What hope is there for the future of our planet? It’s a daunting question but not impossible to answer. To navigate our way through this challenging matter, we were joined by Bishop Alan Smith, Canon Environmentalist Dr Hilary Marlow, and Environment and Sustainability Professional Wai-Keat Ngai. As we launched our first ever Livestream event, reaching out to people in a completely different way, our panellists gave perceptive, sensitive and salient responses to the range of questions pouring in from the online audience.

What remained at the core of the discussion was an emphasis on the need for spiritual sustenance and how this can impact our response to the climate crisis. Hilary drew our focus towards the moral and spiritual transformations that can be achieved when galvanising support within charitable groups. “Hope isn’t some grandiose thing,” Hilary remarked, and while there is no simple solution to the world’s environmental problems, change is possible within our global Christian network. Drawing on the work of the A Rocha Trust (meaning The Rock in Portuguese) as a Christian environmental charity (which operates in 20 countries), Hilary noted that its main field study centre, which is based in the Algarve, has offered protection to a number of important wildlife sites that were under threat from developers. Much of this conservation has been bolstered by the power of prayer. Notwithstanding its abstract and personal nature, prayer is woven into the heart of the Church’s community. From communal worship to shared conversations within the diocese, it is in demonstrating a shared willingness to mitigate the impact we have on the climate that is important when sustaining a hope for the future of our planet.

Following this, our panel considered how much faith can be put in technology and what the Church can be doing actively to drive change. Wai celebrated ongoing innovations in technology, giving the example of using the kinetic energy of a moving vehicle to keep it charged, as opposed to relying on charging ports and petrol stations, which, in the process of manufacturing and rigging oil, are culprits of increasing carbon in the atmosphere. There are, however, a score of interminable questions, such as: when this will become commercially available? Is it affordable, accessible, or efficient? In the pursuit of wealth, a concern for the welfare of individuals and communities can seem trampled on. But, despite these concerns, Wai noted that “wealth isn’t the enemy,” insofar as it is capable of supporting education, healthcare and furthering the scope of the Church. What should be at the centre of tackling this inequality is by encouraging a sense of responsibility towards the environment and educating others so that, incrementally, changes are made.

As a member of the House of Lords and President of the Rural Coalition, Bishop Alan was able to comment on the state of the agricultural sector in the UK whilst giving an insight into how we can respond to the climate crisis faithfully, even within the most secular of places. Indeed, the Bishop noted that while we may have a very human “propensity to sin” and that our natural response is to cast blame, he advocated that we are still called to make more dedicated changes, especially from the ballot box. In doing so, the “government will follow if the grassroots demand it”.

As the evening drew to a close, our panellists were asked what their take-away was from the conversation. Poignantly, Hilary quoted a commentary written by a Jewish rabbi in response to a mantra written by the prophet Micah, 800 years before Christ. It encapsulates the vigour of living sustainably and reflects on what God requires of us: “Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Hope is found in action and, most often, in having faith. Actions founded in faith are the most powerful and take shape in making a commitment – one made to honour God and our fellow humankind in our stewardship of the planet.

The recording of the discussion is still available to watch via Facebook. Simply click on the button below to access the recording. 

Hope for the Planet? Recording

Photograph: Our Adult Learning Officer, Caroline Godden, chairs the discussion with Wai Keat-Ngai, Dr Hilary Marlow and Bishop Alan Smith. 

Article written by Isabelle Lepore, Learning and Events Assistant.