World Environment Day – June 5th


World Environment Day is  celebrated annually on 5 June. First proclaimed in 1972, the day has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

2023 Theme: #BeatPlasticPollution

The world is being inundated by plastic. More than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 per cent is recycled. An estimated 19-23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas. Today, plastic clogs our landfills, leaches into the ocean and is combusted into toxic smoke, making it one of the gravest threats to the planet.

Not only that, what is less known is that microplastics find their way into the food we eat, the water we drink and even the air we breathe. Many plastic products contain hazardous additives, which may pose a threat to our health.

The good news is that we have science and solutions to tackle the problem –and a lot is already happening. What is needed most now is a surge of public and political pressure to scale up and speed actions from governments, companies and other stakeholders to solve this crisis. This underscores the importance of this World Environment Day mobilizing action from every corner of the world.

World Environment Day 2023 will showcase how countries, businesses and individuals are learning to use the material more sustainably, offering hope that one day, plastic pollution will be history. World Environment Day 2023 provides an opportunity to raise the volume on the call for governments, cities and businesses to invest in and implement solutions to ending plastic pollution

Laudato Si is the second encyclical of Pope Francis, published in June 2015. The encyclical has the subtitle “On Care for our Common Home”. In it, the Pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all peoples of the world to take ‘swift and unified global action’.

William (Bill) Wallace (New Zealand) has prepared a ‘mass of the universe‘ which could be considered for World Environment Day. He has generously uploaded the text, MP3 files, music scores etc, and is complete in itself. Worth checking out.

There may be resources in Seasons of Creation that could be helpful for planning too.

Presbyterian Church USA – Caring for Earth’s Creatures
Religion is on the decline in America as many people leave behind traditional religious practices. Diana Butler Bass, leading commentator on religion, politics, and culture, argues that what appears to be a decline actually signals a major transformation in how people understand and experience God. The distant God of conventional religion has given way to a more intimate sense of the sacred that is with us in the world. This shift, from a vertical understanding of God to a God found on the horizons of nature and human community, is at the heart of a spiritual revolution that surrounds us — and that is challenging not only religious institutions but political and social ones as well.
Bass unpacks how people are finding new spiritual ground by discovering and embracing God everywhere in the world around us—in the soil, the water, the sky, in our homes and neighborhoods, and in the global commons. Faith is no longer a matter of mountaintop experience or institutional practice; instead, people are connecting with God through the environment in which we live. Grounded guides readers through our contemporary spiritual habitat as it points out and pays attention to the ways in which people experience a God who animates creation and community.

Diana Butler Bass, leading commentator on religion, politics, and culture, argues that what appears to be a decline actually signals a major transformation in how people understand and experience God. The distant God of conventional religion has given way to a more intimate sense of the sacred that is with us in the world. This shift, from a vertical understanding of God to a God found on the horizons of nature and human community, is at the heart of a spiritual revolution that surrounds us – and that is challenging not only religious institutions but political and social ones as well. Bass unpacks how people are finding new spiritual ground by discovering and embracing God everywhere in the world around us – in the soil, the water, the sky, in our homes and neighborhoods, and in the global commons. Faith is no longer a matter of mountaintop experience or institutional practice; instead, people are connecting with God through the environment in which we live. Grounded guides readers through our contemporary spiritual habitat as it points out and pays attention to the ways in which people experience a God who animates creation and community. (Source: News)

Celebrating the Earth
v1 We light and put in place this candle for the land, sea and sky.
A green candle is put in place and lit

v2 We remember the richness of Planet Earth:
mountains unfolding to desert and plain,
seas swaying to the rhythm of tides,
skies reflecting the colours of light.

v3 We place this green cloth for the creatures of Earth.
A large green cloth is placed near/around the candle

v2 We remember creatures of land, air and sea:
horses running for the joy of living,
parrots chatting on roofs and branches,
dolphins leaping from sea to sky.

v4 We place these leaves for the fruits of Earth.
A branch of green leaves is put beside the candle

v2 We remember fruits of the land:
grasses bursting with nourishing grain,
flowers exuding colour and fragrance,
trees renewing the sweetness of air.

v5 We put this book in place for humanity.
A collection of sayings and poems is put on the green cloth near the candle

v2 We remember all sages and prophets:
through them recalling the power of love;
through them reclaiming a spirit of compassion;
through them embracing Earth and each other.
(Adapt.PCNV Earth Liturgy)

Pastoral prayer
God of grace,
together we turn to you in prayer,
for it is you who unite us:
you are the one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit –
in whom we believe,
you alone empower us for good,
you send us out across the earth
in mission and service in the name of Christ.
We confess before you and all people:
We have been unworthy servants.
We have misused and abused the creation.
We have wounded one another by divisions everywhere.
We have often failed to take decisive action
against environmental destruction, poverty, racism,
caste-ism, war and genocide.
We are not only victims but also perpetrators of violence.
In all this, we have fallen short as disciples of Jesus Christ
who in his incarnation came to save us and teach us how to love.
Forgive us, God, and teach us to forgive one another.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
God, hear the cries of all creation,
the cries of the waters, the air, the land and all living things;
the cries of all who are exploited, marginalized, abused and victimized,
all who are dispossessed and silenced, their humanity ignored,
all who suffer from any form of disease, from war
and from the crimes of the arrogant
who hide from the truth, distort memory
and deny the possibility of reconciliation.
God, guide all in seats of authority
towards decisions of moral integrity.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
We give thanks for your blessings and signs of hope
that are already present in the world,
in people of all ages and in those who have gone before us in faith;
in movements to overcome violence in all its forms,
not just for a decade but for always;
in the deep and open dialogues that have begun
both within our own churches and with those of other faiths
in the search for mutual understanding and respect;
in all those working together for justice and peace –
both in exceptional circumstances and every day.
We thank you for the good news of Jesus Christ,
and the assurance of resurrection.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
By the power and guidance of your Holy Spirit, O God,
may our prayers never be empty words
but an urgent response to your living Word –
in non-violent direct action for positive change,
in bold, clear, specific acts of solidarity,
liberation, healing and compassion,
readily sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Open our hearts to love
and to see that all people are made in your image,
to care for creation and affirm life in all its wondrous diversity.
Transform us in the offering of ourselves
so that we may be your partners in transformation
to strive for the full, visible unity
of the one Church of Jesus Christ,
to become neighbours to all,
as we await with eager longing
the full revelation of your rule
in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.
God, in your grace, transform the world.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.
(Source: 2006 Assembly of the World Council of Churches)

Prayer for World Environment Day
Creator God,
breath and source of life,
in love you called the world into being
and in grace you made us and call us your children.

We stand in awe of the wonder of your creation:
its beauty and wildness;
complexity and power;
resilience and fragility.

God of life,
you call us to be participants in the web and
wellspring of life:
to be nurtured by the planet;
to be nurturing of the planet;
to cherish the world and all that lives.
But we have failed and creation groans under our weight.

God of grace,
forgive us in our brokenness:
when we have taken too much from the earth;
when we have not spoken out
against greed and destruction;
when we have allowed our most vulnerable neighbours
to be harmed.
We seek courage and forgiveness to be made whole.

God of love,
we pray for those people, communities and nations
already suffering the devastating effects of climate change;
and we pray for the diversity of life on earth,
so much of it already threatened by our actions.

God of hope,
we pray for the world’s leaders
Bless them with wisdom and creativity,
and a shared vision of hope for all creation.
May they find the determination
to take strong action against climate change,
and the political will to act together for the common good.

Creator God,
we pray for us all,
that we might restore our relationships with each other
and work together to heal the earth.

Renew us in your grace
for the sake of your creation. Amen.
(Source: Uniting Justice World Environment Day 2016 resources)

(posted on Rex AE Hunt’s website, with further reflection on this theme)
It was Christmas Eve in December 1968.
Apollo 8 was orbiting the moon, the American astronauts
busy photographing possible landing sites
for the missions that would follow.

“On the fourth orbit, Commander Frank Borman decided to roll the craft away from the moon and tilt its windows toward the horizon – he needed a navigational fix. What he got, instead, was a sudden view of the earth, rising. “Oh my God,” he said. “Here’s the earth coming up.” Crew member Bill Anders grabbed a camera and took the photograph that became the iconic image perhaps of all time” (McKibben 2010:2).

The space agency NASA gave the image the code name AS8-14-2383
But we now know it as “Earthrise”, a picture
“of a blue-and-white marble floating amid the vast backdrop of space, set against the barren edge of the lifeless moon” (McKibben 2010:2).

This image, along with another of Earth from space,
called “Blue Marble”, and taken by crew on board Apollo 17 four years later,
has appeared in TV mini-series,
scientific publications and school text books,
on greeting cards, a postage stamp, and advertising posters,
not to mention having their own pages on Wikipedia!

As the other Apollo 8 Crew member, Jim Lovell, put it:
“the earth… suddenly appeared as ‘a grand oasis’” (McKibben 2010:2).

But author and environmental activist Bill McKibben has pointed out:
“…we no longer live on that planet” (McKibben 2010:2).

Not that the world has ended.
It hasn’t. You and I are still here – south east of the Wallace Line.
Earth is still a fragile web of interconnected and
interdependent forces and domains of existence.

It is still the third rock out from the sun,
located in a galaxy called the ‘Milky Way”,
“three-quarters water. Gravity still pertains; we’re still earthlike” (McKibben 2010:2).

What has ended is the world as we thought we knew it.
That ‘grand oasis’ has changed in profound ways.

“We imagine we still live back on that old planet”, says McKibben,
“that the disturbances we see around us are the old random and freakish kind. But they are not. It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name” (McKibben 2010:2).

That ‘different planet’ has been brought about by global warming.
The sudden surge in both greenhouse gases and global temperatures.
And “a series of ominous feedback effects” (McKibben 2010:20).

UnitingJustice: a collection of resources for worship and education.

Also, the National Assembly website has a collection of resources (scroll down to the section on living sustainably).

PDF worship resources liturgicalresources2011PDF

Word version of worship resources worshipresources2011.word

Some extra resources: Interconnection

Living Sustainably – 17 wise suggestions from Wendell Berry
How can a sustainable local community (which is to say a sustainable local economy) function? I am going to suggest a set of rules that I think such a community would have to follow. I hasten to say that I do not understand these rules as predictions; I am not interested in foretelling the future. If these rules have any validity, it is because they apply now.
Supposing that the members of a local community wanted their community to cohere, to flourish, and to last, they would:

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.

2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbors.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labor saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.

8. Strive to supply as much of the community’s own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.

10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.

11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.

12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programs, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighborly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighborhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.

16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.
(Source: widely circulated on the internet, but this version from Godspace)

All the flutterings of the chest
(by Lucy Saywell, from Hunter Valley Grammar School, first in English Extension 2, HSC 2021)

Inside a great hall
she is propped on a carved wooden throne,
a sceptre is placed in a bony hand,
an orb in the other,
a flower crown slips from her dome.
They deify her.
Ropes bind her wrists
tethered round and round.
Mossy hair strewn on the floor,
opal teeth plucked from her gums,
eyes yellowed and cracked.
Murmurs of deepest reverence,
bring gold to her scabbed feet,
for the daffodils and dahlias,
the dirt that springs forth dinner,
the money that the minerals make.
“Long live Lady Earth”
is chorused.

Her worshippers stand
steady in hymns,
swaying the sword
that hangs above her unwashed head
by the hairs of a horse’s tail.
Silently she rages,
shaking from cold,
burning in fever,
and dehydrated.

They do not notice,
their pickaxes and
bulldozers and
steamrollers that flog her,
Or their tractor ploughings
that spray death,
Or their greedy hands that strip back
more and more forestry cloth.
Only her movement is seen,
so, they secure the ropes more firmly.

Rotting on her wooden perch,
she curses these men,
who once she grew
from red river clay
and taught
and loved
and nurtured.
Who in turn, placed a sharpened blade at her neck,
and forced her to bend and sway
to their puppeteered dance.

She weaves her own masquerade,
a silky curse,
a tragedy for all of mankind.
Their very own knife that rocks,
closer and closer to their lifeline,
dangling by a thread.

Act I: A Tightening
Cumuli spill from hastily built towers,
suffocating a collage of crammed London houses.
Progress by production
intone industrial men who spin
more and more of this artificial vapour,
deaf to the poisoned coughs
of their factory line.

“Thank you for the opportunity to present…”

Panicked shouts attempt to douse the fire,
hidden by a smog of corporate lies
that muffle the agonized screams of tuberculose men
and burning towns
and dying Earth.

All to warm the soles of fat men,
hidden behind a screen,
as their fireplace slowly puffs
a gaseous Pandora’s box.
“I would like to draw three main conclusions…”

The cloud drifts now,
a trespasser,
into my once-naïve valley,
where wild hills are combed into order
and vines are
crucified on wire,
worshipped by farmers as they die
and come alive,
to the whim of the auburn dirt.
Kept by the desert in the west,
ocean to the east,
mountains to the north.
“This time period is a real warming trend…”

Where now the smoky lava settles
into highlands and gorges,
thickened by the winds that rustle
through every television set.
A shroud for the young to mourn
the grass that crunches,
the desiccated dams,
the starved roos smeared vividly
on melted tar.

May the screams not ring too long,
may the embers not catch light,
may our souls be steeled
for the fire that smoke brings.

“It is changing our climate now…”

For here it comes,
in flesh,
a molten trail oozing down the ridge
into a tinderbox of angst.

I hide in a brick kiln,
once a house,
the sky a swirling black,
burnt eucalypt pungent in my nose.
Too late to flee,
bracing for farewell,
a Gretel waiting to be devoured.

Yet, there is one last thing,
a broomstick to trip our captor
a path of crumbs to follow,
a phone to summon a red truck,
fighters aboard to help.
“Less than a one percent chance…”

So, I hope
and I hope
and I hope
and I hope
and I hope
and I hope

Act II: A Sinking
“The world would go on much the same…
now we know that is no longer true.”

Dead trees stand by and by,
strung up by black ropes,
twisted and ugly.
A frame for the forest that recedes,
replaced by an artificial weave of little boxes
and Colourbond.

The bus crowded and shouty,
aircon on the drip.
Headache swells with the air that strains,
to bring the next act upon its stage.
And sure enough,
the soft clouds lift to reveal
the grey, teeming sky.

There is a pause,
a silence,
an inhale,
as the conductor raises his batton
and it begins.

If thunder were to be alive,
he wouldn’t be angry

He is sadder than that.
He has been betrayed.
Let down.
And I can see the earth contort
as it mirrors his furrowed brows.
Perhaps stabbed in the back – is that why he
bellows so?

Picture him now,
kneeling in the sky “Et tu, Brute?”
cradling his bloody wound,
crawling slowly from the dagger,
lamenting his fate.

Perhaps he bellows for the Earth,
who is too kind to see,
too precious,
too delicate
to do anything but be raped by those she loved.

Who bulldoze her forests
stripping her naked.
Who dig holes in her side
letting her bruise and welt.
Who worship fossil fuels
putting a poisoned rag to her mouth.

The trees keep streaming past,
the sky ashened
the thunder begins to rumble loud and fast.
The rain starts to pelt,
Is it punishing us for what we have done?
Or is it simply just tears?

Tears of the trees,
Tears of the mountains,
Tears of the birds,
Who witness this tragedy
silenced and condemned.

Do they weep for their children
whose future is bare?
Do they weep for their homes
which are no longer there?
Do they weep because
their hearts tear?

Tear for the wicked,
tear for the blessed,
tear for the meek.

And then the lightning begins,
One Mississippi.
Two Mississippi.
Three Mississippi.

“Look here, look here,” it seems to cry.
“Here and here, look can’t you see?”
“Look what you’re doing?”
“How can you?”
“How can you?”
It shouts in flurried blurts.

One Mississippi.
Two Mississippi.
Three Mississippi.

“You must stop,
you must stop,
oh, can’t you see!

The starving fields,
the withered brooks,
the open scabs,

the bruising lands.
You must stop,
you must stop!”

And in the midst of the school kid chatter,
I look out into the trees
and houses
and paddocks.
I feel the earth weep,
the sky weep,
the trees weep.

I weep,
for the hurt,
for the Earth,
for the future.

Then with a sudden lurch and hiss,
the bus doors spring open.
The sky returns to a cheery sort of blue
I step into a puddle
and trudge down past the rusted barb fence
to my mother’s silver car.

The clouds disperse again.

Act III: A Numbing

“I called the threat of global warming,
the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on American people.”

Eyes bright,
break from sleep,
creep down the hall,
to where worried questions bubble,
hearts yearn and mouths lie,
kindling a haze into once all-seeing eyes.

Outside a silvery disc hangs,
like a telescope inverted.
An owl’s song is broken by the squeals of tyres,
as the garbage truck begins its night crawl,
picking up Autumn’s fashion
as spring air tendrils through the street.

In corporation,
at an oak varnished table lined by the leather seats,
suits negotiate reclined.
Bargaining precious land,
embroidered with asteroids,
behind a floor to ceiling window,
especially designed to gaze onto fertile fields yet to be signed.

Baritone murmurings
round table,
“fifteen percent!” – the suits begin an appraisal.
silence then noise,
the offer is disabled.

Waiting for suits to settle their stock,
watching the old ticking clock
with milky eyes.
Worries flock and contort
at interlock.

Past the building’s shadow that preys on the valley,
to the rolling hills that use to ripple,
bald by tractors that plough up and down,
it stumbles under the whip,
that tries and tries to flail more life.

Creeks mull empty in their creases,
spotted by kangaroos searching for water,
next to hard hats surveying for soiled stone.

Memories stir,
of hillsides jagged by cow tracks,
and tumbling onto river plains,
and running back to do it again,
to the shrieks and shrills of delight.
Now turned to powdery dirt,
under the tramp of dairy cows.

If only one could wait
quietly in earthy tessellation,
a fragment of galaxy
moulded into dirt.
Deaf to chants of anxiety,
whispers that cry the Earth’s end defiantly.
To be a rock,

Overturned and careless,
as they find their bounty
and plan the kill.

Act IV: A Sobbing
“Now we probably don’t even have a future any more…”

Knee length grass,
maybe taller,
billows in the autumnal breeze,
ripples the coats of kangaroos
that laze half hidden,
scattered like gumnuts
dropped from poisoned trees,
the surviving few clotting
their cream-coloured bark,
dark streaks already congealed.

The fox trots past,
pausing to read the wind,
its evening directory.

Chills settle into the folds of the land,
the glassy dam
half empty now
smudged only by
treading water bugs.

Vineyards stretched out to the sky
like washing hung out to dry,
The mountains beyond,
pierced only by a telecommunications tower
to entertain the stranger.

At peace in the gold of the sun’s last hour,
the monotone winter threatening.

Bulldozers are here now,
tar has been mixed.

I see the gentle wisps of cloud
slowly steaming from behind
the ridgeline,
floating elsewhere now.
Your soul’s release.

Must you really return
to your lone carbonic chains?
In photons and atoms will you remember
when you were bound to the Earth,
Where you held me in eucalypt embrace?
Or are you destined to drift memoryless?

Forgotten will be:
the grasshoppers that ricochet,
from bleached grass grown,
from umber dirt
rendered infertile,
useful now
for worker ants marching always to pebbled castles.

they shall be no more,
only fluoro shirts
and construction fence,
marching always
for the sweetness of money.

O, my heaven,
my happiness,
my home.

The tormented prayers,
the shrieks
and rages,
the betrayal of fate
then you nurtured hope.

Or did I sow green stalks,
in your sunburnt valley?
Did you pause for me
to summon bravery?
To learn to heal your weeping wounds?

Were you gone the day I ran,
colourless from a snake?
The day I sat silent
as we decided to relocate?

Then you turned your back on me,
or was it I to you?

And now I have returned,
and so have you,
in the eleventh hour we stand
two dying beings.
Seeking comfort in each other’s arms
into time.

Perhaps it is not too late
to fetch a branch and pull you
from the swirling waters of monetary gain.
But the albatross hangs
from my neck –
too heavy.
Too late.

I shall stand and wait
as you scream
and flail
and gurgle
until limpness claims you.

grievous to the end.

Maybe we shall meet again,
will we remember each other –
the traitor
the murdered?

Shrivelled on her throne,
She knits the last of her spell
as men hurry to and fro,
her name lost from their lips,
as they try to build normality
in stock rates and
crude oil and
zero net emissions.
She languishes alone,
lungs mouldy and laboured,
tears melt from dull, scratched eyes.
Peace offerings are thought of,
promises for better,
pledges to heal.
But the sword’s tether splinters,
Her head lolls back,
A cracking of the chest.


Uniting Justice liturgical resources for World Environment Day 2015 (downloadable resource link at end of blurb on Uniting Jusice website). The 2014 resources are here.

The Uniting Church in Australia prepared a resource for World Environment Day 2016, Together for a world made whole. The resource made available through Uniting Justice can be downloaded at the link, or COCU.UJA_World_Environment_Day_2016. It has reflections from the Asia-Pacific context.

WED aims to inspire more people than ever before to take action to prevent the growing strain on planet Earth’s natural systems from reaching breaking point. The 2016 theme is the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife, which erodes precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers as well as many other species. It also undermines our economies, communities and security. The 2016 slogan is “Go Wild for Life” and encourages people to spread the word about wildlife crime and the damage it does, and to challenge all those around you to do what they can to prevent it.

Sri Lanka becomes 16th country to destroy confiscated ivory – and first country to apologise to its elephants. Recommended reading. Prayers for elephants in Thailand.

More than 60% of Africa’s forest elephants have been killed in the past decade due to the ivory trade.

Illegal wildlife trade is a wrong that must be corrected.

Etihad has signed an agreement to help end the illegal trade in wildlife.

About admin

Rev Sandy Boyce is a Uniting Church in Australia Minister (Deacon). This blog may be a help to people planning worship services.
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