Slow Travel Part 3: European Environmental Conference
I got the tent up, chased out a cricket, made my bed, and ate a delicious supper in our multi-national dining room. Most people speak good English, but for the plenary sessions (all in English) an interpreter has been arranged. We were welcomed in the first plenary session by Jean-Francois Mouhot, the director of Les Courmettes, Dave Bookless, and Rev Ed Brown. Ed is the CEO of the American organisation Care of Creation, set the stage for our time together this week by exploring the social, historical, and biblical contexts that make this gathering so exciting and relevant. He spoke on how God and His Word can help us understand where we’ve come from, where we’re going, and what our roles should be, with regard to caring for Creation.
Today – Monday – we had two plenary sessions in the morning, with Rev Dr Chris Wright speaking on the goodness, glory and goal of creation; and Dr Deepa Senapathi speaking on the sixth mass extinction, biodiversity and the tensions between human needs and preserving species/habitats. In an interactive session she presented three real-life situations and asked us to try and make a choice, giving us an insight into the difficulties faced by governments, scientists and others.
Later in the day workshops included sessions on Eco Church; Carbon offsetting; and “climate chains” – the link between historical human slavery and energy slavery. There was also a chance for national groups to meet together, to explore the possibilities working together for the future (there will be other sessions later in the week); and during free time there has been a chance to gather at the traditional bread oven (in its own building) to see bread being made (and taste it!), and at the bee hives. This activities are repeated later this week, as are early morning bird walks, and a local cheese tasting session (there are shepherds on the domaine with flocks of goats and sheep).
Finally there was an evening public lecture by Chris Wright, attended also by some locals and friends of A Rocha, on the uniqueness of Christ.
An action-packed day. The weather has not been so cold but it has turned extremely windy – extra blankets for all those camping. Every meal has been delicious – vegetarian or vegan, imaginative dishes, beautifully cooked and colourful – grace in different languages (so far English, Swiss German, French, and Italian, Arabic). Those of us here are finding so much in common, both in faith and in our concern for our common home; friendships and future partnerships are being built and we are all learning from each other.