Two public meetings on reducing and managing the waste we create were held recently at St. Brigid’s Catholic parish in Feilding in response to Pope Francis’ documentary, “The Letter: A Message for the Earth”. Central to “The Letter” was a call to climate justice in response to heartbreaking stories from climate activists from Africa, India, Brazil and the United States. For everyone concerned, a message from the Earth was a message from the Poor, who suffer most from a crisis they did not create. The film ended with a call to action.
Inspired by Pope Francis’ documentary, St. Brigid’s Catholic parish in Feilding, a rural community in the Manawatu, invited staff from Rethink Waste Manawatu to give climate action workshops on 30 August and 21 September 2023, focussed on minimising the waste we create and making a transition to the circular economy. Doing this will help reduce pressure on the planet’s natural resources. It can also reduce emission of greenhouse gases created through mass production and burning of fossil fuels.
Angela Baker, Sue Godbaz and Heather Browning from Rethink Waste Manawatu inspired concerned citizens to reduce household waste, like the use of plastics, and change purchasing habits in order to move the Manawatu District towards zero waste to landfill, and create the circular economy. We learned how ‘people power’ led to withdrawing a proposal made by Bioplant to establish a pyrolysis plant in Feilding. Simply put, in a pyrolysis plant waste materials including plastics are fed into a plant to produce diesel to burn as fuel. Opponents like Angela Baker successfully argued that burning rubbish was incredibly toxic and polluting but also that “waste to energy” had no role in the transition to the circular economy.
A most useful document was provided to participants: the Feilding Household Recycling Guide, provides practical, up to date information about where to take batteries, light bulbs, old computers, etc. so that they can be re-used and recycled. It is a model for environmentally concerned citizens in every town and city in Aotearoa New Zealand so that everyone can be engaged in creating a circular economy, where waste and pollution are designed out in the first place; products and materials stay in use for much longer; and natural systems can regenerate. In this way, Catholics and all people of good will are creating a new culture where citizens learn to consume with prudence thereby changing community habits and putting pressure on the political and economic sector to phase out fossil fuels now and make a transition to clean energy. Fortunately, this life-giving work is well underway in Feilding.
Dr. Mary Eastham, QSM
St. Brigid’s Catholic parish and the Religious Diversity Centre Climate Work Group