Earth Day – 22nd April – Invest in Our Planet

By Amy Smith, Westminster Justice and Peace Communications Volunteer

Today, 22nd April, is Earth Day – an annual event that shines a light on the serious environmental issues that our world is facing and what actions we can take as individuals and organisation to keep temperature rises below 1.5 C and promote a greener future.

It involves a wide range of events involving 1 billion people in more than 193 countries.

The official theme for 2022 is ‘Invest in Our Planet’.

Every Earth Day can drive a year of energy, enthusiasm and commitment to create a new plan of action for our planet.

Earth Day works in countries around the world to drive meaningful action for our planet across a range of issues. For more information on the campaigns and to find out what is happening in your area this Earth Day: https://earthday.org/earth-day-2022

Earth Day Video – “We can still get the job done…”

Join the Southern Dioceses Environment Network for monthly prayer, sharing and discussion on all matters concerning the Catholic response to care of creation.
Next meeting: Monday 9th May, 12.45-2.00pm.
Click here for full details

Resonate: Westminster Youth Service – Colette Joyce to speak on Caring for Creation in London and Hertfordshire, 7th April, 7-9pm, Vaughan House

Colette Joyce, the Westminster Justice and Peace Co-ordinator, will be the guest speaker for this month’s Westminster Youth Service Resonate evening for young adults at Vaughan House, 46 Francis Street, London, SW1P 1QN. She will be updating us on the environment work taking place in the Diocese and discussing the contribution that young adults can make in their parishes and beyond. Interested? Sign up here

Bishop John Arnold among church leaders urging UK government to cut use of fossil fuels

Source: A Rocha / Independent Catholic News

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and more than 50 Anglican and Catholic Bishops have signed letter to the UK government calling for a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to tackle the cost of living crisis and energy efficiency measures to reduce heating bills.

Ahead of the Government’s Spring Statement and energy security strategy, more than 200 UK church leaders have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling on them to use these opportunities to tackle the climate emergency and address the cost of living crisis.

The letter, signed by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, says: “We call on you to use the Spring Statement to provide financial and fiscal support for renewable energy and energy efficiency, especially solar and wind energy and the retrofitting of homes and other buildings across the UK. These measures would reduce heating bills, decrease carbon emissions and increase our energy security.”

Other signatories to the letter include the lead environment bishops for the Church of England, Rt Rev Graham Usher, the Bishop of Norwich, the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Rt Revd John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, and the Catholic Church in Scotland, Most Revd William Nolan, Archbishop of Glasgow.

Church leaders from across the country have signed the letter including leaders of the Methodist Church, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union, Quakers and Jesuits in Britain, among others.

They urge the Government to implement a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies to address the cost of living.

They write: “The Spring Statement must include no support for new oil and gas developments. The International Energy Agency has stated that there can be no new fossil fuel developments if we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C. New oil and gas production will not deliver lower energy bills for families facing fuel poverty and will have no impact on energy supply for years.

“We urge you to increase support for vulnerable households across the UK facing a cost of living crisis as a result of increasing food and energy prices, through measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies.”

They add that many of their churches have set a 2030 target for reducing their emissions to net zero:

“Many of our Churches have set 2030 net zero targets and are taking action to decarbonise our buildings, including through the installation of solar panels, heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures. More than 2,000 churches across the UK participated in Climate Sunday ahead of COP26 and called on the UK Government to unleash a clean energy revolution and limit global heating to 1.5°C.”

A number of charities support the statement:

Patrick Watt, Interim CEO of Christian Aid, said: “The war in Ukraine has been a stark reminder that a world which relies on oil and gas is a world that is economically and politically combustible, as well as being environmentally disastrous. This is the moment we need to fundamentally rethink our energy system, and break the power of petro-autocrats for good by switching to clean, affordable, home grown renewables as fast as we can.

“If the UK is to be taken seriously as a global leader on climate change it needs to take this opportunity to accelerate the roll out of renewables as well as widespread energy efficiency measures which have been overdue for many years.

“A rush for fracking or more North Sea oil would undermine efforts to tackle climate change and endanger some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world who are dealing with the impacts of the climate crisis and look to the UK to lead the way in decarbonisation, not pursuing more polluting fossil fuels.”

Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, said: “This statement next week comes at a crucial time for the world’s energy industry. It’s never been more clear, nor more urgent, that we need a just transition to a low carbon economy. For the world’s poor, access to energy is a matter of survival.

“For humanity to be sustainable, all of our energy must come from renewable sources if we are to have any chance of protecting our common home for all of our sakes. The time to finally move away from fossil fuels is now, we hope the government with all its power and resources will lead by example to make this ground-breaking transition a reality.”

Revd Dr Darrell Hannah, Chair of Operation Noah and Rector of All Saints, Ascot , one of the signatories of the letter, said: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor must act now to insulate millions of British homes, scale up renewable energy, give more support to struggling households and immediately stop all new oil and gas developments, as scientists say we must to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.

“It would be completely irresponsible for the UK Government to enable new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea only four months after the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow. The time is now for bold measures including a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, who are reaping billions of pounds in profits while families around the UK, including many of our parishioners, are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.”

Andy Atkins, Co-Chair of Churches’ Environmental Issues Network, and CEO of A Rocha UK, said: “Thousands of churches are sending aid to Ukraine, continuing to deepen their own action on climate change and supporting the poor and vulnerable locally, through foodbanks and other means. Next week’s statement is a crucial opportunity for the government, with its far greater resources, to wholeheartedly embrace a rapid and fair transition to a low carbon economy.”

Dr Ruth Valerio, Director of Advocacy and Influencing at Tearfund, said: “The Ukraine conflict has exposed the fragility of our energy system if it relies on fossil fuels. Let’s not go back to polluting oil and gas when renewable solutions are cheaper, cleaner and more secure. Our response to the energy security crisis can’t add fuel to the climate crisis.”

See the full text of the church leaders’ open letter and full list of signatories here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZVkcT5VKz45P3tzdv2mKwznhyKRduubUqrx5_pcNX9U/edit

Bishop John Arnold Speaks to the Southern Dioceses Environment Network https://westminsterjusticeandpeace.org/2022/02/14/bishop-john-arnold-speaks-to-the-southern-dioceses-environment-network-14th-february-2022-showthelove/

Next Meeting – Southern Dioceses Environment Network: Monday 14th March, 12.45-2.00pm

The next meeting of the Southern Dioceses Environment Network will allow some time for prayer and reflection on how we sustain ourselves for the journey as climate activists during this Season of Lent.

Monday 14th March, 12.45-2.00pm: Nourishment for Lent
Book with Eventbrite here

There is a break for Easter in April and then the next meeting in May will focus on Biodiversity, as the world prepares for the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15, in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire from 9th-20th May 2022  https://www.unccd.int/cop15

Monday 9th May, 12.45-2.00pm
All Creatures Great and Small:
Reflecting on Biodiversity

Book with Eventbrite here

This developing network for all Catholics and our friends who care about creation meets monthly online on the second Monday of the month and also organises other events online and in-person when this is possible. Some events take place jointly with the Northern Dioceses Environment Group, as we all work together to animate the Catholic community in the long-term task of stabilising our climate and protecting our common home.

We are inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching set out by Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si’ and the teachings on care for the earth and one another found in the Scriptures.

Participants include CAFOD and Diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ Animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. All are welcome.

For more details and recordings of past events visit:
https://westminsterjusticeandpeace.org/southern-dioceses-environment-network/

Blog on Climate Change by Amy Smith

Amy Smith is a Communications Volunteer for Westminster Justice and Peace

As Christians we know that the earth is not ours to do with as we wish, regardless of the consequences, but is gifted to us by God for us to live and share with the rest of His creation which He values equally. If God is love then all of His creation is worthy of love and protection. God trusts us and believes in our capacity to be responsible stewards of the earth; hopefully we can see this role as an honour and privilege. In Mark (12:31) we are instructed to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’; our actions towards our planet have a direct impact on our brothers and sisters, especially those in poorer countries who will likely suffer the most.
 
The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how we are all interconnected despite our circumstances and how our actions can make a real difference to the lives of those in need. Any brother or sister of God’s should be our responsibility to help. Often, we might feel we would like to help but it isn’t really up to us or we can’t make much impact by ourselves, such as the Levite who felt pity and would like to help if only it cost him no trouble. The poor man hasn’t done anything to deserve his predicament just as poorer communities have done little to contribute to the global warming crisis but are suffering the worst consequences. They have fewer resources to mitigate the effects of climate change and are more vulnerable to extreme weather. This only exacerbates poverty and deepens inequality. It seems only right that rich countries whose actions are the root cause of climate change must bear the responsibility for resolving the problem.
 
In Laudato Si’, the encyclical published in 2015, the Pope reiterates the Bible’s message that there should be a relationship of mutual responsibility between humans and nature, in order to protect it for future generations. This act of care for our ‘Common Home’ is the responsibility of ‘every living person on this planet.’ He instructs us to take steps in our daily life to change the attitude of wastefulness and greed brought on by the consumerist culture we live in which is detrimental to our relationship with each other, the earth, and God. Already the Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.8°C over the last 30 years mainly due to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. A target of keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees has been given as a limit which is essential to preventing the most detrimental effects to our planet such as sea level rises, but even this is looking unlikely unless more actions can be agreed upon by world leaders.
 
What can we do as individuals, as Christians to play our part in this crisis? Perhaps we can think of ways we can change our lifestyle, something that is not always easy when we are used to living a certain way. Maybe there are small steps we can take before progressing further such as having a meat free day, reducing the use of our phone, trying to travel green such as cycling/walking more and using a renewable energy provider in our homes. Often we can feel discouraged when our efforts seem insignificant, but if everyone plays their part and supports each other there is potential for real change. Hopefully we can call on God in prayer during this season of Lent to help us contemplate our relationship with Him, each other and our world.
 
I have been privileged to attend the Southern Dioceses Environment Network meetings which happen once a month to share the initiatives that are taking part in each parish to tackle climate change.

Participants include CAFOD and diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. All are welcome. The next meeting will be held on Monday 14th March, 12.45-2.00pm.  

Southern Dioceses Environment Network

To register for the Zoom meeting:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/255432404197

Fossil fuel vigil and fast outside Parliament, 6-20 March 2022

Columban Sister Kate Midgley and Christian Climate Action activist Melanie Nazareth are among these involved with a 24-hour prayer and fasting Vigil outside the Westminster Parliament, which started on Sunday. Running from 6-20 March, the action is being organised by a new group called ‘Beyond Fossil Fuels Together’.

The group aims to pressure the UK government to end dependence on coal, oil and gas. It says: “Our Earth is in peril and millions are already suffering as a result of the climate crisis. As our world heats up, the UK government is pouring £10 billion a year into the fossil fuel industry.

We need to move beyond our addiction to fossil fuels now with an immediate end to new oil exploration and licences, and to fossil fuel subsidies. Will you come together with us and speak up on behalf of our planet?”

Beyond Fossil Fuels Together is hoping to bring different groups and individuals together to vigil and fast alongside each other. It says: “Despite our philosophical, religious, political or ideological differences, we all live together on this ailing planet, and we all have children or care about young people who will suffer through the worst of the climate emergency. We may also have links with people in the Global South where communities are already suffering terribly as a result of the West’s excesses.”

The UK’s Laudato Si Movement animators are supporting this Vigil and anyone can sign up to the Vigil and/or Fast at: https://beyondfossilfuelstogether.info

Or you can just turn up.

Laudato Si’ Integral Ecology Collection – Free Online Access

The Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall, Oxford (LSRI) and Knowledge Unlatched (KU) have joined forces to make 11 titles from the field of Integral Ecology Open Access (OA) – freely accessible.

The Laudato Si’ Integral Ecology Collection makes available a selection of key texts on integral ecology. The collection will provide a valuable resource for lay readers, students and those undertaking more advanced academic study.

The titles will be made available OA to users all over the world after the official launch of the Collection on Thursday, 3 March, 2022. The books will be hosted in a special module on the Open Research Library.

“I am thrilled to be launching this pioneering OA library of books on integral ecology, which will reach people globally, whether one is a university student in the Philippines, a layperson engaged in environmental action in the UK, or a college teacher in Kenya,” said Séverine Deneulin, Director of International Development at LSRI.

Laudato Si’ Integral Ecology Collection

Video – Leaving Something on the Table: A conversation with Dr David Ko and Richard Busellato, 28 Feb 2022

The Southern Dioceses Environment Network were pleased to welcome Dr David Ko and Richard Busellato to our first online evening event, discussing their recently published book, ‘The Unsustainable Truth’, how investing for the future is destroying the planet.

Arising from over thirty years’ personal experience of the investment industry, Richard and David’s presentation forms a powerful contribution to the debate surrounding the ethics of investment and sustainability.

They demonstrate how, by seeking comfort and security, we end up with an economic system that exhausts our resources. Instead they propose a model of ‘Transformational Ownership’ to safely steward harmful resources to their end of life.

Their book has featured in The Tablet (22 January 2022) with a review by Sr Margaret Atkins and a feature article by Richard and David:

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/21349/treasure-in-heaven

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/21350/the-sustainable-truth

The event was hosted by Westminster Justice and Peace on behalf of the Southern Dioceses Environment Network, which meets monthly on Monday lunchtimes on the second Monday of the month for prayer, input, sharing and discussion, with occasional evening events on specialist topics.

The next meeting is:

Monday, 14th March 2022, 12.45-2.00pm: Nourishment for Lent

Book with Eventbrite

Southern Dioceses Environment Network

Report – Talk by Fr Sean McDonagh on Biodiversity, 17th February 2022

Fr Sean McDonagh

Source: Ellen Teague, Independent Catholic News

Huge concern over the loss of Biodiversity in the natural world and a call for Churches to engage with the issue was explored at an online talk on 17 February. It was organised by the Livesimply group of St John Vianney parish in West Green, Westminster Diocese, a Livesimply award-winning parish.

Watch the talk

The speaker was eco-theologian Fr Sean McDonagh, who is now based in Ireland, but worked in the Philippines for two decades, particularly with the T’boli tribal people. His 2004 book, ‘The Death of Life,’ gave a prophetic warning about diminishing Biodiversity. Around 70 participants included parish priest Fr Joe Ryan and parishioners, representatives of the National Justice and Peace Network from other dioceses – including Clifton, Hexham and Newcastle, and Leeds – and some international friends from as far afield as Taiwan, Australia and the United States.

Fr Sean spoke of the international meeting in Kunming, China, in a few months’ time. This Conference of Parties (COP15) offers opportunities to make links between Biodiversity and issues raised in the Climate Change talks in Glasgow in November 2021 and with Pope Francis’ Encyclical entitled ‘Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home’. It is hoped that strategies to stem the crisis of extinction will be devised.

Some countries which are poor economically and very susceptible to severe climate impacts are rich in species, such as the Philippines. Sean reported that Kew Gardens has information on 1.8 million species – but there could be 10 or 100 times that number, particularly in the world’s hotspots for diversity. Species are becoming extinct, largely because of habitat destruction, before they can be discovered. “We are living through the greatest extinction since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago,” he warned, “and the cause is human activity.” Sean presented chilling statistics: 24% of large animals currently face extinction and 30% of birds. Water ecosystems are threatened and oceans increasingly polluted. He highlighted how important biodiversity is to human food security and health, quite apart from the right of other species to survive, which is a concern highlighted in the latest statement of the Filipino bishops on Ecology two weeks ago.

Sean hoped COP15 would get the same publicity and support as the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow last November. He himself has engaged with the Irish government over its COP15 delegation and urged participants to dialogue with their own country representatives. Columban JPIC internationally is in talks with the UN coordinators and seeking accreditation to the meeting.

Sean called for Christian Churches to be sensitive to the challenge of mass extinction of species and to justice for future generations. Good stewardship is central to Christian tradition. “We need a pro-life theology” said Sean. He quoted the patron of the Columban missionaries, St Columban, who said, “if you wish to know the Creator, learn about Creation.” Laudato Si’ underlined this issue and its inclusion in Catholic Social Teaching in 2015. “The Church should be part of the debate,” he said.

Sean invited participants to look at issue of Biodiversity in the vicinity of their parishes and support environment and justice groups such as the RSPB and Birdwatch Ireland, which are protecting birds. On advocacy, he suggested challenging chemical agriculture. He also asked, “how can we live more simply?” and “how can we build a better understanding of the Seasons and Earth systems?” All this should link in with prayer and liturgy. He called on parishes and Catholic organisations to work though the Laudato Si’ encyclical and consider responses.

In the discussion, Colette Joyce of Westminster J&P reported that “for those who live in the South of England we have a Southern Dioceses Environment Network which meets monthly for prayer, input from speakers on a range of topics related to the care of creation, discussion and mutual support, with an accompanying monthly newsletter.” It is open to anyone and includes Diocesan and CAFOD staff as well as parishioners and clergy.

Join the Southern Dioceses Environment Network

There was a general feeling that system change is needed in the area of economics and it would be great to see Church leaders speak out about this, as Pope Francis has done. Such structural change is needed to address both Biodiversity and the Climate Crisis. “We need to challenge an economic model based on relentless growth, consumption and profit” was one comment in the chat.

Daniel St Guillaume, Chair of the Livesimply group at West Green, chaired the meeting and reflected afterwards that the presentation, “reached an audience which may not have heard about Biodiversity and how it affects our daily lives.” He added that, “Fr Sean has encouraged us to go out and spread the word in our parishes.”

LINKS

Healthy People, Healthy Planet petition: www.laudatosi.org/action/healthy-planet-healthy-people-petition/

CAFOD’s livesimply award: https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/LiveSimply-award

Columban Biodiversity Podcasts: https://columbancenter.org/jubileepocast

Columban Laudato Si’ Study Guide:
https://columbans.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/July2016Laudato-Si-Study-and-Action-Guide-by-JPIC-Britain.pdf

Catholic Concern for Animals: https://catholic-animals.com

UN Convention on Biodiversity – www.cbd.int/

Earth Vigils

By Zoë Leadbetter

The #ShowTheLove campaign has been the perfect partner for February’s Westminster Earth Vigils.

In my experience Earth Vigils are beautiful and powerful places of prayer and have a positive impact on many people who walk by them

People of different faiths or of none are invited to simply ‘be’ in silence and solidarity with each other and with all God’s creation. Many of us who gather at the Westminster Vigil are Catholics motivated by our faith to contemplative action and prayer-witness’.

Details of Earth Vigils:

Watch ecological conversion stories from two of the women participating in the Earth Vigils from the Laudato Si’ Animators