Thursday, 27 March 2008

Greenland Symposium on Religion, Science, and the Environment

The quotation below is mainly from Harvard Forum on Religion and Ecology (FORE) members John and Mary Evelyn Tucker, who joined the head of the Greek Orthodox Church last September, in a climate change symposium in Greenland. Bartholomew, known as the "Green Patriarch", has been a leader in interfaith action since 1995. ---------------------- photo: from Elizabeth Adams blog

On the first day the participants gathered onboard the symposium vessel anchored near one of the largest glaciers in the world which is designated as a World Heritage site. In the turquoise glow of the mountainous ice, the Patriarch joined in silent prayer with other religious leaders [a Catholic cardinal, a Lutheran bishop, representatives from both Sunni and Shia Islam, the former chief Rabbi of France, and a Japanese Buddhist. Then he turned slowly to face the glacier, bringing attention to the grandeur of nature. As he did so a smaller boat approached filled with an Inuit choir singing hymns in their language. The overall effect was mesmerizing as distant kayakers moved in.

The symposium brought together climate change scientists, environmentalists, academics, and journalists along with political and religious leaders. The native Inuit participants reflected a range of views: concern for a way of life that is rapidly disappearing in the face of the melting ice, as well as the opportunities that are opening up for new vegetable crops, mining, and expanded ecotourism. Their sense of loss is profound.

Several leading scientists outlined the rapidly changing conditions in the Arctic. Robert Correll, a long time Arctic specialist, described the build-up of water under the Greenland ice sheet. "Melt-water rivers under the glacier are like applying oil to a surface, causing it to surge into the sea... events are happening far faster than we ever anticipated.” Recent seasonal melting in the Arctic icecap is so great that in the summer it constitutes a "new world ocean" with unknown impacts on sea currents and weather. It was overwhelming to realize the effects we are having on this part of the world.

A panel debated nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels and global warming. Hans Blix, former director of the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), spoke strongly in favor of nuclear energy, which ecologists James Lovelock and Stuart Brand now support. while Mary Evelyn Tucker argued against its use due to safety issues, the problem of waste disposal, and the huge cost of constructing and protecting such plants.

See more on multifaith environmental work and Patriarch Bartholemew. His Religion Science and Environment and UK sites. BBC report 4 Feb 08 on Greenland as one of 9 tipping points. A comparison of nuclear with other energies. Recent activity by the nuclear lobby in the UK, USA, Spain, Canada. George Montbiot's detailed analysis of solutions to climate change.

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