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Event Report – Faith, Climate Change & Global Poverty


Our first event of the year, ‘Faith, Climate Change & Global Poverty’, took place on saturday (6th March). Faith & Climate Change steering group member Rianne C. ten Veen led a group through the day exploring a range of issues including scientific data, how our faith is involved, and information on what we can do personally to move toward solving the issue. A range of different faiths were represented at the event and everyone involved had the chance to discuss the issues as relating to their particular faith.

The morning started with a powerful video of a 12 year old girl’s speech at the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The messages seemed to hit home so much harder coming through the voice of a child. I would advise all to watch it.

12 yr old Severn Suzuki speaking at UN Earth Summit 1992

We were shown some of the scientific data relating to climate change, a survey of peoples opinions on the matter, and how ‘No possible natural phenomenon could have caused the huge rise in temperatures experienced in the last half century’. (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Volume 1 Issue 1 (Jan/ Feb 2010). It is worrying to see that the evidence that scientists largely believe is by no means believed by the masses.

We then took part in a role play which meant splitting into groups of three. We took on the roles of a slum dweller, an islander and a person living in a western city. It was interesting to see how people responded and how we interpreted the problem from each different role. The climate change problem effects us all, yet all differently. We often only think of the issues from our own perspective so it was interesting to think of the issues in a wider context.

The event moved on to focus on global poverty. We discovered that an estimated 1.4 billion people were living in ‘extreme poverty’ in 2005. That is roughly ¼ of the world. It was also interesting to note that of all the people to be affected by climate disasters in 2004, 98% were in developing countries. Another alarming fact was that the cash the government claims will help developing countries cope with climate change will actually increase their unfair debts, as they are mainly in the form of loans.

The representatives of different faiths then discussed how these issues related to their faith and how much of a priority they are in the modern world. It was interesting to hear how each faith viewed the issues and the possible resolutions. We made a list of the commonalities between the faiths:

  • Values of compassion.
  • Need for updated interpretation.
  • Need for peace and security.
  • Living values/faith obligations.
  • Working towards justice.
  • Obligation/care for community.
  • Facing shared problems.

The concluding section of the day looked at what we all as members of faith can do in terms of ‘walking the walk’. ‘The world’s faiths – joined together – could become the planets largest civil society movement for change’. (UN Assistant Secretary-General Olav Kjørven). We can begin small. Making changes to our places of worship, for example improving insulation, or creating a green group, are steps in the right direction.

The discussion moved towards creating an action plan for our places of worship. We took inspiration from the Liberal Judaism sustainable Synagogue’s audit they had already created. Even though different places involve different problems, sharing ways around these problems will always be useful, no matter the faith. We were left with the closing thought that we can only change our own actions, which in turn will change the world.

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The following picture was created by young Yasmin Hughes of North Wales, who attended the event….

Click on the picture to see the detail in a larger version.

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