Nature in the balance. Can we put a value on the environment, and should we?
What is the value of non-human nature? Does it only have value if it is useful to humans? In the early 2000s the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment popularized a concept known as Ecosystem Services, defined as ‘the benefits people obtain from ecosystems’. Four categories of services were included: supporting; provisioning; regulating; and cultural. The Ecosystem Services framework has become the dominant thinking in nature conservation, but is highly anthropocentric, focusing on value to humans. Moreover, it encourages attempts to put monetary value on various aspects of the environment, to incentivise conservation. But are there other ways to protect nature? Does our environment have intrinsic value, and how is it valuable to God? In this conference we investigate different views on valuing nature. We will begin by carefully explaining the Ecosystem Services concept. We will then explore the theological and ethical implications of this idea, and whether other frameworks might be preferable. In our seminars we will explore some of the practical outworking of environmental ethics and theology in more detail. This conference will be of interest to Christians and others who have an interest in nature conservation and the environment. It is intended to deepen our thinking as we respond to the present environmental crisis.
Our Annual Conference for 2017 will again be held in Bournville, Birmingham in collaboration with ForMission College. This year we will be in the dedicated conference facility at the College. The date will be Saturday 18th March 2017 from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Our keynote speakers are: Dr. Darren Evans “Ecosystem Services: managing nature for human benefit.”; Prof. Richard Bauckham “Why do other creatures matter?”; and Rev. Dave Bookless “Biblical Wisdom for Nature Conservation.” We also have a wonderful line-up of seminars, and for more details see the ForMission Conference Page. The price for the day including full lunch and refreshments is £48, and bookings can now be made via Eventbrite. We anticipate high demand for places and early booking is advisable. We also have a conference Facebook Event Page.
The Panel Session at our Conference
The Annual JRI conference took place on Saturday 5th March and if you missed out, or attended and want to revisit the day, resources are now available on our conference webpage and via the links below. Our theme was ‘A Sustainable Future?’ and we explored the recently agreed United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our first speaker, Helen Dennis of Christian Aid, gave us an overview(mp3, pdf), then Dr Simon Stuart of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature focused in on the SDGs and biodiversity loss (mp3, pdf). After lunch Sheryl Haw of Micah Global encouraged and challenged us with a biblical and missiological view of the SDGs (mp3, pdf). Seminars were led by Ash Barker (pdf), Ian Brooks (pdf), Andrew Francis (pdf), Sheryl Haw and Bob Sluka (pdf), after which they joined with the main speakers for a question and answer panel session (mp3). Rev Dan Yarnell, who shared in leading the worship at the conference kindly wrote this reflection on the day.
Our thanks go to our conference partners ForMission, A Rocha UK and Micah Global, and to the events staff at Bournville College for hosting and providing for us.
A new eco award scheme for UK churches has been developed by JRI partner A Rocha UK with Tearfund and Christian Aid, and was launched at St Paul’s Cathedral on 26th January. Supported by major denominations including the Church of England, Methodist Church and Baptist Union, and various environmental organisations, Eco Church provides a free online survey for churches to measure their contribution to environmental care, and resources to assist with any issues raised. Points are awarded as the church answers questions on the use of buildings and land, worship and teaching, congregation lifestyles and concern for local and global environment, and these add to the reward of bronze, silver and gold awards. The Eco Church scheme replaces the Eco-congregation awards which were given to more than 300 churches during the 15 years it was running. Among representatives at the launch was JRI Chairman Revd Dr John Weaver who reported on the event for the Baptist Times. Full details of the scheme are available from the A Rocha UK website
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed by the United Nations in 2000 and were due to run for fifteen years. In many areas we have seen real progress in that time. So there are less people living in extreme poverty and more have access to clean drinking water. For one goal, however, that most concerned with environment, things have got a lot worse. We have seen little progress on carbon emissions cuts and in stemming biodiversity loss. The worry is that if our global environment spins totally out of control then the real progress that has been made in alleviating poverty could go into reverse. In September 2015 the United Nations agreed new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which focus more on environmental concerns.
For our conference in 2016 we have partnered with ForMission, A Rocha UK and Micah Global. The conference will happen on Saturday, 5 March 2016 from 09:30 to 16:30 at Bournville College, Longbridge, Birmingham.
Ticket prices will be £30-£48 depending on whether you book early! Our conference will look at where we stand now on environmental sustainability. We will consider what is in the new SDGs and how they will help guide us towards a sustainable future over the next 15 years. Our keynote speakers will also look at what the SDGs promise for biodiversity and what an appropriate Christian response should be. We will then have a range of seminars covering topics including food, energy, fisheries and cities (see Speakers and Seminar Leaders). The day will be of interest to all Christians who are concerned about environmental issues and sustainable development. Places will be limited and the day is likely to be popular so book early to ensure your place!
For more information see the Conference Web Page. We also have a Facebook Event Page. This year the majority of our bookings will be taken online at our Bookings Page. We are, however, aware that some people may prefer to use a paper route and, if this is you, then please download a printable leaflet (pdf) from this link and follow the instructions to book by post.
Well, the Paris COP21 meeting has ended and it is time to start assessing its importance. JRI Operations Manager, Dr Martin Hodson, has been monitoring the run up to Paris and COP21 itself, and has written a Special Briefing. This is a personal reflection and review and should not necessarily be taken as JRI policy. The briefing includes:
The Scientific Background A brief look at the latest science.
The Sceptics Seem to be in some disarray in Europe, but a big concern is that all the Republican candidates for the United States presidential election are sceptics.
The Process and the Politics The longest section. Climate action plans and INDCs. The main stumbling blocks to agreement: 2 degrees or 1.5; differentiation; trust; and money.
Our COP21 What Martin & Margot Hodson did as COP21 approached
The Church Pilgrimages and meetings
JRI Our activity including a Storify presentation of tweets from 22nd October to 13 December 2015.
The Outcome What decisions were made at COP21?
The Briefing Paper is also available in eBook formats – for Kindle readers (.mobi) please click here, and for other eBook readers (.epub – for example for use with Android apps) please click here. The downloaded file can be saved and then opened with the appropriate app or transferred to your reader.
Starting on Friday 13th November in London a group of pilgrims will walk to Paris and are due to arrive on Friday 27th November, just before the United Nations COP21 meeting begins. Pilgrimage2Paris has been organised by the Church of England, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund. These organisations also came together to produce a Reflections Booklet with prayers and reflections for each of the days of the pilgrimage, written by people with a very wide range of perspectives on climate change. These can be used by everyone, whether physically taking part in the pilgrimage or not. We in JRI urge everyone to download the booklet and to use it in the next two weeks.