Significant dates of the year

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mother_earth_by_orihara_san-d6e5y04 Picture by Orihara San

Each New Year brings the opportunity to start with fresh intentions or to renew our commitments to living with compassion, love and faith. We at SAFCEI would like to take this opportunity to pledge ourselves again to Earth, our common home, and recommit ourselves to working for social and environmental justice, and we warmly invite you to join us.

As we all know however, these commitments can get swept away as work, school and everyday life get back into full swing. So one way of reminding ourselves of the promise we have made to tread lightly on this Earth is to observe and undertake an earth keeping action on the environmental days throughout the year. We are also sharing significant SAFCEI dates – these are days where we hope to see you standing with us, working for a more just world.

2 February World Wetlands Day: If there is a wetland near you, spend some time observing how this eco-system works – it is instrumental to filtering water, preventing flooding and is home to many animals and insects. And if the wetland is ailing, encourage your congregation to dedicate a day to restoring this space, for example by collecting rubbish from the surrounding area and within the wetland itself.

8 February State of the Nation Address: SAFCEI and its partners will be gathering near parliament to call on government to leave nuclear out of their energy plans. Details will follow.

14 February Earth Keeper Day: instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day and individual love, we would like to invite all Earth Keepers to celebrate love for Creation. Get in touch with us for ideas and resources or let us know your plans, whether it is a special sermon, or an action you’d like to undertake.

22 – 24 February rescheduled nuclear court hearing: the court case on the government’s nuclear energy deal was postponed from the 13th December to this year February, due to a last minute change by the Department of Energy which side-lined the proceedings. We will be gathering outside the Western Cape High Court on these days – details will follow.

3 March World Wildlife Day: we are blessed with an abundance of wildlife which we however cannot take for granted. Last year’s theme - “the future of wild animals is in our hands” - is one that weare taking forward to 2017 as it is our human activities which is endangering them the most. There are many wildlife organisations working to protect our wild animals – see what your local organisation is doing and ask them how you can contribute.

Fragile Earth Painting By Dr Taha Hassaballa Malasi Fragile Earth Painting By Dr Taha Hassaballa Malasi

22 March World Water Day: in the Southern hemisphere we are all too aware of how precious water is and every day of the year should be dedicated towards looking after this special resource. However this day is a good opportunity to have another look around your home and place of worship to make sure there are no leaks or unnecessary water wastage. Churches are also uniting around this issue and this website has many useful resources you can draw on to mark this day:

22 – 25 March Water Justice Conference: This conference has been organised to provide guidance for churches and individuals wishing to take unified, faith-based action on water justice. Whilst the main conference will be held in New York and be live-streamed, there will be companion events, including in Cape Town, hosted by the St George’s Cathedral. Details will follow.

23 March World Meteorological Day: take a moment to look up at the night sky – it is an inspiring sight and can remind us of the bigger picture and our task as Earth Keepers to ensure that future generations can gaze up at the splendour of the Heavens.

22 April Earth Day: Earth Day has steadily gained more attention over the years and now several campaigns are associated with this day. Join a campaign or celebrate Earth Day with your family or congregation by planning an environmental event, whether it is by giving thanks to the Earth with a special service or doing something more practical like a clean-up in your neighbourhood.

22 May International Day for Biological Diversity: Maintaining the biological diversity of Creation is one of the important tasks of being an Earth Keeper. As Dr David Suzuki writes: “In the past two decades, the scientific community's understanding of biological diversity…has exploded. With that knowledge has come two key realizations; firstly, that we are losing worldwide biological diversity (biodiversity) at an alarming and unprecedented rate, and secondly, for humans to thrive or even survive in the future, we must preserve as much biodiversity as possible so that we do not limit our future options.”

17 June World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought: On a continent where drought is a common problem, let us be mindful of every litre of water we use and see where we can save in our homes and community.

happyearth By Renee Keith

1 – 7 September National Arbour Week: “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” (Greek Proverb) See how many trees you can plant with your family and congregation this week.

17 September International Coastal Clean-Up Day: It is predicted that if we continue business as usual, there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the ocean by 2050.For those Earth Keepers that live near the coast, this is an opportunity to plan a walk on the beach with your family – or congregation – to pick up the litter washed up by the tide.

24 September World Rivers Day: rivers can be likened to being the lifeblood of the Earth. Spending some time at your local river, thinking about the path the water has travelled to get to you, can make us mindful of how interconnected we are: what we do to a river at the point we are, will be carried downstream and have an affect there, negative or positive.

24 September Heritage Day: in South Africa Heritage Day is about celebrating the diversity of our people and our traditions. But it is also the heritage of our Earth that we can celebrate on this day by finding out more about the landscapes around us and offering up a prayer of thanks at a site that has special geographical significance.

2 October World Day for Farmed Animals: If you haven’t already, join the Green Monday movement by committing to one day (or more!) of just eating plant based foods. Beyond the animal welfare concern, factory farming has a very large environmental impact that we can easily decrease if we reduce our consumption of animal products.

owl4 October World Animal Day: A day for examining how we interact with those with whom we share this Earth. SAFCEI’s OWL programme encourages people of faith to live in a benign and compassionate relationship with all other beings and always welcomes volunteers to join them in this work.

9 - 15 October National Marine Week: our oceans cover 70% of the Earth and play a very important role, so a week dedicated to this extensive eco-system is very apt - especially with the rise in sea temperatures which have led to the dying off of coral reefs, notably in the Great Barrier Reef. Here are a few tips on how to lessen your impact on the ocean:

16 October World Food Day: Whilst this is a day that is dedicated to eradicating hunger, it is also a good opportunity to look at our food systems. As a society we have become disconnected from where our food comes from and we are unaware of many environmental damages that happen along the way. However there is also a movement for local farmers growing organic produce and selling in the vicinity, as well as restaurants and small shops that put emphasis on sourcing their ingredients and products locally. Do a little research into how you can eat more sustainably or even begin a vegetable garden of your own – this can be a very rewarding experience and further eliminates packaging and travel emissions.

24 November Buy Nothing Day: For those of us living in cities and towns, popping into the shops on the way home has become an unconscious reflex. This day challenges us to be aware of our buying habits and to consciously work against them. See how long you can extend this period and use and re-use as much as you can before going for your next shop.

5 December World Soil Day: soil is often overlooked and taken for granted however we depend on it as much as anything else. See how healthy the soil in your garden and place of worship is and think of ways you can improve it – you could start a compost heap or create an earthworm farm.

This is not an exhaustive list and we welcome you to look up more environmental days or dedicate your own to honouring the Earth through prayer, meditation and creative action.