Finding Home, by Erik Peacock, Author House (www.authorhouse.co.uk) ISBN 978-1-4670-0136-6. RRP£7.23
“I spent five days walking solo through the Southern Forests on a compass bearing. I was probably the first white person to ever walk those hills. Apart from the contractors who went in and cut everything down, I was also the last…The walk started in a patch of temperate rainforest in a damp gully near the river. I was ducking under tall man ferns, stepping over moss covered logs, and weaving between green foliage. Further up the slope this gave way to big tussocks of cutting grass growing between stands of silent gums. Serrated edges of the tussock grass slice through skin like a kitchen knife but only in one direction. They can equally be brushed aside…by late afternoon the tussocks had also thinned and the forest was relatively open. There I encountered massive fallen trunks easily two metres in diameter and large amounts of bark and litter on the floor – fuel for the next forest fire. From time to time a falling branch could be heard. Occasionally I would stop and look up and up and up to where the branches spreading out from the trunks obscured the sky anywhere from forty to sixty metres above me. The wind in the canopy was the only sound as I heaved my way around thick buttress roots and towering columns. Often I stopped and just listened. It was a completely other place, a land silent and forgotten but deeply alive…I was saying good bye. Within a year these forests would be roaded, fractured and gone…” Finding Home p.201
In our noisy and crowded world it can be hard to imagine that there are still places in developed countries that have remained inviolate since the last ice age. In Australia they exist, and in the Island State of Tasmania they can be found within a couple of hours’ drive of the capital. While environmentalists and loggers continue inching towards a compromise these wilderness forests are still being logged and cleared.
My story is partly about the fight to save them but it is also about a physical and spiritual journey. My family migrated here from Britain when I was four, encountered a whole different culture, left the Seventh Day Adventist church, lived in the woods, then pioneered home education. My wanderings in the wilderness paralleled my wanderings through scripture, and through the fringes of charismatic renewal and Pentecostal Christianity. I found God in both places, but I also discovered a deep antipathy between environmentalists and evangelicals. This was more than a curiosity since the society was evenly divided between those who wished to see wilderness preserved and those who wished to use it as a resource. While I remained deeply involved in the conservation cause most of my Christian friends saw environmental concerns as irrelevant at best and idolatrous at worst. For their part, my activist friends blamed Christianity for the environmental crisis. In their view Christianity teaches that people are separate from the environment and nature exists solely to serve human ends – an attitude that justifies rapacious exploitation of the natural world. So my activist friends went to prison, my Christian friends went to church, and the forests kept falling. It was partly to explore this dichotomy that I wrote my memoirs to date: Finding Home, an autobiographical account of a child migrant growing up on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness, AuthorhouseUK 2012.
I believe that we have in the West tried to tame God just as we have tamed nature. We want him on our terms wrapped up in religious garb we understand. There is something almost frightening about wildness, about something that exists entirely independent of human beings. God is not human and his ways are not our ways.
Just as the Bible challenges us to submit our lives to a higher power, wilderness challenges us to see ourselves as part of a bigger whole rather than as owners of a resource. According to Genesis it is God who declares the creation as ‘good’ before human beings exist upon the earth.
According to the writer of Revelation it is God who will ‘destroy those who destroy the earth’.
According to the Apostle Paul, God is revealed in the creation.
The author of John’s gospel goes even further. It is the ‘logos’ that made all things.
Paul agrees going even further to say that Jesus – the logos, is the force that holds all of nature together “quote”.
This appears to be a nod to the Stoic philosophers who posited a principle called ‘logos’ that comprised the underlying principle or structure of the universe, and who would thus have understood the Christ God in similar terms. It seems the harsh dualism between God, nature, and man, has little basis in scripture.
I am not promoting here a kind of wishy washy pantheism, but I am asserting that Biblically nature has value independent of mankind. This does not necessarily mean an equivalent value, but it does require a calculus. Does Australia’s great barrier coral reef for example have greater intrinsic value than the profit of a handful of mining magnates who wish to trawl the reef to facilitate coal seam fracking, among other things? Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Ingram, and all good e-book stores.