It was with sadness that I learned of the sudden death of Professor Graham Ashworth CBE. Graham was a past President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, former President of the Foundation for Environmental Education, and a former member of the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development. As a former Professor of Urban Environmental Studies at the University of Salford he was an advocate of urban regeneration and land reclamation. In 1980 he was awarded the CBE for services to the environment. He became well known nationally as Director General of the Tidy Britain Group from 1987 to 2000, leading the Tidy Britain Campaign. He was a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire from 1991, chaired his local Parish Council, and was active in environmental advocacy right up to his death.
Graham was for many years a leading voice, in fact one of the first, in support of environmental issues, and a supporter of the John Ray Initiative from its early days under the leadership of Sir John Houghton. I was privileged to work with him both in teaching and at conferences. He and I both taught on the Certificate in Applied Theology course for young Baptist leaders from central and eastern Europe at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague. He was a great encourager of debate. From my own position of chair of the IBTSC Board, I know that Graham’s teaching of environmental theology was greatly appreciated by the students and the staff in Prague.
We can give thanks to God for Graham’s prophetic voice, a voice we will miss in the run up to the UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris.
Rev. Dr. John Weaver
A Christian Guide to Environmental Issues
This new book by Martin and Margot Hodson covers the big environmental issues of our time (biodiversity loss, climate change, water, human population and consumption….) and then provides a biblical and ethical reflection. The book also has eco-tips and Bible studies. Published by Bible Reading Fellowship, the publication date is 18th September 2015. For more details go HERE.
JRI has moved!!
Our annual conference on March 7th 2015 at Redcliffe College was highly successful but was tinged with a little sadness. When we met in March we knew that this would be the last meeting that we would ever hold at Wotton House, the home of Redcliffe College since 1995. JRI and the College have been collaborating on environment days since the early 2000’s. But sadly in January 2015 the College announced that it would be moving to new premises in Gloucester city centre and selling Wotton House at the end of 2015. We have had a fantastic collaboration with Redcliffe College over the years, and are very grateful to all the staff there who have been so welcoming to us. We hope that our association with the College will be able to continue in some way once they are established in their new premises.
Bishop David Atkinson has written a detailed critique of the recent Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) The Papal Encyclical – a critical Christian response (July 2015) by Baron Donoughue and Bishop Peter Forster. The Church Times published an extract of the briefing, and there were many critical responses, but HERE Bishop David tackles the briefing paper itself (if you wish to see the original GWPF paper go here: Briefing paper 20).
Water, Water, Everywhere (Friday 4th September 2015)
For many years CRES has been running an annual residential at Ripon College Cuddesdon (nr. Oxford) in September. This year it is on Friday and Saturday 4th/5th September. We have an excellent programme on the Friday, including an introduction to Abingdon Hydro from Dr. Richard Riggs, followed by a field trip to the innovative community scheme that is looking at putting two turbines into the River Thames at Abingdon. Then in the evening we have Trevor Muten (Director & Principal Consultant, Tapajos Limited – Hydrogeology & Water Resources Management) speaking on “Well, Well, Well. Responding to Increasing Groundwater Resources Management Challenges”. To end the day Revd. Margot Hodson will lead a short service and reflection on the theme of water. We have decided to open up the Friday to those from beyond the CRES course. For more details of the day and how to book GO HERE.
It cannot have escaped your notice, but on Thursday 18th June 2015, Pope Francis published his long-awaited encyclical “Laudato Si” on the environment. A papal encyclical is an extended letter containing an important message, usually addressed to Catholic Church leaders, but this encyclical is for ‘every person living on this planet’. Much of the focus has been on what it says about climate change, but it also covers biodiversity loss, water shortages and pollution. The Pope sees the over-consumption of the developed West as a major problem. Over the last few days there have been very many assessments of the encyclical, and rather than add to these we have selected some of the best that will hopefully give you a full flavour of the encyclical and its impact.
1) The first point is that the encyclical is a LONG document at 184 pages. So if you wanted a quick summary of the main points Alexei Laushkin of the Evangelical Environmental Network produced Quotable Laudato Si ‘Praised Be’. Martin Davis of Cheltenham kindly sent us his extracts of the key points, at only nine pages! Alexei went on to give a more considered opinion in First Take on Laudato Si ‘Praised Be’
2) The Catholic Herald gave this report: Encyclical: The planet is at breaking point, says Pope Francis
3) Although the encyclical is primarily a theological and moral document it does contain some science, and scientists have shown their approval: Pope’s Encyclical Makes Grade in Climate Science The scientists asked for their opinion included Michael Mann (of hockey stick graph fame) who said “he gets the science right”. Nancy Vosnidou approached the topic from a science communications angle wondering why the Pope was more successful at communicating climate change than the scientists have been! See: Could the Pope’s Encyclical Push Public Opinion to Tipping Point on Climate?
4) Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, wrote a very positive response: Anglican environmental network chair welcomes Papal climate encyclical
5) The Church Times had details of the launch of the encyclical in the UK: Pope’s encyclical blames ‘extreme consumerism’ for the planet’s ills
6) Of the secular newspapers, The Guardian probably gave the biggest coverage: Pope’s climate change encyclical tells rich nations: pay your debt to the poor (and several other articles on the same day)
8) John Weaver, the Chair of the JRI Board wrote for the JRI Blog: The Pope’s welcome environmental manifesto
9) Of course there has been opposition, particularly from some Republicans in the United States. For example: Jeb Bush joins Republican backlash against pope on climate change
10) And finally a little humour. The Onion gave this satirical assessment: Frustrated Republicans Argue Pope Should Leave Science To Scientists Who Deny Climate Change
In summary the encyclical contains a powerful message urging everyone to respond to the environmental crisis. This is especially timely as the major Paris climate change meeting approaches in December this year.
Dr Martin Hodson (JRI Operations Manager)
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