A woman holds a sign that reads "divest from fossil fuels" during a march at COP26

Held 50 years ago, the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first global conference to discuss the environment as a foremost concern.

The gathering adopted a series of principles for managing the environment including the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan. It opened up a dialogue between rich, industrialised countries and developing ones on the connections between economic growth, environmental pollution and peoples well-being.

Karena Gore, founder and executive director of the Centre for Church Ethics at the Union Theological Seminary in the US, said that the Stockholm conference marked a wiser world…centred on the realisation that the Earths resources were finite.”

But let us be honest, we have since lost our way,” Gore said. Something is missing…a sense of meaning and belonging that comes from culture including the elements that bond people to ecosystems.” And something is wrong…the forces driving pollution and depletion have found their footing within the sustainable development goals.”

Archbishop Mark MacDonald, of the Anglican Church in Canada and WCC president for North America, observed that the pursuit of money and an uncritical faith in technology have played key roles in divorcing human society, especially in the Western world, from the rest of creation.

At the same time, Indigenous Peoples have maintained their connection with the land and with animals and plants who are our relatives,” MacDonald added.

Indigenous Peoples stand in a prophetic relationship to the rest of humanity,” calling us back to stewardship and care.We are not human without creation,” he said.

The bishop of Stockholm, Andreas Holmberg, pointed out that ultimately there is a strong interconnectedness between peace on Earth and peace with the Earth.”

The event was part of the Faith for Earth Dialogue at the recently concluded 2022 United Nations Environment Assembly.