S.acred O.ceans S.easNational Council of Churches Eco-Justice ProgramsEarth Day SundayT April 24, 2005 he oceans, teeming with sea life, vibrant coral communities, and vast beauty, are part of God’s treasured creation. When God createdthe oceans, God declared them “good.” We receivethe oceans’ bounty on our tables and experience theocean’s beauty as we participate in recreationalactivities. As God’s stewards, we are called not onlyto enjoy the oceans, but also to care for them as asacred gift from God. Because we are people ofGod, we are to maintain the bounty of the oceans’waters and the integrity of oceanic systems thatcontain beauty and support an abundance of life. & The living oceans cover more than 70 percent of our planet, have mountains taller than Mt. Everest and canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon, and contain 97 percent of all living matter. The diverse and fragile marine ecosystems have an impact on people since oceans help deter- mine weather patterns, serve as the Earth’s “lungs,” produce food, and contribute toGod’s Living Seas and Oceans tourism and recreational opportunities.The oceans’ influence are felt by every living thing onEarth, no matter the distance from the seashore. The United States ocean territory spans 4.5Oceans often define the cultural identify of island and million square miles, an area 23 percent largercoastal communities. Even for communities far from than the United States land territory.the shore, oceans are invaluable. Oceans are not only physical transportation byways, Oceans At Risk but ocean currents help stabilize Marine ecosystems around the world are being the climate. Oceans are also a threatened by coastal development, pollution, source of food by providing fish overfishing, tourism, and a host of other human and other sea life for our tables. endeavors. These activities have led to the decline And, oceans are a source of life- of ocean wildlife and the near collapse of ocean sustaining oxygen, which is produced ecosystems. For generations the living oceans have by its microbial plant and animals. been exploited as a resource, not honored as one of God’s gifts. We have consumed without regard, dumped what we no longer needed, and physically altered the marine environment. We all share the responsibility to be good stewards of God’s oceans for current and future generations.
Earth Day 2Overfishing. Fishing, done by humans for thousands and fertilizer use, we can help protect God’s sacredof years, not only supplies food for those who fish, oceans and seas.but also is commercially and culturally important inmany countries around the world. Unfortunately, Today, more than ever, we understand the inter-inadequate management policies and practices have connectedness of all life and the disruptive impactresulted in widespread overfishing. Today, most humankind can have on this balance. As we gain anpopulations of commercially caught fish are in ever-deeper awareness of the connections betweendecline. By encouraging the seafood industry and our activities on the land and the health of marinegovernment regulators to engage in sustainable fishing ecosystems, we also gain an understanding of howpractices and by making consientious consumer we can partner with God in the restoration andchoices we can help conserve the oceans’ fish bounty. healing of creation. We must act on this knowledge in(Learn more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea- order to protect our oceans and seas not only tofood Watch at www.mbayaq.org/cr/ preserve God’s creation but also so that futureseafoodwatch.asp) generations will be able to enjoy clean beaches, healthy seafood, abundant ocean wildlife, and thrivingCoastal Development. According to the National coastal communities.Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2002,more than 50 percent of people in the United Stateslived within 50 miles of an ocean or Great Lake. Coastal marshes, which trap floodwaters,Coastal areas tend to be some of the most highly filter out pollutants and serve asdeveloped regions of the world and country. This “nurseries” for wildlife, are disappearingdevelopment has often had a disruptive impact on at a rate of 20,000 acres per year.marine and lake ecosystems. By ensuring that coastal Louisiana alone has lost half a milliondevelopment is done with care for God’s oceans, we acres of wetlands since the 1950s.can help protect valuable seas and shores. Rebuilding U.S. fisheries has the potentialPollution. Ocean pollution directly affects sea life to restore and create tens of thousands ofand ultimately affects human health. Polutants-- family wage jobs and add at least 1.3including trash, oil, pathogens in sewage in medical billion dollars to the U.S. economy.waste, fertilizers, pesticides, toxicindustrial wastes, and sediments--make up a deadly stew thatcontaminates our coastal waters.Some pollutants cause orcontribute to “deadzones,” such as at the Excess nutrientsmouth of the Missis- enter our waterways,sippi River in the flow downstream toGulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico,where depleted creating a “dead zone,”oxygen levels in the where no creaturewater can create condi- can live.tions such as “red tides”that make it necessary to closebeaches and shellfish beds. Trash such asdiscarded plastics and toxic waste can alsoharm marine life. By taking care to preventpollution, for example by limiting pesticide
Earth Day 3Sermon Notes: God’s Seas“And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures . . . So God created the great seamonthers and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm . . . AndGod saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in theseas . . . ’” (Genesis 1:20-22)“Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small andgreat.” (Ps. 104:25)I n comparison to the land, God’s oceans are world’s fisheries have collapsed or are near collapse, indeed vast, occupying 70 percent of the Earth’s and about half of the world’s fisheries are being surface, and they are home to over 90 percent of fished at their maximum level. By overfishing, we areall life on Earth. Psalm 104:25 states that the sea, great in effect stealing from the people in poverty andand wide, is teeming with creatures both large and from future generations. Fish is the primary source ofsmall beyond number. Even with such passages of protein for coastal communities and is especiallyScripture to remind us of this, when we talk about important for those living in poverty. Fish make upthe Earth, we usually are referring to just that 30 about 19 percent of the total animal protein con-percent of the Earth’s surface we call land. We know sumption of developing countries as a whole.little or nothing about much of ocean life. Scientistshope to identify many of the estimated million-plus As Christians, we are called to be especially con-species of life in the oceans (only a small fraction of cerned for the poor and vulnerable. Marine pollutionwhich have been identified to date) through a com- caused by our personal choices as consumers (espe-prehensive global study, and expect to identify at cially as drivers), by improper land use and develop-least 5,000 new species of fish. ment planning, and by agricultural runoff affects “neighbors” downstream who live near or dependGod, with an overflowing love for us, has provided on the oceans for their livelihoods and health. Wean oceanic world as part of our earthly heritage. As must begin to truly care for the oceans by insisting onGod’s stewards, guided by the Spirit that hovers over the protection of coastal areas.the waters, Christians are to care for the oceansbequeathed to us by God as much as we care for the By restoring the beauty and regenerative capacity ofland and the air. In so doing, we will be helping to God’s oceans, we will expand our view of God. Weshare the extravagance and beauty of God’s love can do unto others and help care for our neighborswith others by maintaining the productive capacity of and God’s other creatures by making choices thatthe oceans’ waters and the integrity of oceanic minimize the impacts we have on these great bodiessystems that support an abundance of life and have of water. Then we will help the sea and all that is in itan untold wealth of beauty. to resound to the glory of God.Current industrial fishing practices and pollution are The oceans are one of God’s masterpieces and homeleading to the exact opposite of proper Christian to an outstanding array of life. God’s oceans alsostewardship, diminishing the glory to God that God’s provide for all of us, supplying food and atmo-ocean creatures proclaim. Nearly one-third of the spheric control for the planet that we all depend on. Ocean Facts: Oceans contain 97 percent of all living Oceans cover almost three-fourths of our matter on Earth, from microscopic organisms planet, and have mountains taller than Mt. to the largest animals on Earth including the Everest, and canyons deeper than the Grand Blue Whale, which can reach 100 feet in Canyon. length and weigh 160 tons.
Earth Day 4Globally, the gap between those who will be able Questions for Adult Studyto withstand environmental change and those who 1. In pairs, discuss how oceans have played a part inwill not is widening. The poor and disadvantaged your life (recreationally, spiritually, or occupationally).will be hurt most by depletion and degradation of Share with the larger group.our oceans. However, we will all suffer as God’soceans are diminished. And God’s other creatures 3. How is ocean stewardship also a social justice issuewill also suffer. As Christians we need to pray and and a call to “love our neighbor as ourself?”act for the conservation of the Earth’s oceans. 4. How can we, as God’s children, honor God’s callThe current state of God’s oceans is a call to to care for the Earth, and thus ocean stewardship?action. We cannot forget God’s oceans, nor can wethink of them as industructable and not in need of Note: Adults may also enjoy theour care and protection. collage or mural activity described in the Youth Activities below.Adapted from Creation Care magazine articleby Rev. Jim Ball. Scripture verses are from theNew Revised Standard Version of the Bible.“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place’ . . . and the watersthat were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good” (Gen. 1:9-10).Ideas for Youth Groups or Sunday SchoolOcean Collage or Mural Sea TalesMake an individual collage or a class mural of God’s Read one of the numerous stories in the Bible thatoceans, including various sea life such as whales, feature oceans or sea creatures.jellyfish, algae, etc. Close the session with a prayer for The Miracle of the Loaves & Fishes, Matthew 14God’s oceans. Money Found In a Fish, Matthew 17 Ocean Creation Story, Genesis 1Stream Cleanup Jonah and the Whale, Jonah 1-2Bring a youth group on a mission day trip to clean up Discuss how God’s oceans and sea creatures played aa nearby stream. For more information on locating role in the story. Have the group act out the storyappropriate sites, see “Take Action” on the next page. with a skit or create a game of charades using the names of the stories as answers.Ocean Treasure HuntIn teams of two or more, have youth locate Bible Resourcespassages with the word “sea” or “ocean” based onclues such as: The United States Commission on Ocean Policy In this passage, God created both winged and www.oceancommission.gov finned creatures. (answer Gen. 1:21) The Ocean Conservancy In this passage, Moses created a path for the www.oceanconservancy.org Israelites through the water. (answer Ex. 14:26) In this passage, Jesus walks across the water. Pew Ocean Commission Report (answer John 6:19, Mark 6:49, Matthew 14:26) www.pewoceans.org In this passage, Jonah is thrown overboard. World Wildlife Fund (Jonah 1:15) www.worldwildlife.org
Earth Day 5Take Action to Protect God’s Oceans and SeasRecycle or dispose of trash properly. need for pesticides and fertilizers by practicingEvery year, millions of pounds of trash degrade conservation landscaping at home, work, and church.habitat and can strangle, poison, or otherwise harm To learn more about conservation landscaping visitocean wildlife. As one example, we improperly Wild Ones (www.for-wild.org) or the Nationaldispose of 161 million gallons of used motor oil— Wildlife Federation’s Backyard Habitat programmore than the Exxon Valdez spill—every year. (www.nwf.org/habitats/). Buying organic produceCarefully disposing of motor oil will help keep ocean or joining a community supported agricultural (CSA)waters clean. Hands-on efforts to clean up our farm is another way to encourage using of lessmarine ecosystems are making a difference. Hun- pesticide and fertilizer. For more information on thedreds of thousands of volunteers, participating in the USDA’s National Organic Program, visitannual International Coastal Cleanup, remove as www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/many as eight million pounds of trash from beaches, Consumerhome.html. To locate a CSA farm nearreefs, underwater areas, and inland waterways on a you, visit the Alternative Farming System Informa-single day. To join a cleanup in your area, visit tion Center at www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/www.coastalcleanup.org. csastate.htm.Reduce your energy consumption. Enjoy Responsible Recreation.Air pollution particles created from power plants and Ocean lovers spend a lot of time on, in, and underautomobiles fall into the ocean in raindrops, polluting the water—swimming, boating, fishing, diving, andthe water with excess nitrogen and contaminating fish enjoying the beach. These activities are often the mostwith toxic mercury. The carbon dioxide emitted direct contact we have with ocean life, so how youbecause of our energy use also causes global warm- engage in them determines whether your impact ising and rising ocean temperatures, which, in turn, negative or positive.contribute to the collapse of ecosystems, includingtropical coral reefs and Arctic ice sheets. Reduce your Retrieve all fishing line, lures, and gear—evenenergy consumption by reducing your use of electric- if tangled or broken. Fishing gear can entangleity, which is the largest source of carbon emissions in and injure seabirds, turtles, dolphins, manatees—the United States. By replacing four standard bulbs even divers and swimmers.with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) in your home Drive your boat as though life depended onor house of worship, you can prevent the emission it. It does. Be aware that there is life under water.of 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and reduce your Damaging wake can tear up plants and erodeelectricity bill by more than $100 over the life of shoreline, and slashing boat propellers injurethose bulbs. countless sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, and whales every year.Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers.Runoff from lawns, farms, streets, parking lots, and On trips to the beach, carry out whatever youconstruction sites is a major source of ocean pollu- carry in. Wildlife can ingest or become entangledtion. This runoff—containing silt, nitrogen, and in trash left behind.phosphorous—robs ocean waters of light andoxygen, and is especially harmful to coral reef When snorkeling and diving, don’t touch,ecosystems. In the bays and estuaries near populated break, stand on, or attempt to collect coralareas, chemicals including fertilizers contribute to or other marine organisms. Instead, take only“dead zones,” where nothing can live. Eliminate the pictures and leave only bubbles.
Ocean Pollution and Human Health Natural Protection Toxic chemicals such as mercury and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) enter the oceans and can accumulate Coral Reefs and natural shoreline in marine animals and, when consumed by humans, ecosystems such as mangrove swamps can can cause adverse health effects. Researchers found that protect human populations from storms and the level of PCBs in the breast milk of Inuit women tsunamis. Although no amount of natural was the highest PCB level found in any human protection can prevent all destruction, population except those in industrial accidents. The environmental degradation almost certainly contamination, which originated far from the Inuit makes the impact worse. For instance, communities, had passed up the food chain from largely intact coral reefs in the Maldives are algae to fish to the marine mammals that Inuit eat. credited with sparing that island nation from Children in Inuit villages are plagued with chronic the worst of the December 2004 tsunami’s infections, which they suffer at rates 10 to 15 times impact. Satellite images of Aceh, Indonesia, higher than children in southern Quebec. Studies found also show destruction of this tsunami was abnormalities in the immune systems in these children worse in areas where mangroves had been and documented that vaccinations for diseases often cleared for development and fish farms. fail because these children do not produce the neces- sary antibodies. Local, state, and federal elected officials will consider legislation that impacts God’s sacred oceans— from local zoning ordinances to fisheries management to international treaties. For information on current federal legislation and ways you can speak out, visit www.nccecojustice.org Eco-Justice Programs National Council of Churches 110 Maryland Ave., NE Suite 108 Washington, DC 20002 “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered into one place’ . . . and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9-10)printed on 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper, processed chlorine free; printed with Eco-inks and 100% wind powered.