OBSA 2010‎ > ‎





Opening address - Prof Geoff Austin

The physics of climate in the Pacific

The physics of the radiation balance in the Earth's atmosphere which drives climate change will be outlined. Those issues which present the greatest modelling and observational problems including cloudiness are discussed. The impact of all this on particularly ocean level changes in the Pacific are presented and some general conclusions about what the science actually shows about climate change are suggested. What you choose to believe about the subject I leave entirely to you all. 

Keynote 1 - Dr Jione Havea

Alternative Pacific solution to climate change

This paper starts with an affirmation: if we are people of oral cultures, then whatever solution we might offer to climate change ought to express the orality and fluidity of who we are. This suggests that what will work for us, and on behalf of us, need to be in the form of solution.

The title for this paper recalls an Australian Policy (2001-2007) that was activated in order to deter asylum seekers from coming by boat (usually via Indonesia) to Australia. This policy resulted in the building of detention centres at Christmas Island, Manus, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, to where the “boat people” were dropped off (instead of bringing them to Australian soil) for processing. These islands in the Pacific Ocean were seen as the solution to the problem of the growing number of illegal migrants ‘jumping the queue’ to enter Australia. The Australian “Pacific solution” did not stop asylum seekers from taking the treacherous boat journey toward Australia, nor did it address the violent and desperate situations from which the boat people were fleeing. I do not think that the Australian Pacific solution strategy would help with the crises of climate change. We can’t ‘intercept’ Tuvalu, Kiribati or Marshalls, for instance, and drop off their people on another island.

I will therefore argue that we need to offer alternative Pacific solutions: (1) Let us start by interrogating the politics of climate change, especially how it kindles fear toward the Ocean. In this part of the paper, I will examine the complex characterizations of the Ocean in the Hebrew Bible. (2) As sons and daughters of Moana, let us affirm the Ocean as our home and identity. I will unpack this concern by examining the concept of “voice of waves” in Tongan lyrics. (3) And in honor of our navigating ancestors, let us affirm migration as formative experiences and necessary for survival. This entails that we reconsider the appropriateness of speaking about a contemporary “Pacific diaspora,” and ponder whether ecological crises may have pushed our ancestors to migrate. In this regard, the talanoa of Pacific migration needs to be contrasted from the travel accounts of colonizing powers.

Put simply, the solution offered in this paper will affirm the complexity of the Ocean, our home and our being, and the courage of our ancestors to survive upon the waves of migration. We need not see the Ocean as enemy, or migration as displacement. We are ocean (Hau‘ofa), and we are daughters and sons of migrants.

Keynote 2 - Dr Amaamalele Tofaeono Siolo II

Moana eco-theology

Doing theology in the context of climate change is a critical and a timely challenge for the communities of Oceania. The historical experiences of natural disasters have forced onto us the task of articulating relevant theological approaches to face the climate change and its induced calamities on living eco-communities.

This paper explores an alternate way of constructing theology that really speaks to climate changes and its consequential defects. It explores ways of speaking about God and creation in ecological relations. As a framework of theological exploration, the doctrine of creation (and redemption) is taken up as a central theological motif, and will be approached from an ecological perspective. 

Christian Theology of creation has traditionally been articulated on the premises of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo). According to this theological way of thinking, every thing in heaven and on earth was made possible by an omni-triad God, the all-powerful, all-knowing and all-presence. Creator God gave this wonderful creation to be under the dominion rule of the human beings.

I propose in this paper that the theological conceptions of ‘creation out of nothing’ have to be counter-balanced by ‘creation out of some-thing’ (creatio ex profundis). Contextually sound in this way of re-thinking and constructing theology, Moana (oceans) eco-theology is introduced and explored as a life-giving, redeeming and sustaining alternative for all the living ecological communities and systems. This way of theological thinking strikes at the very nerve of anthropocentrically oriented theologies of the time.   

It is my contention, that, it is time for us, the Oceanic communities to turn the tide of theological constructions. It is opportune time to face the Moana of beginnings; in exploring her bottomless depths and bounded shallows, to surf her currents and be submerged in her flows, and, furthermore, to sense and feel Moana’s body and let Moana also be embodied. It is time, indeed, to engage and be engaged with the idea of ‘creation out of the watery depth,’[1] Moana.

Keynote 3 - Professor Elaine Wainwright

From Wilderness to Waterfront: Reading Matt 3 Ecologically in Contemporary Oceania

Climate change is having a profound effect globally but with very particular implications for Oceania. All the nations in the region are characterized by extensive coastlines, waterfronts that have become areas of contestation as the rich and powerful build on, exclude others from, and often destroy these fragile regions between land and sea. Both land and sea and the borderland between them, the foreshore, function powerfully in the imaginations and in the lives of the peoples of the region, particularly the indigenous peoples. The wilderness or the desert shapes the consciousness of both indigenous Australians and others who have made Australia home while desertification as a result of climate change threatens the livelihood of all into the future. The waterfront which turns the peoples of the many smaller islands of Oceania to both land and sea, is under threat from rising sea levels and violent storms that are likewise the result of climate change.

What, one may ask, has this to do with the Bible? This paper will initially explore a way of reading biblical texts ecologically as one contributor toward the shaping of a new ecological ethic. Using this way of reading, I will, in the remainder of the paper, explore Matt 3 which moves the reader from wilderness to waterfront. In a brief conclusion I will seek to evaluate  whether such a reading might function to shift consciousness for those engaged in it so that they might be empowered to address concerns in relation to climate change.

Keynote 4 - Prof Otele Perelini: "A Return to Our Indigenous Reference"



Derek Tovey (Lecturer, New Testament, St John's College & School of Theology, University of Auckland)

In defence of his honour: Jesus’ “mana”  as a theme in John’s Gospel.


The doxa (glory/honour) of Jesus in John’s Gospel is a surprisingly overlooked theme. It is treated mostly as a “theological” theme, or category, contributing to the Gospel’s high Christology. This paper draws on analogy with the Maori concept of “mana” to argue that the doxa (glory/honour) of Jesus is a theme, or category, by which the evangelist establishes the status and honour of Jesus in his presentation of the human character, Jesus. Doxa, then, is a human category. Examination of this opens up avenues for a sociological consideration of honour as ascribed and achieved. The narrative of the Gospel in concerned to portray both of these modes of attaining honour in making its claim for Jesus’ “mana” as God’s Son. The dynamic of the narrative discourse ascribes honour to Jesus, while characterisation and event display attained honour.

Ilaitia Tuwere (Retired Lecturer in Theology, University of Auckland & St John's College)

Belief in God the Creator: A Call to Make a Difference in the Household of Life

I hold the view that there is only One Life.  This one life we humans share with other creatures.  This created order can best be described as the 'household of life.' For we live in the sdame 'house'(oikos) and members of the one household whose author and sustainer is God the Creator.

Eletise Suluvale (Lecturer, Malua Theological College)

"To Cut or Not to Cut Down Trees? A Post-colonial reading of Deuteronomy 20:19-20

Logging has been (and still is) an environmental degradation practice in Samoa. The timber is used mainly for building ‘European’ (palagi) houses. Owning and living in a European house is one of many post-colonial mentalities entrenched by the ‘colonizers’ on the Samoan people. This paper looks at Deuteronomy 20:19-20 from a Post-colonial perspective, postulating that there are ambivalent aspects in the text, particularly the commandment of bal tashhit (thou shall not destroy) when examined side by side with Deuteronomy 20:16-18. In Post-colonial theory, “mimcry” describes the ambivalent relationship between the ‘colonizer’ and ‘the colonized’ which in turn is related to ‘hybridity’ because a cross culture exchange has taken place, resulting in the formation of a ‘hybrid society’. The paper argues that the Israelites lived a hybrid lifestyle during the time of Assyrian cultural dominance. Moreover, this hybrid society is alive and strong in modern day Samoa. They have mimicked the European lifestyle so much that the social structures and mentality of the people are nothing short of ambivalence (fia-palagi – to be like a European). As such, the constructions of European architecturally designed houses continue at the expense of forests being depleted at an alarming rate. Addressing the ambivalence attitude of the people therefore would be a positive step in combating the Climate Change issue.

 Vaotogo Frank Smith (Researcher, St John's College)

“Spatio-temporal dimensions, the “glory” of God and ecologic consciousness in John 2:1-11.”

The title of this paper raises two questions: First, how do space- time relations in the narrative of John 2 raise ecological consciousness? And second, what is the relation between space-time relations, Jesus’ actions in the narrative and God’s “glory”? Using a form of dialogic imagination, I will explore some notions from the Samoan frame of reference as points of entry in an evocative reading of John 2. The first part explores how the narrative itself is open to such a reading. This leads to reframing the narrative in such a way that pulls the emphasis away from the turning-into-wine as mystery to an emphasis on space-time relations that evoke the sacred - God, and creation. The last part deals with bringing ecological issues to the forefront as a result of the reading paradigm.


Jione Havea (Senior Lecturer, Charles Sturt University, Australia)

Uprooting homes

The bible contains accounts of the uprooting of the chosen people of God, and gives various explanations and justifications. People are uprooted because God punished them (e.g., Adam and Eve, Cain, Flood Story, Tower of Babel story), in order to fulfill a promise from God (e.g., Abram, Jacob, Israel), because of foreign powers (e.g., Israel under Assyria and Babylon), because of environmental displacement (e.g., famines in time of Jacob and Elimelech), and so forth. Diselected peoples (Canaanites, Moabites, Edomites and so forth) too are uprooted in the interests of God’s chosen people.

The bible links the uprooting of people to the will and acts of a sovereign God, and most Western critics seek to determine why uprooting takes place. Another response is possible from Oceania. When islanders face the onslaught of global warming and climate change, for instance, the question is not why (cause or origin) or what God has to do (theological explanation) with those, or how to save Earth. Rather, the immediate concern is how to survive the wrath of nature.

This paper will explore options available for people for whom fleeing (as Jacob and Elimelech did from the famine) is not available. I move from the messianic attitudes that drive Western ecological hermeneutics and theologies (Habel et al.) toward an Oceanic liberation model. My question is clear, but not easy: In response to the call by liberation critics for resistance against oppressive powers, how may we resist the wrath of nature?

I will argue (as a migrant worker) for two avenues toward resistance: (1) we need to change our colonizing attitudes (thinking that land may be taken and people may be displaced) and (2) we need to reconsider our attachment to land as the root of our identity (this requires reconsidering understanding of space and place).

The permission for my argument lies in the awareness that God (who repented of the destruction of Nineveh) and Earth (which issues life at unlikely places) can listen and accommodate resistance. Put simply, I propose a different response to global warming, climate change and environmental uprooting: instead of trying to appease and save Earth, I call for resistance against Earth. This is one way of respecting and honoring Earth!

I will develop my argument through a reading of the story of Boaz, with “people of the land” perspectives.


Vaitusi Nofoaiga (Lecturer, Malua Theological College)

Interconnectedness and Mutual Custodianship in Matthew 13:1-12: A Samoan Ecological Reading of the Parable of the Sower

In this paper, I offer a Samoan ecological reading of the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:1-12), with attention to the interconnectedness of man to soil and the mutual custodianship between man and land where man should carry out his responsibility of taking care of the land. This thought comes from man being responsible for God’s curse of the ground in Genesis 3. This reading begins from an explanation of my Samoan male perspective of a Tautua (servant/service), theorized with the Samoan concepts of tapu (taboo), feagaiga (sacred covenant), and tuaoi (boundaries). The perspective leads toward making the eco-justice principles of interconnectedness and mutual custodianship as hermeneutical lens to make an intertextual reading of the parable of the sower and the curse of the earth in Genesis 3, and to  make an ideological interpretation of the ‘parable of the sower’. The ideological interpretation shows how the Roman imperial power takes away people’s land in the Mediterranean world in comparison with God-given land in the Kingdom of God. The paper concludes with an analysis of those interpretations in the light of my Samoan perspective.


‘Ikani Lātū Fakasi’i’eiki (PhD candidate, Berkeley, CA)

Ka pa peau mei he moana ‘ikai ta‘ofi he maka ko e ‘one‘one ‘e lava (“When the Waves Crash onto the Shore, the Rocks Cannot Stop them, but the Sand Can”)

This paper will begin by studying the metaphor of God as “rock”, in the Hebrew Bible, looking at it from an Oceanic perspective, showing how the Oceanic view complicates the image of rock as refuge, and using that complexity as a step forward to propose the metaphor of sand as a way of dealing with the rise of the ocean as a result of climate change, and as a model for survival. From an Oceanic perspective “rock” can be a metaphor for refuge and represents several crucial functions for islanders as well as the Hebrew people.  From an ecological view, the metaphor of rock may highlight specific characteristics of God, but also represents the voice of the earth, lifting up the creation ability to speak for and to represent God’s cry for justice in our midst.

In specific situations when rocks cannot stop waves nor the sea, this creates an ambivalence about using rock as a metaphor for God which may both be helpful and not be helpful and which enables us to move from rock to sand.