Martin explored the theological, environmental and community challenges which the pandemic is raising in our own country and across the world. He stresses the importance of joining together as faiths to practically respond to the social and economic challenges, within an anxious and ever-changing environment.
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Who is Martin Palmer?
Martin grew up in Swindon in the late 60’s where his father Derek Palmer was vicar of Christ Church and one of the founders of the Old Town ecumenical Parish.
Martin is the CEO of FaithInvest. The International Network on Conservation and Religion (INCR) which is an information and development hub working on supporting faith and conservation – including CelebrationEarth. Martin is Chair of the Board. The creation within WWF International of a worldwide programme called Beliefs and Values of which Martin is Senior Advisor.
He is also senior advisor to the Pope on post-Covid developments as well as being a member of the Pope’s Post Covid Commission. He is designing with the UN a specific faith programme of long term plans by upwards of a hundred faiths traditions on climate change and wider ecological and economic issues as preparations for COP 26 and beyond and is special advisor to the British Government on faiths and COP 26.
He is a regular broadcaster on the BBC especially on In Our Time and Beyond Belief programmes. He is also the foremost translator of Classical Chinese texts for Penguin Classics. He is Visiting Professor in Religion, History and Nature at the University of Winchester and a Fellow of the Club of Rome.
Martin was asked some additional questions which we didn’t have time for. We asked him for his responses later.
Fascinating talk, thank you. What would you advise faith groups who may be considering whether to support and/or participate in non-violent climate change movements (such as extinction rebellion)? More broadly, what should be the role of the church in climate activism?
Many in ER are deeply committed and desperate to do something. Most of what is done is good old fashioned protect, sit-ins, passive resistance etc – from CDN to Greenham Common onwards. I think we should be there. But beware being used for agendas that are not about people or about compassion or care. There is great danger in apocalyptic language and where ever it has been used in history, violence follows.
Can churches where their altars or equivalent point E/W put Solar panels on their South facing roofs? This would be a very clear statement of our attempts to be eco friendly to all peoples.
Some churches have and you are absolutely right about east west orientation – towards Paradise is the belief for facing East. The issue often is heritage and the difficulty of putting panels on ancient church roofs. But certainly where that can be done it should be an investment by the church. In the USA the Interfaith Power and Light organisation has done amazing work. Do look at their website.
How can we best utilise the power of our shared faith in God in order to communicate the gravity of climate issues to climate change deniers in the church?
Pray; put your money into greening your own building; help members of the church green their buildings and lifestyle – perhaps have a church loan scheme for fitting home solar panels for example. Walk to church!
You gave a helpful example of the Road to Emmaus as a story, I think the other disciple was Mrs Cleopas because there was bread already baked! Which other bible stories are helpful to reflect upon for these issues and for returning to a new normal specifically?
Absolutely right Josette. The hidden women of the Bible. What I do find fascinating is that the Risen Lord appeared first to women – whom of course the men didn’t believe. Foolish men.
What can faith movements in the global south teach us about environment and sustainability and how can we open ourselves to this conversation?
I first heard about the threat of global warming as it used to be called at the World Council of Churches seven year conference in Australia in 1991. I heard because people from the churches in the Pacific came to tell us about how their islands were disappearing. 1991! The key thing I have seen in the south is that the churches are already investing in, supporting, planning mitigation and adaptation while we are still pretending that if we don’t fly on holiday all will be well. The churches of the south need financial support and skills to help them with the mitigation and adaptation. Christian Aid and CAFOD have good materials on all this.