golden Jubilee of Nagaland’s statehood. Request people of Nagaland to participate in conservation awareness programme.
I appeal to the people of Nagaland that it is our duty to protect, reduce the consumption of resources, we should conserve and use our natural resources sustainably, protect and conserve our natural resources for our future generation. Everyone should do their bit in day to day life to save our precious natural resources. Let us pledge to create awareness to live eco-friendly way to save our natural resources including forests and rich biodiversity and make planet earth a beautiful place to live.
A quote from Cree Indian Proverb: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.”
The writer is Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Forest Force, Nagaland