The Caribbean mourns the loss of a champion international atmospheric scientist, environmental advocate and campaigner for creation care. Sir John Houghton (1931-2020), co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Scientific Assessment Working Group, passed away in Wales, UK, on April 15, 2020, due to complications resulting from COVID19. He was Professor-emeritus of atmospheric physics at Oxford University and a former Chief Executive at the UK Met Office (1983-1991). Many tributes have been paid to him to which we add ours from the Caribbean.
I first met Sir John when he delivered a keynote address at a conference on climate change in London in 2006. I was so impressed that the following year, 2007, I invited him to speak in Canada at the 60th anniversary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) World Assembly in Hamilton, Ontario. Sir John’s message to student leaders from 150 nations made its mark and we followed that up in 2008 with an international conference for post-graduate students, theologians and creation care advocates on ‘Faith and The Environment’. That was led by Rev. Ed Brown and Prof Cal de Witt.
In 2012 I had the privilege of hosting Sir John in Jamaica when he was invited to give the keynote address at the first Lausanne post-Cape Town global consultation. The consultation on “Creation Care and the Gospel” drew theologians, scientists, writers, and environmental practitioners from countries as diverse as Argentina, Peru,
Bangladesh, Benin, Kenya, Uganda, Singapore, the UK, USA and Canada. A memorable experience of that time was Sir John leading a hike through Jamaica’s cockpit county to see the remarkable landscape of Jamaica’s major watershed area. In his paper delivered at the consultation, he made a very strong case for human agency in the causation of changes in the earth’s atmosphere and global climate, as well as human responsibility to mitigate the effects of disasters that occur as a consequence.
One outcome of the consultation in 2012 was the “Jamaica Statement on Creation Care and Call to Action” and the emergence of a global movement for creation care known as the “Lausanne/WEA Network on Creation Care and the Gospel”. Building on the legacy of Sir John Houghton, this network has been engaged in creation care advocacy and action in Latin America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Eurasia, East Asia, Canada, and the United States.
May the memory of Sir John Theodore Houghton, CBE FRS FLSW, live long as he rests from his outstanding labours for the cause of ensuring a better and more sustainable international ecological environment.
Las G. Newman, PhD is Global Associate Director for Regions for the Lausanne Movement.
Photo of Sunset at Runaway Bay, Jamaica by Rab Lawrence (Creative Commons, Flickr)