Exploring the theme “the roles, responsibilities and initiatives of religion, science, and civil societies in ecological justice and biodiversity protection,” the conference, which took place in Addis Ababa, was the 5th international meeting of the Sustainable Alternatives for Poverty Reduction and Eco-justice Movement. The conference was co-organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the local host Consortium of Christian Relief & Development Associations in Ethiopia.
Dr Nigussu Legesse, executive director of the consortium, explained their environmental activities in tackling food security problems and environmental issues that are closely interlinked.
Dr Lesya Sabada, a face-to-face participant from Canada stressed the need for solidarity and theological education to convince people of “the intrinsic value nature and biodiversity hold, as the sweetness of the face of God.”
Dr Louk Andrianos, WCC consultant for creation care, participated online. He reflected on the biodiversity offsets concept “as a tool for promoting eco-conversion and biodiversity loss mitigation in practice.”
He reported the risks associated with a mismanagement of biodiversity offsets operated by mining companies in southern Madagascar. Andrianos pointed out that “without the engagement of churches, biodiversity offsets may become a double land grab in favour of multinational companies.”
Nonetheless, he added, biodiversity offset credits should be the common practice to atone for “ecological sins, mistakes, that have caused biodiversity loss.”
He noted how in his view, living in an economy of unlimited consumerism has led to the destruction of biodiversity through deforestation, excessive meat consumption, and extensive farming with pesticides and GMO technology.
Rev. Dr Grace Lubaale, from the Anglican Church in Uganda, also participated in person. Lubaale shared reflections on the interrelation and the need for balance between human rights and biodiversity.
Dr Linda Vogt Turner, from Canada, and Prof. Dr Nadja Furlan Stante, from Slovenia, also participated online. Turner demonstrated through a series of videos the important role new technology—such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage—adds to sustaining soil health and biodiversity. Furlan noted how important the voices of ecofeminists are in eco-justice discussions and in finding solutions to slow down biodiversity loss. She also stressed the need for interfaith dialogue and the inclusion of women of the Global South.
The conference programme included visits to natural reserves and local communities around Addis Ababa so participants could share experiences and their hopes for biodiversity regeneration.
A Muslim contribution to biodiversity protection was expressed by Dr Masoud Seyed Noori from the United States of America. Dr Noori highlighted “the necessity for greater attention of everyone to the situation of women, girls, and the elderly because war, poverty, environmental crises, and the loss of biodiversity disproportionately affect them.”
The conference closed with the publication intended as a Saprej Addis Ababa appeal on biodiversity which stressed what we see as a biodiversity crisis and the need for immediate action to promote new technologies, biodiversity offsets, and eco-conversion whereby dialogue and face-to-face meetings promote stewardship of our natural world.