Held at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, the meeting was co-organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC), Right Livelihood, Global EverGreening Alliance, Earth Trusteeship Working Group, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, World Vision International, and OikoDiplomatique.
In a welcoming address, WCC director of Communication Marianne Ejdersten reiterated the purpose of the workshop: to promote sustainable agriculture and land regeneration to improve rural livelihoods, mitigate and adapt to climate change, and enhance biodiversity. “We have a very innovative programme—rooted in spirituality, dealing with practical examples of solutions to life-threatening challenges we face today, shared by experts and practitioners from the frontline of our struggles to save our living planet,” she said. “The programme will allow you to reflect on the topic in the context of your faith.”
An array of expert speakers then offered a multi-faceted viewpoints to encourage our societies to work with, rather than against, nature.
Among the speakers was Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo, who received the 2018 Right Livelihood Award for developing a technique that helps regrow trees in places where forests had been chopped down.
Rinaudo emphasized the need to listen to “the people closest to the land and those most in tune with climate change”—the very people whose growing seasons have changed and been subject to increasingly extreme weather events.
This has led to a chain of hardship, including increased migration. “People have nothing left at home,” said Rinaudo.
But Rinaudo, known as a “forest maker” and “famine fighter,” said there’s so much that we can do to keep the world green, and keep healing the world.
His low-cost farmer-managed natural restoration is now in place in more than 24 African countries, helping subsistence farmers increase food and timber production and resilience to climate extremes.
Dr Dennis Garrity, chair of the Global EverGreening Alliance and former drylands ambassador to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, made the point that natural regeneration catalysed by faith communities could help stabilise a safe climate for future generations.
“We have now entered a stage where earth stewardship — is survival stewardship,” he said. “The stable climate in which humanity has thrived for thousands of years, is now suddenly collapsing around us.”
Garrity emphasized the need to get behind “a universal commitment, a pledge, to restore a safe climate by greatly accelerating carbon removals from the atmosphere—particularly by caring for the land, and ever-greening the earth”—and said that those attending the workshops represent “an enormous force” for moving in that direction.
After many other presentations and small group discussions, those gathered felt they could answer the concluding question posed by Ole von Uexkull, executive director of Right Livelihood: “What will it take to create a global movement to re-green the earth?”
By the final plenary session, participants were answering that question in many ways, from practical examples to suggestions for replicating and amplifying the re-greening of the earth.
As Garrity said, “Caring for earth, to restore a safe climate, is a clarion call for our very survival—let us all step up to this extremely urgent task.”
Photo gallery of the seminar "Caring for the Earth, Transforming Lives: Linking Faith & Natural Regeneration"
Welcome address by Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication at the seminar "Caring for the Earth, transforming lives"