World Environment Day – a time of risks and opportunities

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Around 1990, when I wrote Cafod’s first leaflet about their environmental projects abroad, it was perceived as annoying that an overseas development charity was talking about deforestation and pollution of rivers. Wasn’t that something for Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace? The Catholic Church was probably ahead of the rest in recognizing the biblical mandate to care for creation and the disastrous impact of environmental destruction on human development: the environment as a matter of justice. But few had heard of climate change and biodiversity loss, let alone the fact that they would become existential threats to the human race in our lifetime.

Now the world and the Christian churches are in a very different place. In my 35 years of campaigning for social justice and the environment, I cannot recall a time so full of risk and brimming with opportunity. Scientists are very clear that concerted human action is needed over the next decade, starting from yesterday, to prevent catastrophic global warming and loss of nature. Governments and society must act urgently and at scale. Fortunately, however, the awareness of churches is transforming, while their potential to make a difference locally and nationally – with a presence in every village, town and neighborhood, and a national voice – is truly unique. . Christians and churches could therefore make a decisive contribution to this common effort; and ARocha UK, the only Christian nature conservation organization, is working with our partners to make this happen.

On World Environment Day, Saturday June 5, and six months before the UK hosts the next critical round of United Nations climate negotiations (COP26), we launched our Big green vision. Our goal within five years is to triple the number of local churches and Christians engaging in deliberate and ongoing practical actions to restore nature and fight climate change, and using their collective voice to advocate change. We are convinced from our own experience “on the ground” that this is possible.

ARocha UK was founded in 2001 as a local Christian conservation project in Southall, a deprived area in West London. But in recent years our work has expanded nationwide as churches have awakened to a biblical mandate to care for creation. We have gone from our own conservation – we have two nature reserves – to focusing intensely on helping others do what they can for nature and the climate, wherever they are – in their own right. church, their home, their community and in the public sphere. Our nature reserves now serve as demonstration sites in this broader vision. A Rocha UK is non-denominational and we are delighted to have a growing number of Catholic partner organizations.

Our Big green vision will be provided through our partnership programs addressing different needs and opportunities within the Church – those of local parish churches are very different from those of individuals and families, or farms run by Christians for example.

Our Eco Church program is a rapidly growing national community of churches tackling the environmental crisis, using a common framework, an online toolkit, learning and speaking together. The tools are online resources – whether teaching about the biblical mandate to care for God’s creation, or reducing fossil fuel energy. When a church reaches a certain level, A Rocha UK UK recognizes this achievement with a bronze, silver and then gold award. There are already 3,500 registered eco-churches in England and Wales, or more than 5% of churches. A Rocha UK UK aims, by 2025, to engage at least 15 percent of churches in ongoing actions to protect nature and tackle climate change through the free program. All denominations are welcome, but Cafod runs the excellent Live Simply program, especially for Catholic parishes, and with Eco Congregation Scotland we coordinate, share knowledge and participate in joint campaigns such as the Climate Sunday in the run-up to COP26. .

A Rocha UK UK Partners In Action network is currently supporting twenty Christian landowners to improve the quality and biodiversity of their lands, share their learning and encourage them to work to involve their local communities. Partners include Christian conference centers, religious communities, large agricultural estates, schools and youth adventure centers in the four countries of the UK. We were delighted recently to welcome our first Catholic Drumalis Retreat and Conference Center in Northern Ireland. A Rocha UK UK aims to see 75,000 acres of land owned by churches and Christians managed for conservation by 2025. And we also want at least 250,000 members of the public to benefit from access to nature each year. on land managed by A Rocha UK UK and partners.

Wild Christian is an online community for individuals and families, helping them take care of nature and fight climate change, by sharing ideas and collectively learning to live more sustainably in our own home and community. . Launched only two years ago, it already has more than 3,000 participants. By 2025, A Rocha UK UK aims to support at least 25,000 people per year, taking care of nature on a routine basis through their practical actions at home and in the community, and through campaigns.

The next decade will be critical for the environment and the need for churches to stand up for the environment now cannot be underestimated. Fortunately, Christians and churches have a myriad of assets to contribute to meeting this challenge of our generation – from buildings and land, to the money they spend, to what they teach in the church and to what they teach in the church. position in the local community. Acting together is vital to avert an environmental catastrophe over the next decade. But if churches and Christians do, it will surely build our own churches and communities as well.

We invite you to get your hands dirty and join us as partners in A Rocha UK’s Big Green Vision for the next five years.

You can sign up for A Rocha UK’s free Wild Christian program and check out our other resources at www.arocha.org


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