The Role that Faith Communities can play in Environmental Action with UN Environmental Programme:

Gus Speth former advisor to President Bill Clinton said this:

“I used to think the top global environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with 30 years of good science we could address these problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don’t know how to do that.”

In order to have concrete action on a scale that can save this planet we need to start with a transformation of  our values. We need to move away from an extractive view of the Earth as a resource to be used  towards a relationship that recognises natures inherent worth and humanity’s reliance on its well-being”.

 Can we dream of world where plastic pollution is a thing of the past , where the oceans and forest flourish again, where no child goes to bed hungry?

We do not have another 50 years. Without a massive global movement we will leave a bleak and barren world  for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

The challenge for UNEP is to move from being an institution to becoming a movement that brings together politicians, civil society and environmental leaders, faith leaders  and young people  in a vision of the restoration of this planet.

The Medium term Strategy says that UNEP will  promote faith communities for two reasons – firstly because of their values based perspective on environmental sustainability and secondly because of their potential reach to billions of people. (We offer Values and Reach)

Faith for Earth is making this a reality

Faith groups are Accessible –  They are to found in the most remote rural village, in the poorest informal settlement and in the wealthiest suburb. Can you reach an isolated village in South Sudan? A faith leader can.

Faith communities  are acceptable:

Rooted in the local community and culture they have a high level of acceptability, sometimes higher than state or foreign organisations. They can provide a moral compass.

Faith communities  can facilitate a change in values and behaviour

In Uganda  96 percent of the population are affiliated  with a faith community. The Scriptures of all major religions have key texts on being stewards of the Earth and the moral dangers of greed and abuse of the poor and the earth. Faith leaders interact with their constituency on a weekly basis.

What must be done so that faith communities can  be part of the UNEP movement to translate policies into concrete actions?

President Nelson Mandela  said – when you speak to me in language that I understand you speak to my head, but when you speak to me in my own language you speak to my heart 

The Church of South India celebrates World Environment day in each of its 15,000 congregations. They translate materials into five local languages, but more importantly they translate them into the language of faith , in songs,  in sermons in prayers in actions.

The reach of Faith communities is huge:

The Pope has  18.8 million twitter followers UNEP has 1.1)

Can UNEP become a movement, can it contribute to the saving of this wonderful blue planet?  ,  

The IPCC report is bleak, the situation in Ukraine devastating. I want to end with adapted  words from Christiana Figueres a woman of great faith:

‘When it comes to climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, the vast majority of us have a learned reaction of helplessness, we see the direction the world is headed and we throw up our hands. Yes it is terrible, but it is so complex and so big and so overwhelming. We can’t do anything to stop it.

This learned response it not only untrue, it is fundamentally irresponsible.

Know that you are incredibly lucky to be alive at a time when you can make a transformative difference to the future of all life on earth”

You are not powerless. Your every action is suffused with meaning and you are part of the greatest chapter of human achievement in history”  Christiana Figueres “The future we choose”

View at 22 mins and 



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