Urgent new ‘roadmap to recovery’ could reverse insect apocalypse

This article is by Patrick Greenfield and published in The Guardian newspaper.

Mon 6 Jan 2020 16.00 GMT

Phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and aggressive emission reductions among series of solutions outlined by scientists.

There is a strong scientific consensus that the decline of insects and global biodiversity is a serious threat that must be addressed.
 There is a strong scientific consensus that the decline of insects and global biodiversity is a serious threat that must be addressed. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/The Guardian

The world must eradicate pesticide use, prioritise nature-based farming methods and urgently reduce water, light and noise pollution to save plummeting insect populations, according to a new “roadmap to insect recovery” compiled by experts.

The call to action by more than 70 scientists from across the planet advocates immediate action on human stress factors to insects which include habitat loss and fragmentation, the climate crisis, pollution, over-harvesting and invasive species.

Phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilisers used in industrial farming and aggressive greenhouse gas emission reductions are among a series of urgent “no-regret” solutions to reverse what conservationists have called the “unnoticed insect apocalypse”.Q&A

Why do insects matter to humans?

Alongside these measures, scientists must urgently establish which herbivores, detritivores, parasitoids, predators and pollinators are priority species for conservation, according to a new paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The animals are crucial to the healthy functioning of ecosystems by recycling nutrients, serving as pollinators and acting as food for other wildlife.

The paper comes amid repeated warnings about the threat of human-driven insect extinction causing a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, with more than 40% of insect species declining and a third endangered, according to the first worldwide scientific review, published in February 2019.

Suggested solutions include phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilisers used in industrial farming.
 Suggested solutions include phasing out synthetic pesticides and fertilisers used in industrial farming. Photograph: Jean-François Monier/AFP via Getty Images

In July 2017, researchers warned human overpopulation and overconsumption were driving the sixth mass extinction event in world history, pointing to the “biological annihilation” of wildlife.Advertisement

Lead author Prof Jeff Harvey of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, said: “As scientists, we want to gather all available knowledge and put it to action together with land managers, policymakers and everyone else involved.

“Essentially, we are thinking strategically and this is novel. Now and down the road, all to reverse insect declines.

“Most importantly, we hope that end-users and land managers now can use this roadmap in, for instance, farming, habitat management and urban development as a template for true insect recovery.”

The scientists have called on governments to follow the example of Germany, which announced a €100m action plan for insect protection in September 2019, adding that there is a strong consensus among experts that the decline of insects, other arthropods and global biodiversity is a serious threat that society must address.

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In the short term, the roadmap advocates immediate action on rewilding and conservation programmes, avoiding and mitigating the impact of alien species and prioritising imports that are not produced at the cost of species-rich ecosystems. Enhancing citizen science projects to improve data quality and inform academic study was also deemed a priority.

“Most importantly, we should not wait to act until we have addressed every key knowledge gap. We currently have enough information on some key causes of insect decline to formulate no-regret solutions whilst more data are compiled for lesser known taxa and regions and long-term data are aggregated and assessed,” the roadmap states.

“Implementation should be accompanied by research that examines impacts, the results of which can be used to modify and improve the implementation of effective measures. Furthermore, such a ‘learning-by-doing’ approach ensures that these conservation strategies are robust to newly emerging pressures and threats. We must act now.”

Moths swarm around lights. Light pollution has emerged as an overlooked driver of plummeting insect populations.
 Moths swarm around lights. Light pollution has emerged as an overlooked driver of plummeting insect populations. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

In the long term, the scientists are calling for the establishment of an international body to document and monitor the effects of the roadmap on insect biodiversity under the auspices of existing bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Public-private partnerships to restore, protect and create new insect habitats and manage threats are also advocated by the roadmap.

Coauthors on the roadmap for insect conservation recovery originate from Europe, North America, South and Central America, Asia, Africa, Oceania and Asia. They include biology professor Dave Goulson, known for his books on the ecology of bees and other insects, and scientist Hans de Kroon, renowned for his work on insect biomass decline.

In February 2019, analysis published in the journal Biological Conservation found that the total mass of insects had fallen by 2.5% a year for the last 25-30 years, with intensive agriculture the primary driver of falling populations.

Light pollution has also emerged as an overlooked driver of plummeting insect populations by luring them to predators, affecting the development of juvenile insects and disrupting light and dark cycles, according to a study published in November 2019. Scientists said insect deaths could be reduced by switching off unnecessary lights.

Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against

This article is from the scientific journal ‘Nature’.

Timothy M. Lenton, Johan Rockström, Owen Gaffney, Stefan Rahmstorf, Katherine Richardson, Will Steffen & Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions.

A plane flying over a river of meltwater on glacier in Alaska
An aeroplane flies over a glacier in the Wrangell St Elias National Park in Alaska. Credit: Frans Lanting/Nat Geo Image Collection

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Politicians, economists and even some natural scientists have tended to assume that tipping points1 in the Earth system — such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest or the West Antarctic ice sheet — are of low probability and little understood. Yet evidence is mounting that these events could be more likely than was thought, have high impacts and are interconnected across different biophysical systems, potentially committing the world to long-term irreversible changes.

Here we summarize evidence on the threat of exceeding tipping points, identify knowledge gaps and suggest how these should be plugged. We explore the effects of such large-scale changes, how quickly they might unfold and whether we still have any control over them.

In our view, the consideration of tipping points helps to define that we are in a climate emergency and strengthens this year’s chorus of calls for urgent climate action — from schoolchildren to scientists, cities and countries.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) introduced the idea of tipping points two decades ago. At that time, these ‘large-scale discontinuities’ in the climate system were considered likely only if global warming exceeded 5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Information summarized in the two most recent IPCC Special Reports (published in 2018 and in September this year)2,3 suggests that tipping points could be exceeded even between 1 and 2 °C of warming (see ‘Too close for comfort’).

Source: IPCC

If current national pledges to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are implemented — and that’s a big ‘if’ — they are likely to result in at least 3 °C of global warming. This is despite the goal of the 2015 Paris agreement to limit warming to well below 2 °C. Some economists, assuming that climate tipping points are of very low probability (even if they would be catastrophic), have suggested that 3 °C warming is optimal from a cost–benefit perspective. However, if tipping points are looking more likely, then the ‘optimal policy’ recommendation of simple cost–benefit climate-economy models4 aligns with those of the recent IPCC report2. In other words, warming must be limited to 1.5 °C. This requires an emergency response.

Ice collapse

We think that several cryosphere tipping points are dangerously close, but mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions could still slow down the inevitable accumulation of impacts and help us to adapt.

Research in the past decade has shown that the Amundsen Sea embayment of West Antarctica might have passed a tipping point3: the ‘grounding line’ where ice, ocean and bedrock meet is retreating irreversibly. A model study shows5 that when this sector collapses, it could destabilize the rest of the West Antarctic ice sheet like toppling dominoes — leading to about 3 metres of sea-level rise on a timescale of centuries to millennia. Palaeo-evidence shows that such widespread collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet has occurred repeatedly in the past.

The latest data show that part of the East Antarctic ice sheet — the Wilkes Basin — might be similarly unstable3. Modelling work suggests that it could add another 3–4 m to sea level on timescales beyond a century.

The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an accelerating rate3. It could add a further 7 m to sea level over thousands of years if it passes a particular threshold. Beyond that, as the elevation of the ice sheet lowers, it melts further, exposing the surface to ever-warmer air. Models suggest that the Greenland ice sheet could be doomed at 1.5 °C of warming3, which could happen as soon as 2030.

Thus, we might already have committed future generations to living with sea-level rises of around 10 m over thousands of years3. But that timescale is still under our control. The rate of melting depends on the magnitude of warming above the tipping point. At 1.5 °C, it could take 10,000 years to unfold3; above 2 °C it could take less than 1,000 years6. Researchers need more observational data to establish whether ice sheets are reaching a tipping point, and require better models constrained by past and present data to resolve how soon and how fast the ice sheets could collapse.

Whatever those data show, action must be taken to slow sea-level rise. This will aid adaptation, including the eventual resettling of large, low-lying population centres.

A further key impetus to limit warming to 1.5 °C is that other tipping points could be triggered at low levels of global warming. The latest IPCC models projected a cluster of abrupt shifts7 between 1.5 °C and 2 °C, several of which involve sea ice. This ice is already shrinking rapidly in the Arctic, indicating that, at 2 °C of warming, the region has a 10–35% chance3 of becoming largely ice-free in summer.

Biosphere boundaries

Climate change and other human activities risk triggering biosphere tipping points across a range of ecosystems and scales (see ‘Raising the alarm’).

Source: T. M. Lenton et al.

Ocean heatwaves have led to mass coral bleaching and to the loss of half of the shallow-water corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. A staggering 99% of tropical corals are projected2 to be lost if global average temperature rises by 2 °C, owing to interactions between warming, ocean acidification and pollution. This would represent a profound loss of marine biodiversity and human livelihoods.

As well as undermining our life-support system, biosphere tipping points can trigger abrupt carbon release back to the atmosphere. This can amplify climate change and reduce remaining emission budgets.

Deforestation and climate change are destabilizing the Amazon — the world’s largest rainforest, which is home to one in ten known species. Estimates of where an Amazon tipping point could lie range from 40% deforestation to just 20% forest-cover loss8. About 17% has been lost since 1970. The rate of deforestation varies with changes in policy. Finding the tipping point requires models that include deforestation and climate change as interacting drivers, and that incorporate fire and climate feedbacks as interacting tipping mechanisms across scales.

With the Arctic warming at least twice as quickly as the global average, the boreal forest in the subarctic is increasingly vulnerable. Already, warming has triggered large-scale insect disturbances and an increase in fires that have led to dieback of North American boreal forests, potentially turning some regions from a carbon sink to a carbon source9. Permafrost across the Arctic is beginning to irreversibly thaw and release carbon dioxide and methane — a greenhouse gas that is around 30 times more potent than CO2 over a 100-year period.

Researchers need to improve their understanding of these observed changes in major ecosystems, as well as where future tipping points might lie. Existing carbon stores and potential releases of CO2 and methane need better quantification.

The world’s remaining emissions budget for a 50:50 chance of staying within 1.5 °C of warming is only about 500 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2. Permafrost emissions could take an estimated 20% (100 Gt CO2) off this budget10, and that’s without including methane from deep permafrost or undersea hydrates. If forests are close to tipping points, Amazon dieback could release another 90 Gt CO2 and boreal forests a further 110 Gt CO211. With global total CO2 emissions still at more than 40 Gt per year, the remaining budget could be all but erased already.

A diver observes major bleaching on the coral reefs of Society Islands, French Polynesia.
Bleached corals on a reef near the island of Moorea in French Polynesia in the South Pacific.Credit: Alexis Rosenfeld/Getty

Global cascade

In our view, the clearest emergency would be if we were approaching a global cascade of tipping points that led to a new, less habitable, ‘hothouse’ climate state11. Interactions could happen through ocean and atmospheric circulation or through feedbacks that increase greenhouse-gas levels and global temperature. Alternatively, strong cloud feedbacks could cause a global tipping point12,13.

We argue that cascading effects might be common. Research last year14 analysed 30 types of regime shift spanning physical climate and ecological systems, from collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet to a switch from rainforest to savanna. This indicated that exceeding tipping points in one system can increase the risk of crossing them in others. Such links were found for 45% of possible interactions14.

In our view, examples are starting to be observed. For example, Arctic sea-ice loss is amplifying regional warming, and Arctic warming and Greenland melting are driving an influx of fresh water into the North Atlantic. This could have contributed to a 15% slowdown15 since the mid-twentieth century of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) , a key part of global heat and salt transport by the ocean3. Rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet and further slowdown of the AMOC could destabilize the West African monsoon, triggering drought in Africa’s Sahel region. A slowdown in the AMOC could also dry the Amazon, disrupt the East Asian monsoon and cause heat to build up in the Southern Ocean, which could accelerate Antarctic ice loss.

The palaeo-record shows global tipping, such as the entry into ice-age cycles 2.6 million years ago and their switch in amplitude and frequency around one million years ago, which models are only just capable of simulating. Regional tipping occurred repeatedly within and at the end of the last ice age, between 80,000 and 10,000 years ago (the Dansgaard–Oeschger and Heinrich events). Although this is not directly applicable to the present interglacial period, it highlights that the Earth system has been unstable across multiple timescales before, under relatively weak forcing caused by changes in Earth’s orbit. Now we are strongly forcing the system, with atmospheric CO2 concentration and global temperature increasing at rates that are an order of magnitude higher than those during the most recent deglaciation.

Atmospheric CO2 is already at levels last seen around four million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch. It is rapidly heading towards levels last seen some 50 million years ago — in the Eocene — when temperatures were up to 14 °C higher than they were in pre-industrial times. It is challenging for climate models to simulate such past ‘hothouse’ Earth states. One possible explanation is that the models have been missing a key tipping point: a cloud-resolving model published this year suggests that the abrupt break-up of stratocumulus cloud above about 1,200 parts per million of CO2 could have resulted in roughly 8 °C of global warming12.

Some early results from the latest climate models — run for the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, due in 2021 — indicate a much larger climate sensitivity (defined as the temperature response to doubling of atmospheric CO2) than in previous models. Many more results are pending and further investigation is required, but to us, these preliminary results hint that a global tipping point is possible.

To address these issues, we need models that capture a richer suite of couplings and feedbacks in the Earth system, and we need more data — present and past — and better ways to use them. Improving the ability of models to capture known past abrupt climate changes and ‘hothouse’ climate states should increase confidence in their ability to forecast these.

Some scientists counter that the possibility of global tipping remains highly speculative. It is our position that, given its huge impact and irreversible nature, any serious risk assessment must consider the evidence, however limited our understanding might still be. To err on the side of danger is not a responsible option.

If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.

Act now

In our view, the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute (see ‘Emergency: do the maths’).


We define emergency (E) as the product of risk and urgency. Risk (R) is defined by insurers as probability (p) multiplied by damage (D). Urgency (U) is defined in emergency situations as reaction time to an alert (τ) divided by the intervention time left to avoid a bad outcome (T). Thus:

E = R × U = p × D × τ / T

The situation is an emergency if both risk and urgency are high. If reaction time is longer than the intervention time left (τ / T > 1), we have lost control.

We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might already have lost control of whether tipping happens. A saving grace is that the rate at which damage accumulates from tipping — and hence the risk posed — could still be under our control to some extent.

The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril. International action — not just words — must reflect this.

Nature 575, 592-595 (2019)doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03595-0


  1. Lenton, T. M. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 1786–1793 (2008).
  2. IPCC. Global Warming of 1.5°C (IPCC, 2018).
  3. IPCC. IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (IPCC, 2019).
  4. Cai, Y., Lenton, T. M., & Lontzek, T. S. Nature Clim. Change 6,
  5. Feldmann, J. & Levermann, A. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, 14191–14196 (2015).
  6. Aschwanden, A. et al. Sci. Adv. 5, eaav9396 (2019).
  7. Drijfhout, S. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 112, E5777–E5786 (2015).
  8. Lovejoy, T. E. & Nobre, C. Sci. Adv. 4, eaat2340 (2018).
  9. Walker, X. J. et al. Nature 572, 520–523 (2019).
  10. Rogelj, J., Forster, P. M., Kriegler, E., Smith, C. J. & Séférian, R. Nature 571, 335–342 (2019).
  11. Steffen, W. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 8252–8259 (2018).
  12. Schneider, T., Kaul, C. M. & Pressel, K. G. Nature Geosci12, 163–167 (2019).
  13. Tan, I., Storelvmo, T. & Zelinka, M. D. Science 352, 224–227 (2016).
  14. Rocha, J. C., Peterson, G., Bodin, Ö. & Levin, S. Science 362, 1379–1383 (2018).
  15. Caesar, L., Rahmstorf, S., Robinson, A., Feulner, G. & Saba, V. Nature 556, 191–196 (2018).

Examining the animal suffering and environmental damage of the animal-based diet through the intensive farming system.

In light of the ever increasing climate crisis and a number of television programs being aired this week on the UK television on aspects of the animal-based diet, I have decided to include a section of Chapter Nine of my 2018/2020 book on “Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology”. This section examines the unsustainability, the human/non-human suffering and environmental costs of the animal based diet.

Implications and Application


This chapter is perhaps the most challenging, for it examines the implications of our categorisation of animals as beings who do not possess the right to an eternal life with God. I do so through the examination of two areas, which cause immense suffering and arise from the commonly held view that animals are resources, units of production or disposable life, rather than individual beings with needs who are loved by God.  I advance the opinion that the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church have significant roles to play in altering this negative perception of animals and offer several examples of how to achieve this. It continues to ask challenging questions on the soteriological implications for humans of animal abuse and exploitation and reaches the conclusion that neither system is compatible with the tenets of Christianity. 

The Living Tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church

Some might argue that the topics covered in this chapter are outside the sphere of Eastern Orthodox theological discourse. This is not the case. In his address to Eastern Orthodox Scholars, H. A. H. Bartholomew gives us the authority to do so:

“…Orthodoxy is a faith at once rooted in the past, yet at the same time a Church looking toward the future. It is characterized by a profound sense of continuity with the times and teachings of the Apostolic Church and the Church of the Fathers; but it is also a Church that draws from its rich heritage in order to respond to modern challenges and dilemmas. It is precisely this dual nature that permits Orthodoxy to speak boldly about critical contemporary issues-precisely because it is a “living tradition.”[1]

This chapter enacts this “living tradition” by examining two challenging contemporary issues: animal food production and the animal testing model. Both are important subjects for millions of humans across the globe not only because of the animal suffering involved, but also because of the significant impact upon our environment and human health. An exhaustive investigation of either subject is not possible, as each would require its own monograph. I have tried instead to balance the need for facts and realism rather than platitudes, whilst limiting the material used and being mindful of the need to be compassionate to the reader. I begin with an exploration of the animal food industries.

I have previously discussed ancient teachings on aspects of our diet in Chapter Two and touched upon contemporary animal suffering in the animal food production industry in relation to Met. Kallistos’s comment on “evil profit” in Chapter Six. Here the discussion examines the practical implications and animal suffering involved in our choices, together with the implications for our salvation.

An Inconvenient Truth-Sacrifice and Spiritual Revolution

The continuing challenge before us is how we are to apply both ancient and contemporary teachings on compassionate care for “all things” in creation and extending our understanding of community, justice, mercy and rights, to the animals within these two systems. Eastern Orthodox theologians have repeatedly called for humanity to change its ethos from one based upon a theory of continual consumption, to one with a Eucharistic and aesthetic ethos of love, virtue, sacrifice, abstinence and purification of sin.[2] In essence, they remind us of patristic teachings to restrict and control our desires. H. A. H. Bartholomew confirms Met. Kallistos’s teaching on the damaging and continuing mind-set of domination rather than loving dominion:

“Unfortunately, humanity has lost the liturgical relationship between the Creator God and the creation; instead of priests and stewards, human beings have been reduced to tyrants and abusers of nature.”[3]

His use of the word ‘nature’ indicates that his teaching incorporates animals and corroborates the argument that the abuse and exploitation of animals has negative consequences for not only the abused animals in the form of physical pain, suffering and psychological fear but also negative soteriological implications for humankind. I submit that in addition to those who perpetrate acts of cruelty and exploitation, those who know of such acts but are indifferent to them and those who know but shy away from trying in some way to alleviate the abuse, are in a sense giving tacit approval to that process and are accessories after the fact.[4]

He states that for Orthodox Christians this ascetic ethos “is not negation, but a reasonable and tempered use of the world.”[5] He also draws our attention to the inconvenient truth of the missing dimension and need for sacrifice:

“This need for an ascetic spirit can be summed up in a single key word: sacrifice. This is the missing dimension of our environmental ethos and ecological action.”[6]

He clarifies this point with teachings on self-limitation in consumption and interprets self-restraint in terms of love, humility, self-control, simplicity and social justice, all of which are important teachings for our choice of diet and the products we choose to purchase. [7] Crucially, he acknowledges the fundamental problem of inaction and the difficulties in effecting change:

“We are all painfully aware of the fundamental obstacle that confronts us in our work for the environment. It is precisely this: how to move from the theory to action, from word to deeds.” [8]

“For this spiritual revolution to occur, we must experience radical metanoia, a conversion of attitudes, habits and practices, for ways that we have misused or abused God’s Word, God’s gifts, and God’s creation.”[9]

These are profound teachings and reminiscent of the warnings from the prophets of old. This spiritual revolution is also required for a conversion in the way we view animals and thus the way we treat them.

Many of his teachings urge us to reflect the asceticism of the early Fathers and of the urgent need for changes in human behaviour. In our greed and lust for ever increasing profit, we “violently and cunningly subordinate and exploit creation.” This not only destroys creation but also “undermines the foundations and conditions necessary for the survival of future generations.”[10] This aligns with Met. Kallistos’s comment on “evil profit” and St. Irenaeus’s teaching that we must not use our freedom as a “cloak of maliciousness.”[11] It also hints at the environmental crisis, which is beginning to evidence the devastating results of our continued abuse and misuse of animals. Our inability to move from theory to practice indicates that our weaknesses make it difficult for us to attain the Christian ideals.[12]

Animal Food Production Industries and Dietary Choices

Keselopoulos (2001) addresses some of the human and environmental problems associated with the animal-based diet and food industry.[13] He explains that famines in Africa, caused by drought and desertification, are due to the monoculture of commodities to supply food for the animals of the North. The result is the:

“cynical phenomenon of reserves of dried milk being sent to dying children in Africa, while their own land, instead of producing traditional foodstuffs for local use, “is made barren by the monoculture of animal foodstuffs destined to feed Europe’s cattle.” [14]

This is a crucial point. Our misuse of the land and water in order to meet our ever-increasing desire for animal food products has created an imbalance in the natural world, which results in harm to both humans and animals. One question arising here is, is it a sin to continue to use this system and its products once we become aware of its devastating effects? Keselopoulos speaks to the point by specifically linking our use of animals as food with the practice of aestheticism, compassion and pity for the natural world:

“Thus, aestheticism prophetically throws into high relief the prerequisite of compassion and pity for both nature and the beauty of the world. This is what can impede the downward spiral into barbarism that murders the animal kingdom by genetically mutating animals raised for beef or dairy products into freaks of nature and makes the land infertile.”[15]

Keselopoulos not only illustrates the tension between economic interests and animal suffering, particularly in the animal food production industries, but also that fasting limits the number of deaths. In so doing, he affirms the teachings of H. A. H. Bartholomew and others on greed and evil profits; St. Gregory’s teachings on use not misuse[16] and of the need for sacrifice. I condense his comments:

“If the motives for all these human activities is insatiable greed and the desire for easy profits, then fasting, as a voluntary self-restriction of human needs, can enable man to free himself, at least to a certain degree, from his desires. He can again discover his pristine character, which is to turn toward God, his neighbour and creation, with a genuinely loving disposition. Abstinence from meat, observed by monks all year long limits the amount of death we provoke in our relationship to the world. Abstinence from certain foods simultaneously aims at protecting, even for a short period of time animals that in great numbers are so cruelly devoured by man. The spirit of fasting that we are obliged to preserve today throughout our culture requires that we change course in our relationship to nature from a predatory thirst for blood to that state of gratitude, which is the distinctive mark of the Eucharist.” [17]

I concur with his analysis, which arises from sound scientific research. Met. John provides a similar argument:

“Restraint in the consumption of natural resources is a realistic attitude and ways must be found to put a limit to the immense waste of natural materials.”[18]

If this argument is apposite for wastage of ‘resources’, then it is equally apposite for the wastage of animal life. I interpret his use of ‘resource’ as referring to the inanimate creation but as there is room for confusion on its meaning, I remind the reader of the need for greater mindfulness in our choice of language.

Despite Met. John’s belief that it would be unrealistic to expect our societies to follow an asceticism that echoes the lives of the saints, many of whom were vegetarian, millions of people choose this non-violent diet. They understand that whilst they as individuals may not be able to change the abusive practices of the animal food industries, they have the freedom to choose the non-violent diet advocated by God and do so out of compassion and mercy for the animals and the environment. Met. Anthony of Sourozh indicates that the vegan diet is one to emulate and the tragedy of not doing so:

“It is frightening to imagine that Man, who was called to lead every being along the road to transfiguration, to the fullness of life, came to the point that he could no longer ascend to God, and was compelled to obtain his food by the killing of those, which he should have led to perfection. This is where the tragic circle closes. We find ourselves inside this circle. All of us are still incapable of living only for eternal life and according to the word of God, although the saints have in a large measure returned to God’s original conception of Man. The saints show us that we can through prayer and spiritual endeavour gradually free ourselves from the need to feed on the flesh of animals, and, becoming more and more assimilated to God, require less and less of it.” [19]

This is important recognition from Met. Anthony. He links the eating of animals with a loss of human freedom and our inability to transfigure our fallen lives and ascend to God.[20] Keselopoulos argues that vegan/vegetarianism breaks this circle. The fact that many ascetics were and are vegetarian ought to remind us of God’s original dietary choice and thus the most appropriate dietary path to follow.[21] It is important to remember that whilst God gave us the dispensation to eat meat, He does not command or force us to do so; we retain the freedom to return to God’s choice. Perhaps if Met. Anthony had known more about the cruelty involved in animal food production he may also have chosen to become vegan/vegetarian. Met. Kallistos recognizes this possibility:

“Methods such as factory farming are rather new and I feel that if more people knew what happened they may well give up eating meat…People who live in towns like me eat the products but don’t know too much about the background and I think if I knew more about the background I might feel I might have to become a vegetarian.”[22]

It is interesting to note that he also acknowledges that it is easy to find information available on the web, in reports and research and makes the obvious point:

“So perhaps it is more that people do not want to know, rather than not being able to access the information.”[23]

Here we see a trace of Kahneman and St. Paul; we know but choose not to act in the right ways. If we as individuals or as leaders of our Church advocated the non-violent diet of vegan/vegetarianism, this would not only reduce the number of animals who suffer but also reduce the many environmental problems associated with animal food production. Our increasing desire to consume animal products has resulted in the breeding of such vast numbers of animals that serious negative impacts have arisen for our environments. Knight (2013)[24] provides us with the following important scientific information.

  • In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (Steinfeld et al,) calculated that when measured as carbon dioxide (CO2), 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gases (GHGs) – totaling 7.5 billion tons annually, result from the production of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs and poultry.  These emissions result from land-clearing for feed crop production and grazing, from the animals themselves, and from the transportation and processing of animal products.  In contrast, all forms of transportation combined were estimated to produce around 13.5 percent of global GHGs.
  • The GHGs produced by animal production are composed of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and ammonia. Steinfeld and colleagues calculated that the livestock sector is responsible for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions-that is, those attributable to human activity-which mostly arise from deforestation caused by the encroachment of feed crops and pastures.  Animal production occupies some 30 percent of the Earth’s land surface and is increasingly driving deforestation, particularly in Latin America.  [Circa] seventy percent of previously forested Amazonian land has now been converted to pastures, with feed crops covering a large part of the remainder.
  • Animals kept for production emit 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, which has been calculated as exerting seventy-two times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, over a twenty year time frame, mostly from gastrointestinal fermentation by ruminants (particularly, cows and sheep). They also emit 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide with 296 times the GWP of CO2, the great majority of which is released from manure. They also emit 64 percent of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and ecosystem acidification.
  • In 2009 Goodland and Anhang calculated that at least 22 billion tons of CO2 emissions attributable to animal production were not counted and at least 3 billion tons were misallocated by Steinfeld and colleagues.  Uncounted sources included livestock respiration, deforestation and methane underestimates. They concluded that animal production actually accounts for at least 51 percent of worldwide GHGs and probably significantly more. Although the precise figures remain under study, it is nevertheless clear that the GHGs resulting from animal production are one of the largest contributors to modern climate change.

Despite these facts, the impact of the animal-based diet on global warming continues to be underestimated and underreported.[25] This is in addition to the grave situation described by Keselopoulos above.

Using the argument of self-interest as a motivating factor, we can see how abstinence from an animal-based diet could have immediate beneficial results for our water sources, climate change and thus our future survival. We do not need to wait for world/government agreements in order to effect change.

This partially addresses the human and environmental aspect of this theme but what about the animals, what do we know of their suffering in these industries? If we as individuals or as leaders of our Church are to engage with the subject of animal suffering we need to acquaint ourselves with the available knowledge not only on the environmental impact of an animal-based diet but also on the suffering involved in the systems used. There is a huge amount of research in this area and here I condense some of that research whilst referencing others:

In order to meet the requirements of industrial production and high-density housing, animals are routinely branded with hot irons, dehorned, de-beaked, de-tailed and castrated without any sedation or painkillers…piglets have tails cut off and males are castrated by crushing or pulling off their testicles without analgesics, even though these procedures cause “considerable pain” (Broom and Fraser 1997). The same happens to lambs…The price for the mutilation is high for individual animals. Piglets show signs of pain for up to a week afterwards (including trembling, lethargy, vomiting and leg shaking). In lambs, stress hormone levels take a huge leap and they show signs of significant pain for four hours or more. Dairy calves who are dehorned show pain for six or more hours afterwards (Turner 2006). Birds too are mutilated without analgesics; beaks are trimmed and at times inside toes are also cut. After debeaking the animals will experience acute pain for circa two days and chronic pain lasts for up to six weeks (Duncan 2001). As stock numbers are vast, illness and injuries are likely to go undetected and result from high density, lack of space, lack of mental stimulation and physical exhaustion; physical and mental health problems quickly arise (Broom & Fraser 2007). Veal calves are often kept in tiny enclosures and tied down by their necks and quickly succumb to “abnormal behaviour and ill health” (Turner 2006; European Commission 1995). Intensive egg production weakens bones and leads to lameness, osteoporosis and painful fractures as all calcium and minerals are used for eggs causing “both acute and chronic pain”…it can also lead to internal haemorrhages, starvation and ultimately death which will be painful and “lingering” (Webster 2004:184). Cows suffer from mastitis and lameness (Stokka et al, 1997) and kept pregnant to keep milk yields high, (Vernelli 2005; Turner 2006).[26]

There is no other reason for these practices other than the desire for increased profit; the “evil profit” that Met. Kallistos describes in Chapter Six. One question arising here is whether the required “spiritual revolution” should apply to the animals within these industries. If the answer is no, we ought to examine why we have made the choice to exclude billions of animals from receiving compassion, mercy and justice. If we conclude that they are simply for that use, then I believe we are in danger of continuing the mind-set of domination, which in turn, indicates that only human suffering is relevant to God. I submit that this mind-set is against the teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Having given a small indication of the suffering endured during the rearing of animals, we should also consider their death. Most people no doubt believe that the killing of animals is ‘humane’ and undertaken close to home. Research provides evidence that even in countries with strict animal welfare laws, many millions are likely to suffer in the process of transportation and slaughter. Live animals are routinely transported by road, rail, sea or air across continents. All animal welfare charities agree that long distance transport causes enormous suffering through overcrowding, exhaustion, dehydration, pain and stress. For example, in the EU, up to 35 million chickens are dead by the time they reach the slaughterhouse.[27] Australia exports around four million live sheep every year, mostly to the Middle East. These animals can travel up to 50 hours by road before they start the three weeks journey by sea and a further journey by road in the importing country. It is estimated that tens of thousands of sheep die before reaching their destination.[28] Despite the Australian government’s implementation of an export supply-chain assurance scheme, investigations by animal welfare groups have documented terrible suffering at slaughter after export.[29]

Canada transports farm animals thousands of miles within its borders and to America. The animals experience exceptionally harsh conditions as the climate changes from freezing cold to scorching sun. The trucks used are often without air conditioning. In India, cattle travel vast areas as only two states are legally allowed to slaughter cows. Animals are often brutally treated and overcrowded during transport, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities. Thousands of animals travel from South America and reared for beef production in Asia and Africa. These journeys often involve the animals spending weeks at sea and result in inhumane slaughter. In addition to the problems of transportation when delays, errors or accidents occur, thousands of animals die in tragic circumstances.[30]

The spread of diseases is another worrying factor. Diseases such as bluetongue virus, foot and mouth disease, avian influenza and swine fever can be directly attributable to the live transportation of farm animals. Moving livestock long distances to markets and slaughterhouses can spread infectious diseases between animals around a country. Animals can travel from country to country with few medical checks, which can result in the spread of disease. In 2007, a number of cattle imported from continental Europe arrived with bluetongue virus because they had not been tested before their journeys began.

The suffering often does not end when the journey is over. Duncan informs us that:

“Of all the things we do to our animals on the farm the things we do to them in the 24 hours before they are slaughtered reduce their welfare the most.”[31]

In many countries animals are brutally loaded, unloaded and moved using electric goads, sticks, ropes, chains and sharp objects. Standards of slaughter vary. Some animals are inadequately stunned or not stunned at all before slaughter:

Birds such as broiler chickens and turkeys are pulled and dragged by their feet and shoved into crates with great haste (up to thousands per hour). Dislocations and broken bones are common, as are internal injuries and death. Due to problems with stunning, birds face greater risk of missing the stunning machine and of entering the scalding tank alive and conscious.[32]

 Bleeding techniques can be poor, which means the pigs may regain consciousness whilst hanging upside down from the slaughter line shackles with a puncture wound in their chest. These animals will desperately try to right themselves, unable to comprehend what is happening to them (Grandin 2003).[33]

Fish placed on ice take up to 15 minutes to lose consciousness, eventually dying through suffocation, and means that fish may be conscious when their gills are cut off.[34]

Gross informs us that pigs are not the only animals to regain consciousness during the slaughter process.[35] When we become aware of the harmful realities of consuming animal food products, we understand why Met. Kallistos describes his experience of intensive farming as unchristian and the financial gains as “evil profit.”[36]

One question that begs asking here is where is the compassion, justice, mercy and inclusion into our community called for by senior Orthodox theologians, for the animals used in these systems? Having previously outlined an Eastern Orthodox theory of love and compassion to all creatures, including fish, are we to apply it to animals in the food production industry. If the answer is no, we ought to examine why we have made the choice to exclude billions of animals from inclusion in our spiritual revolution. If the answer is yes, we have the challenge of how we are to apply teachings on extending our community, justice and rights to the animals within these systems. This will not be easy, for those who use such practices or consume its products need to accept that changes are necessary.

In the context of this part of the discussion, there appear to be only two solutions: a) the animal food production industries stop reproducing vast numbers of animals. b) Consumers reduce or refrain from animal products, thus reducing the demand, the number of animals reared, the environmental damage they cause and the overall suffering incurred. The first seems unlikely since the industry meets the demands of the consumer and makes huge profits in the process. The solution therefore appears to lie with the consumer. This is where the leaders of our Church can play a significant role. If individuals were encouraged to refrain or reduce their consumption of animal-based food products this would be both an effective and immediate way of decreasing the demand, the animal suffering involved and the damage to the environment and human health.

Basing the argument upon the likelihood that people will choose self-interest over altruism, Christians may be more accepting of this teaching if they knew of the health problems associated with an animal-based diet. Whilst this information is normally available via the health professions and the media there is also an important role for the Church. We have noted patristic teachings on the destruction of God’s creation because of human passion[37] and one frequent example is the self-centred love of gluttony. Russell (1980) informs us that:

“The control of the appetite was never over; it is instructive that it is gluttony as much as sexuality which was their continuous field of battle.”[38]

As noted earlier, St. Gregory offers further guidance:

“Use, do not misuse…Do not indulge in a frenzy of pleasures. Don’t make yourself a destroyer of absolutely all living things, whether they be four-footed and large or four-footed and small, birds, fish, exotic or common, a good bargain or expensive. The sweat of the hunter ought not to fill your stomach like a bottomless well that many men digging cannot fill.” [39]

A question arising here is if gluttony is a sin, is the killing of animals to feed this gluttony also a sin? St. Gregory’s use of negative language to describe the process, pillages, eradicates, artful hedonists, may indicate that this is so.[40] Whilst St. John Chrysostom does not identify the food in the following, he does acknowledge the link between food and ill health:

“Don’t you daily observe thousands of disorders stemming from laden tables and immoderate eating?” [41]

Many people are ignorant of the detrimental health effects of consuming animal products. This, in part, is due to the large sums of money used to market animal products as healthy, yet when we examine the research into diet and ill health we see a direct correlation between adopting the animal-based diets in developing countries with an increase in Western health problems, which includes obesity. In the UK, obesity has more than trebled in the last 25 years with nearly a third of adults and a quarter of children diagnosed as obese. Health experts believe that obesity is linked to a wide range of health problems, including some cancers ; diabetes; heart disease; high blood pressure; arthritis; infertility; indigestion; gallstones; stress, anxiety, depression; snoring and sleep apnoea.[42] I have noted how consuming animal products is the norm for many cultures and despite numerous health warnings associated with animal food products, huge numbers of people continue to eat themselves into ill health. Again, we see the importance of Kahneman’s work. Attitudes to dietwill not be easy to change without education. Certainly, such education should be ongoing in schools and colleges. However, this is another area where the leaders of the Church can play a significant role.[43] 

Moving to the soteriological implications of our actions H. A. H. Bartholomew offers some clarity. He begins with listing environmental calamities such as nuclear explosions, radioactive waste, toxic rain and polluting oil-spills then unusually, he adds a form of animal abuse to the list:

“We may also think of the force-feeding of animals so that they will provide more food for us. All this constitutes an insolent overthrow of natural order.”[44]

This is a rare and important teaching for the animal food production aspect of animal suffering. His acknowledgement of the violence and inhumane production processes involved is clear recognition that force-feeding animals is an example of the exploitation of ‘nature’. His language reminds us of St Gregory’s negative language in his teaching on “Use; do not misuse!” He also acknowledges the ill effects of this insolent overthrowing of the natural order to human health:

“Indeed, it is becoming generally accepted that the disruption of the natural order has negative effects on the health and well-being of human beings, such as the contemporary plagues of humanity, cancer, the syndrome of post virus fatigue, heart diseases, anxieties and a multitude of other diseases.”[45]

His acknowledgement of the link between exploitative food production practices and harm to animal and human health is also critically important, for it highlights the interconnectedness of the created world. [46] The question arising here is whether he has identified these processes as sins.

A related and equally challenging question is whether it is right to kill innocent animals in medical research to treat disorders that have arisen from this form of human self-indulgence. H. A. H. Bartholomew’s teaching on humanity’s exploitation of nature in “greedy and unnatural ways” may help us to answer that question. I argue that these practices indicate not only the desire for evil profit but also continuing human arrogance and the sinful misuse of our freedom.[47]

The teaching on the overthrowing of the natural order is equally applicable to the restrictions on another aspect of animal suffering, i.e. their loss of freedom. Animals kept in pens or cages are restricted in both their movements and natural behaviours. Examples would include gestation and veal crates; ‘battery’ and crush-cages; small cages or enclosures for animals with fur, or wild animals kept for human curiosity and entertainment. Keeping animals in these conditions causes physiological and psychological distress and ill health.[48] It seems reasonable therefore to include his specific example of force-feeding animals and my additions to it, as further examples of sins against animals.

H. A. H. Bartholomew also speaks to the point on the negative soteriological implications for those who by their inaction and/or use of the products are part of the problem:

“We all share the responsibility for such tragedies, since we tolerate those immediately responsible for them and accept a portion of the fruit that results from such an abuse of nature.”[49]

In applying his teaching to our theme, we can state that whilst we may not be killing or rearing the animals in inhumane ways, by our demand for animal food products we are part of the reason why such practices and processes exist. Essentially, we create the demand and the market.

The challenge before us remains. We teach on the need for a spiritual revolution and on the extension of justice, rights, mercy, compassion, non-violence and inclusion of nature into our community. We are also to be a ‘voice’ for the ‘voiceless’ which indicates that we ought to act in ways that reduce animal suffering. What then are we as Eastern Orthodox Christians and Church to say when we learn of the animal suffering involved in both the rearing and death of animals within these systems? Limouris speaks to the point when linking our Christian duty to identify injustices, which brings us back to personal sacrifice:

“Christian men and women must also have the courage to spell out the injustices, which they see, even though this might require them to make personal sacrifices. These sacrifices will include costly involvement and action.”[50]

“We must repent for the abuses which we have imposed upon the natural world…We must work and lobby in every way possible…For ourselves, this means a recommitment to the simple life which is content with necessities and…a new affirmation of self-discipline, a renewal of the spirit of asceticism.” [51]

“Words, however–even changed attitudes-will no longer suffice.  Wherever we find ourselves, as Christians we need to act in order to restore the integrity of creation. A creative, cooperative, active and determined plan of action is required for implementation.”[52]

If it is our individual Christian duty to identify injustices and act to prevent them, it seems reasonable to conclude that it ought to be the responsibility of the leaders of the Church.

What then are the possibilities for us as individuals and leaders of our Church? Changing the attitudes of those who run these industrial processes will be difficult if not impossible without intervention from outside. This is one area where the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church could play a significant role just as they have done in their engagement with environmental issues. Examples here are H. A. H. Bartholomew’s Religion and Science environmental symposiums; his visit to the World Economic Forum at Davos and his recent coordinated action with Pope Francis where each convened business, scientific and academic leaders in Rome and Athens respectively, to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to safe renewable energy.[53] It is also possible therefore, to have this type of coordinated action for discussions on the environmental impact of an animal-based diet.

In Chapters Six and Seven we see that those in authority are beginning to define cruelty, abuse and exploitation of animals within the animal food industries as a sin and an abuse of human freedom. We also have the following teaching from Abbot Khalil:

“Christians need to avoid eating meat wherever possible out of mercy for the animals and care for creation.”[54]

I have argued that abstinence from animal food products is a key element of effectively reducing animal suffering, environmental degradation and global warming. In defining the sin of exploitation and abuse in contemporary animal food production practices, the leaders of our Church would also be reaffirming Christ’s teaching in Luke 14:5 and the early Church tradition that we should act to prevent the suffering of God’s non-human beings. I argue that it will also be effective in moving our spiritual journey towards the likeness of an all-loving and compassionate God. 

I am encouraged that those with authority urge us to be a voice for the voiceless and I am encouraged that the Eastern Orthodox environmental debate urges actions rather than words. This process has begun via Eastern Orthodox discussions on environmental issues and I respectfully submit that these discussions must now extend into the areas of animal suffering that arise from the same mind-set of domination over the natural world. I am also encouraged by teachings on the negative soteriological implications for those who inflict abuse, those who are indifferent to it and those who are complicit in some way. H. A. H. Bartholomew speaks to the point:

“We are all painfully aware of the fundamental obstacle that confronts us in our work for the environment. It is precisely this: how to move from the theory to action, from word to deeds.” [55]

Part of this process requires us to be mindful of our language. If we continually refer to animals as ‘the environment’, ‘nature’ or ‘resources’, it is unlikely that we will ever view them as part of our community, worthy of justice, rights and mercy and, unlikely to consider them as worthy of our love and compassion. Let us instead, begin to refer to them as animals or better still cows, sheep, chickens, etc., so that we facilitate the process of seeing them as individual beings loved by God, rather than as units of production or disposable life.

Our continuing walk to the abyss indicates that we as individuals have not sufficiently understood Eastern Orthodox teachings and the leaders of our Church and our academics must address this failure. Part of this process will be to ensure that our priests and laity understand the Eastern Orthodox teachings related to animal suffering. For this to occur we need our leaders to engage with the subject.

I note why it is difficult for our leaders to advocate a vegan/vegetarian diet but there is another element to discuss. This form of diet is almost the equivalent of a permanent strict fast, which requires daily sacrifice. The concept of sacrifice is alien to many in contemporary societies but this is precisely where the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church have a vital role to play. Eastern Orthodoxy has the ascetic tradition and thus the authority to promote this diet, unlike other Christian faiths, secular ethicists or environmentalists. 

In order to facilitate this possibility, I end my discussion on the animal food industry by presenting some practical proposals:

  • Our leaders could urge Orthodox Christians to give up animal-food based diets entirely or, as a first step, abstain from foods produced in intensive farming practices. In so doing, the impact on animal suffering, human health and environmental damage would be enormous.
  • If our Patriarchs and Bishops were to declare their intention not to consume or provide animal products at their meetings this would send a strong message to both clergy and laity. 
  • Our leaders could affirm the sin of inflicting harm upon God’s animal creation in order to achieve ever-increasing profits.
  • An essential part of this process requires educating our priests on the many problems associated with the animal food production industries. Seminary modules can be adapted from the module outlined in Appendix B. Training would enable our priests to teach a coherent message that will result in the reduction of animal suffering, improvements in our health and the environment and in advancing our spiritual journeys. [56]

As a way of further facilitating the above, the Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals charity is working in an ecumenical context, to produce a framework to guide the policy and practice of Churches and other Christian institutions in relation to farmed animal welfare. This initiative aims to develop resources and work with institutions to support the development and implementation of policy in this area.[57] The endorsement of Eastern Orthodox Church involvement in such initiatives will also send a clear message to the manufacturers that it is time to change their practices. The Catholic group, Catholic Concern for Animals, is producing education material for its parishes in the UK. Its chief executive is happy for Pan-Orthodox Concern for Animals to use/adapt this material, if necessary and I am grateful to him for his generosity of spirit and cooperation.[58]

Finally, to be clear, I do not state that all those working within this industry are cruel or evil people, though there are many recorded instances of people exhibiting such tendencies. What I do say, is that the system itself is a form of legalized violence to animals. It is also incompatible with the ancient and contemporary teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It ought therefore, to be rejected.

[1] Bartholomew, “Address by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew To the Scholars’ Meeting at the Phanar.”

[2] E.g. Bartholomew, “Message of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew for the day of prayer for the protection of the Environment,” 1st Sept 2015.

[3] Bartholomew, “The Orthodox Church and the Environment.” In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 364.

[4] A useful analogy here is the judgement and guilt of those who accept stolen goods.

[5] Bartholomew, “A Rich Heritage.”In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 189.

[6] Bartholomew, “Sacrifice: The Missing Dimension,”275; also, “The Ascetic Corrective.” In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 295-9.

[7] Bartholomew, “The Ascetic Way.” In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 188; also, Speaking the Truth, 89-91, 352-3.

[8] Bartholomew, “Sacrifice: The Missing Dimension,” in Cosmic Grace, p. 275.

[9] Bartholomew, “Address before the Twelfth Ordinary General Assembly.” In Chryssavgis, Speaking the Truth, 283; also, Limouris, Justice, Peace, 11-12; St Cyril, Catechetical Homilies, Homily 2:5.

[10] Bartholomew, “Foretaste of the Resurrection.” In Chryssavgis, Speaking the Truth, 41; also, “Creator and Creation.” In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 176. For similar sentiments, see Dimitrios 1, “Message on Environmental Protection Day.”

[11] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.37.4; 4.16.5.

[12] E.g., Bishop Isaias, Chapter Seven and Limouris, Justice, Peace, 23.28.

[13] Keselopoulos, Man and the Environment.

[14] Keselopoulos, 93.

[15] Keselopoulos, “The Prophetic Charisma in Pastoral Theology: Asceticism, Fasting and the Ecological Crisis.” In Chryssavgis & Foltz, 361. I develop this presently.

[16] Gregory of Nyssa, On Love for the Poor 1st Homily; also, Holman, The Hungry are Dying, 198.

[17] Keselopoulos, “The Prophetic Charisma.” In Chryssavgis & Foltz, 361-2.

[18] Met. John, “A Comment on Pope Francis.”

[19] Met. Anthony (Bloom) Encounter, 135.

[20] This links to the earlier points on Noah’s failure to grasp the potential for humankind to re-establish a pre-lapsarian violence-free existence. Met. Anthony was not a vegetarian.

[21] Roberts informs us of the lives of one hundred and fifty saints who chose this non-violent diet. Vegetarian Christian Saints; mystics, ascetics and monks; also, The Ark Summer 2008.

[22] Chapter Six.

[23] Chapter Six.

[24] Knight, A, “Animal Agriculture and Climate Change.” In The Global Guide to Animal Protection, ed. A. Linzey, 254-256. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

[25] The carbon footprint produced by animals is as follows: cow 16Kg CO2 per 1Kg of meat; sheep 13Kg CO2; pig 5Kg CO2; chicken 4.4Kg CO2 as compared to mussels, which hardly register on the scale, Horizon, “Should I Eat Meat?” Also, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Report (2006) “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues & Options.” UNFA Report (2013) “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock.” European Commission, (2010) “Roadmap for Moving to a Low-Carbon Economy in 2050.” International Food Policy Research Institute, (2009) “Climate Change: Impact on Agriculture and Costs of Adaptation.” Organic Centre State of Science Review, “Impacts of Organic Farming on the Efficiency of Energy Use in Agriculture.”The Royal Society, (2010) “Energy and the Food System.”United Nations Environmental Programme Convention on Biodiversity(2007)Biodiversity and Climate Change.”World Bank Agriculture & Rural Development Department, Report (2009) “Minding The Stock: Bringing Public Policy to Bear on Livestock Sector Development.” International Panel on Climate ChangeFourth Assessment Report: Climate Change.”

[26] Aaltola, Animal Suffering, 34-45. Aaltola provides many other reports and scientific studies, which outline numerous examples of suffering. Also, Broom & Nimon, 1999, 2001; European Commission, 1995, 2001, 2012; Mench, 2002, 2008; Sanotra, Berg and Lund, 2003; Julain, 2004; Appleby 2007. For other references to misuse and cruelty, see the European Commission Reports (1995, 2001, and 2012)and the Compassion in World Farming website


[27] Duncan, “Animal Welfare Issues in the Poultry Industry: Is There a Lesson to Be Learned,” 211.

[28] https://www.ciwf.org.uk/news/2012/09/Live-export-tragedies-continue-as-70000-sheep-suffer

[29] https://www.ciwf.org.uk/news/2012/06/Slaughter-footage-reveals-horrifying-suffering.

[30] In 2003, the Corm Express carried 58,000 sheep from Australia to Saudi Arabia. The sheep remained on board for three months in appalling and deteriorating conditions resulting in over 5,000 deaths. Fire, delays or sinking of livestock ships result in the suffering and death of large numbers of animals. In December 2009, more than 17,000 cattle and 10,500 sheep drowned when the ship transporting them from Uruguay to Syria capsized in a storm off the coast of Tripoli, with the loss of the Captain and several crew.

[31] Duncan, “Animal Welfare Issues in the Poultry Industry: Is There a Lesson to Be Learned,” 216.

[32] Duncan, 211; also 11, 13. See also Gregory and Wilkins, “Broken Bones in Domestic Fowl: Handling and Processing Damage in End-of-Lay Battery Hens.” Weeks & Nicol, “Poultry Handling and Transport”; Webster, “Welfare Implications of Avian Osteoporosis.”

[33] http://www.ciwf.org.uk/news/2013/05/illegal-slaughter-of-animals-in-cyprus/.


[34] Lymbery, “In Too Deep: The Welfare of Intensively Farmed Fish.” Those who follow Judaism and Islam still slaughter animals in the biblical tradition. A recent undercover investigation highlights the inhumane actions and immense suffering of animals, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5456263/Men-chanted-tribal-style-dance-killed-sheep-spared-jail.html.

[35] Cows also regain consciousness. Lecture notes, Winchester 2016.

[36] His arguments are equally relevant to other problem areas such as vivisection and animal testing; the wearing of fur; aspects of the pet and zoo trade and the killing of animals for fun in the promotion of ‘sport’ and ‘recreational’ hunting. See, Marcus, Meat Market: Animals, Ethics and Money.

[37] Chrysostom, On Repentance and Almsgiving 10.5, 130; also, Gschwandtner The Role of Non-Human Creation, 87, note 185; Gregory, On the Love of the Poor, 94.

[38] Russell, The Lives of the Desert Fathers, 37.

[39] Gregory of Nyssa, On Love for the Poor.

[40] Gregory of Nyssa, 57.

[41] Chrysostom, On Repentance and Almsgiving, 10.5, 130.

[42] In addition, a recent government report estimated that obesity would cost the NHS £6.4 billion per year by 2015, which has implications for human health provision, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/295149/07-1662-obesity-modelling-trends.pdf. Also,


[43] I develop the topic of education presently.

[44] “Message by H. A. H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew upon the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation,” 1st September 2001. In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 56.

[45]  Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 56.

[46] See Fig. 1-3 and details of liver dysfunction, over expansion of the abdomen, walking problems, scarring of the oesophagus and death.

[47] I address the animal testing model presently.

[48] See examples of these in Figs. 1-2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 3-3.

[49] The acceptance of stolen goods makes the point. “Message by H. A. H. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew upon the Day of Prayer for the Protection of Creation” 1st September 2001. In Chryssavgis, Cosmic Grace, 57.

[50] Limouris, Justice, Peace, 24, no. 30.

[51] Limouris, 12, no 37.

[52] Limouris, 12, no 38.

[53] For an interesting commentary see Sachs article “Energy for the Common Good.”


[54] Private conversation 15th April 2018. Used with permission.

[55] Bartholomew, “Sacrifice: The Missing Dimension,” in Cosmic Grace, p. 275.

[56] See www.ciwf.org.uk for details on the misuse of antibiotics in farming and the link with antibiotic resistance in humans.

[57] This is an initiative by Prof Clough.

[58] A video announcing this initiative was shown at the Catholic Concern for Animals conference “Animal Advocacy in the Era of Laudato Si’.” 23rd June 2018, University of East Anglia. I attended and asked permission to use this material from the C. C. A.’s executive Chris Fegan and without hesitation was given an immediate yes.


This list is taken from the State of California website and sent to us from the Green Christian Network.

  1. Academia Chilena de Ciencias, Chile
  2. Academia das Ciencias de Lisboa, Portugal
  3. Academia de Ciencias de la República Dominicana
  4. Academia de Ciencias Físicas, Matemáticas y Naturales de Venezuela
  5. Academia de Ciencias Medicas, Fisicas y Naturales de Guatemala
  6. Academia Mexicana de Ciencias,Mexico
  7. Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Bolivia
  8. Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Peru
  9. Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
  10. Académie des Sciences, France
  11. Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada
  12. Academy of Athens
  13. Academy of Science of Mozambique
  14. Academy of Science of South Africa
  15. Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS)
  16. Academy of Sciences Malaysia
  17. Academy of Sciences of Moldova
  18. Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
  19. Academy of Sciences of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  20. Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
  21. Academy of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  22. Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Italy
  23. Africa Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science
  24. African Academy of Sciences
  25. Albanian Academy of Sciences
  26. Amazon Environmental Research Institute
  27. American Academy of Pediatrics
  28. American Anthropological Association
  29. American Association for the Advancement of Science
  30. American Association of State Climatologists (AASC)
  31. American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
  32. American Astronomical Society
  33. American Chemical Society
  34. American College of Preventive Medicine
  35. American Fisheries Society
  36. American Geophysical Union
  37. American Institute of Biological Sciences
  38. American Institute of Physics
  39. American Meteorological Society
  40. American Physical Society
  41. American Public Health Association
  42. American Quaternary Association
  43. American Society for Microbiology
  44. American Society of Agronomy
  45. American Society of Civil Engineers
  46. American Society of Plant Biologists
  47. American Statistical Association
  48. Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
  49. Australian Academy of Science
  50. Australian Bureau of Meteorology
  51. Australian Coral Reef Society
  52. Australian Institute of Marine Science
  53. Australian Institute of Physics
  54. Australian Marine Sciences Association
  55. Australian Medical Association
  56. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society  
  57. Bangladesh Academy of Sciences
  58. Botanical Society of America
  59. Brazilian Academy of Sciences
  60. British Antarctic Survey
  61. Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
  62. California Academy of Sciences
  63. Cameroon Academy of Sciences
  64. Canadian Association of Physicists
  65. Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
  66. Canadian Geophysical Union
  67. Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
  68. Canadian Society of Soil Science
  69. Canadian Society of Zoologists
  70. Caribbean Academy of Sciences views
  71. Center for International Forestry Research
  72. Chinese Academy of Sciences
  73. Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences
  74. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (Australia)
  75. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
  76. Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences
  77. Crop Science Society of America
  78. Cuban Academy of Sciences
  79. Delegation of the Finnish Academies of Science and Letters
  80. Ecological Society of America
  81. Ecological Society of Australia
  82. Environmental Protection Agency
  83. European Academy of Sciences and Arts
  84. European Federation of Geologists
  85. European Geosciences Union
  86. European Physical Society
  87. European Science Foundation
  88. Federation of American Scientists
  89. French Academy of Sciences
  90. Geological Society of America
  91. Geological Society of Australia
  92. Geological Society of London
  93. Georgian Academy of Sciences
  94. German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina  
  95. Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
  96. Indian National Science Academy
  97. Indonesian Academy of Sciences  
  98. Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
  99. Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology
  100. Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand
  101. Institution of Mechanical Engineers, UK
  102. InterAcademy Council
  103. International Alliance of Research Universities
  104. International Arctic Science Committee
  105. International Association for Great Lakes Research
  106. International Council for Science
  107. International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences
  108. International Research Institute for Climate and Society
  109. International Union for Quaternary Research
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  111. International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
  112. Islamic World Academy of Sciences
  113. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
  114. Kenya National Academy of Sciences
  115. Korean Academy of Science and Technology
  116. Kosovo Academy of Sciences and Arts
  117. l’Académie des Sciences et Techniques du Sénégal
  118. Latin American Academy of Sciences
  119. Latvian Academy of Sciences
  120. Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
  121. Madagascar National Academy of Arts, Letters, and Sciences
  122. Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology
  123. Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts
  124. National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Argentina
  125. National Academy of Sciences of Armenia
  126. National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
  127. National Academy of Sciences, Sri Lanka
  128. National Academy of Sciences, United States of America
  129. National Aeronautics and Space Administration  
  130. National Association of Geoscience Teachers
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  132. National Center for Atmospheric Research  
  133. National Council of Engineers Australia
  134. National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, New Zealand
  135. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  136. National Research Council
  137. National Science Foundation
  138. Natural England
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  140. Natural Science Collections Alliance
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  142. New York Academy of Sciences
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  146. Oklahoma Climatological Survey
  147. Organization of Biological Field Stations
  148. Pakistan Academy of Sciences
  149. Palestine Academy for Science and Technology
  150. Pew Center on Global Climate Change
  151. Polish Academy of Sciences
  152. Romanian Academy
  153. Royal Academies for Science and the Arts of Belgium
  154. Royal Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of Spain
  155. Royal Astronomical Society, UK
  156. Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
  157. Royal Irish Academy
  158. Royal Meteorological Society (UK)
  159. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
  160. Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
  161. Royal Scientific Society of Jordan
  162. Royal Society of Canada
  163. Royal Society of Chemistry, UK
  164. Royal Society of the United Kingdom
  165. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
  166. Russian Academy of Sciences
  167. Science and Technology, Australia  
  168. Science Council of Japan
  169. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
  170. Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics
  171. Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  172. Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  173. Slovak Academy of Sciences
  174. Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
  175. Society for Ecological Restoration International
  176. Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
  177. Society of American Foresters   
  178. Society of Biology (UK)   
  179. Society of Systematic Biologists
  180. Soil Science Society of America
  181. Sudan Academy of Sciences
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  183. Tanzania Academy of Sciences
  184. The Wildlife Society (international)
  185. Turkish Academy of Sciences
  186. Uganda National Academy of Sciences
  187. Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
  188. United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  189. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  190. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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  192. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
  193. World Federation of Public Health Associations
  194. World Forestry Congress
  195. World Health Organization
  196. World Meteorological Organization
  197. Zambia Academy of Sciences
  198. Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences

Convert half of UK farmland to nature, urges top scientist

We at Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals are promoting the idea of Citizen Forests. This is land given by the Church and local/national government to convert to Forests – where communities can plant trees in an organised and controlled manner.

The answers to Climate Change are in our hands – its not rocket science – eat less meat, eat local or better still become veggie/vegan. This will have immediate and long-lasting impact for us and for future generations.

We see what is happening around the world and it will only get worse if we do not act and act now.

See the latest from the former chief scientific advisor to the government below, in this short article from the Guardian newspaper. Sadly, the NFU, like so many other vested interests groups, continue to refute the science.

Yes, as Boyd states, our farmers are great but this is not the issue. They can be great at other projects if they get the right support. Ignoring the science will only push us off the cliff:

Convert half of UK farmland to nature, urges top scientist

New woodlands and wild places are needed to fight climate crisis and improve people’s health. Half of the nation’s farmland needs to be transformed into woodlands and natural habitat to fight the climate crisis and restore wildlife, according to a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government.
Prof Sir Ian Boyd said such a change could mean the amount of cattle and sheep would fall by 90%, with farmers instead being paid for storing carbon dioxide, helping prevent floods and providing beautiful landscapes where people could boost their health and wellbeing.
Boyd said the public were subsidising the livestock industry to produce huge environmental damage. The professor spent seven years at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs before stepping down in August. Half of farmland, mostly uplands and pasture, produces just 20% of the UK’s food and would be better for used other public goods, he said.
Boyd, who became vegetarian during his time in Defra, said farmers were potentially “sitting on a goldmine” in terms of the payments they could receive for growing trees and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
He said: “We need a large, radical transformation and we need to do it quickly, in the next decade. You can tick an immense number of boxes simultaneously.”
Farmers argue that uplands and pasture where livestock are reared cannot be used to grow crops. But Boyd said: “It would be much better to store carbon and water, grow trees and make the land available for people to improve their health and well. He said the 20% of food production lost by converting half of farmland could be made up by the development of vertical farms, where food is produced indoors in controlled and more efficient conditions. Boyd said: “I know there are big companies looking at how to really scale this up.”
A series of studies have concluded that people in rich nations need to eat much less meat to tackle the climate emergency and improve their health. “Most of the livestock production in the UK is unprofitable without public subsidy,” said Boyd. “The public are subsidising the production of livestock to produce huge environmental damages, all the way from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution. Why should we continue to do that? It’s not sensible.
“If anybody asked me: ‘If there is one thing I can do to help save the planet, what would it be?’ I would say just eat a lot less meat. It’s the easiest thing to do. I’ve done it.”
People could reduce the meat they eat by 90% and have a perfectly balanced diet, Boyd said: “Freeing up 50% of the land would probably result in a reduction in the amount of livestock by about that amount, because it would be mostly livestock land we would be taking out of production.”
Farmers should be paid for changing the way land is used, he said. Current subsidies are largely based on the amount of land owned, but the government has pledged it will “move to a system based on public money for public goods” after the UK leaves the EU’s subsidy regime.
Farmland covers 70% of the UK, meaning that converting half to woodlands and parks would create new landscapes across a third of the country. In May, a report from Rewilding Britain called for a quarter of the nation to be returned to natural habitat.
The National Farmers Union recently published its plan to end the climate-heating emissions from agriculture by 2040. It said this could be done without cutting beef production or converting large areas of farmland into forest. Instead, the NFU said 75% of the UK’s agricultural emissions could be offset by growing plant fuel for power stations and then capturing and burying the carbon dioxide.
Responding to Boyd’s proposal, Guy Smith, the NFU’s deputy president, said: “Urgent action is needed to tackle the climate emergency. British farmers are already some of the most sustainable in the world. For example, the beef produced in Britain is already 2.5 times more efficient than the global average. And they are committed to doing even more.
“However, we will not halt climate change by curbing sustainable, British production and exporting it to countries which may not have the same climate ambition as we do here.”
Boyd said: “This proposal is not about being negative about farmers. It’s about being positive about their futures and helping them to adapt and continue providing support for society, but in a different way from in the past.”

Wood Pellets & Climate Change: Grave Concerns.

I have received this mail from a very reliable source in the US and as we are concerned about preserving God’s Creation – it is right to make you aware of the grave realities of using this type of fuel. Please share this post.

Hello Christina in London, Judith at the UK’s Green Christians organization, Katerina at the Conference of European Churches, and Lindsey at the U.N. office in Bonn, Germany.

I need your help in addressing a European dimension of climate change that is impacting the forests of the United States and Canada. 

We need your assistance in exposing a great fraud.

The Drax Energy Company in North Yorkshire, UK, is shifting from coal as a fuel for electrical generation to wood pellets obtained from the hardwood forests of the U.S. and Canada. They claim that wood pellets are a carbon neutral source of energy. This is a big fat lie. It is based upon the supposition among EU regulators that biomass (i.e., wood pellets) are a carbon neutral renewable alternative. This claim is made on the supposition that the growth of new trees will absorb as much carbon as wood pellets release when they are burned to generate electricity. But the trees which are being cut are hundreds of years old and this is clearly not renewable.

Please see the news article appended below.

Many climate and forestry scientists have emphasized that converting coal plants to biomass will increase carbon emissions for decades, if not centuries.

Prof Michael Norton, a director at the European Academies Science Advisory Council, said large-scale forest removal to meet the demand for biomass would be “horrifying from a climate perspective” and already risks overshooting the Paris agreement targets.

A representative of Drax Energy makes the following misleading and false statement:

‘these pellets are sustainable biomass sourced from managed forests that are replanted and stay as forests, absorbing carbon as the trees grow. Drax will not use biomass that drives harvesting decisions which would adversely affect the long-term potential of forests to store carbon. These commitments are central to our new biomass sustainability policy, launched in October.

This is corporate nonsense. In fact these wood pellets are taken from old growth forests that will not and could not be replaced for hundreds of years.


This photo shows a logged forest that once stood in the Urahaw Swamp in northeastern North Carolina. This forest was logged to make wood pellets. The rapidly growing wood pellet industry is logging bottomland hardwood forests across Southeastern U.S. forests to produce fuel pellets that are shipped overseas, primarily to Europe.

While the world tries to shift away from fossil fuels, the energy industry is calling wood pellets a renewable source of energy. This is false. Forests should be a source of carbon sequestration, but logging forests does serious damage to the world’s ability to reduce carbon dioxide levels. Burning trees as fuel in power plants is heating the atmosphere more quickly than coal.

Please help us expose the fraud that wood pellets are carbon neutral. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every little bit helps in this global effort to reduce carbon emissions, and telling the truth about our carbon predicament is one more way to address this problem. 

Thank you for helping in this effort to address global climate change.

Fred Krueger

Converting coal plants to biomass could fuel climate crisis, scientists warn

Experts horrified at large-scale forest removal to meet wood pellet demand

Jillian Ambrose

Mon 16 Dec 2019 01.01 ESTLast modified on Mon 16 Dec 2019 11.51 EST

Biomass fuel at Drax power station in North Yorkshire

 Biomass fuel at Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

Plans to shift Europe’s coal plants to burning wood pellets instead could accelerate rather than combat the climate crisis and lay waste to woodland equal to half the size of Germany’s Black Forest a year, according to campaigners.

The climate thinktank Sandbag said the heavily subsidised plans to cut carbon emissions would result in a “staggering” amount of tree cutting, potentially destroying forests faster than they can regrow.

Sandbag found that Europe’s planned biomass conversion projects would require 36 million tonnes of wood pellets every year, equal to the entire current global wood pellet production. This would require forests covering 2,700 sq km to be cut down annually, the equivalent of half the Black Forest in Germany.

EU carbon target threatened by biomass ‘insanity’

The majority of wood pellets are imported from the US and Canada, “meaning that there’s a huge added environmental cost in transporting the wood from the other side of the Atlantic”, said the report’s author, Charles Moore.

The planned biomass conversions – with Finland, Germany and the Netherlands leading the way – would emit 67m tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would be unlikely to be reabsorbed by growing trees over the timescales relevant to meeting the targets set by Paris climate agreement, warned Sandbag.

In return, the forest-hungry power plants would produce less than 2% of the EU’s electricity needs – the same generation capacity built in Europe every year by wind and solar farm developers.

“It’s impossible to believe coal companies when they argue that the switch to burning forests could be good for the climate,” Moore said.EU regulators consider biomass as a carbon neutral renewable alternative, saying that the growth of new trees can absorb as much carbon as wood pellets release when they are burned to generate electricity.

The Drax energy complex in North Yorkshire has used this logic to underpin its plan to become the world’s first “carbon negative” company within 10 years by burning biomass in conjunction with technology that can capture carbon from its power plant flues. 

Drax robustly defends the sustainability record of its biomass supply chain. Its wood pellets, shipped from the US, are made mostly from sawmill residue and forest overgrowth, which is carefully cleared to improve the quality of forests. Drax has pledged never to source biomass from farming practices that lead to deforestation.

Burning wood for power is ‘misguided’ say climate experts

But Alex Mason, from WWF’s EU office, said burning forests was “literally the opposite of what we should be doing” to help tackle the climate crisis.

“As 800 scientists pointed out last year, converting coal plants to biomass will increase emissions for decades, if not centuries. This new report is yet more evidence that the EU must use the new EU Green Deal to fix EU bioenergy rules before this ticking time-bomb of a policy does any more damage,” he said.

Prof Michael Norton, a director at the European Academies Science Advisory Council, said large-scale forest removal to meet the demand for biomass would be “horrifying from a climate perspective” and already risks overshooting the Paris agreement targets.

He said European countries were moving ahead with plans for giant biomass plants despite reports showing “the counter-productive nature of biomass” and the urgent need to stop deforestation.

A Drax spokesperson said: “Drax only uses sustainable biomass sourced from managed forests that are replanted and stay as forests, absorbing carbon as the trees grow. Drax will not use biomass that drives harvesting decisions which would adversely affect the long-term potential of forests to store carbon. These commitments are central to our new biomass sustainability policy, launched in October. We also have a new advisory board – an independent group of scientists, academics and forestry experts, which will ensure our biomass sourcing meets the highest standards using the latest science and best practice.”


It has been clear to many that the use of such methods is unsustainable and should therefore, not be used. We add our voice to those trying to prevent energy companies from continuing to use practises that will in effect, push us all off the cliff. Please share this post with your friends. Dr Christina


KALLISTOS WARE Metropolitan of Diokleia. Used with permission with brief comment.

‘What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humankind, for the birds, for the animals, for the demons, for all that exists.’ St Isaac the Syrian (7th century)

A place for animals in our worship?

As I sit writing at my table, I have before me a Russian icon of the martyrs St Florus and St Laurus. At the top of the icon is the Archangel Michael, and on either side of him the two saints. Then below them there is a concourse of horses, old and young: some have riders, others are riderless but with saddle and bridle, and others are running freely. I am not sure what is the connection between horses and these two stonemasons from Constantinople who suffered martyrdom in the early 4th century. But there the horses are, prominently depicted in the icon, and their presence gives me continuing pleasure. *

Beside my bed I have another icon that shows the leading Russian saint of the 19th century, Seraphim of Sarov. He is seated on a log outside his wooden cabin in the forest, with his prayer-rope in one of his hands, and with the other hand he is offering a piece of bread to a huge brown bear. Great was the surprise and alarm of visitors to the saint’s hermitage when they came upon him in the company of his four-footed friend Misha.

Now, for members of the Orthodox Church an icon is not to be regarded in isolation, simply as a picture on a religious subject, a decorative item designed to give aesthetic pleasure. Much more significant is the fact that an icon exists within a distinct and specific context. It is part of an act of prayer and worship, and divorced from that context of prayer and worship it ceases to be authentically an icon. The art of the icon is par excellence a liturgical art.[1] If, then, Orthodox icons depict not only humans but animals, does this not imply that the animals have an accepted place in our liturgical celebration and our dialogue with God? We do not forget that, when Jesus withdrew to pray for forty days in the wilderness, he had the animals as his companions: ‘He was with the wild beasts’ (Mark 1:13).

What the icon shows us – that the animals share in our prayer and worship – is confirmed by the prayer books used in the Orthodox Church.[2] It is true that, when we look at the main act of worship, the Service of the Eucharist, we are at first sight disappointed; for in its two chief forms – the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and that of St Basil the Great – there are no direct references to the animal creation. Yet, when we pray at the beginning of the Liturgy ‘for the peace of the whole world’, this surely includes animals. As one commentator puts it, ‘We pray for the peace of the universe, not only for mankind, but for every creature, for animals and plants, for the stars and all of nature.’[3]

Turning, however, to the daily office, we find not only implicit but explicit allusions to the animals. A notable example comes at the beginning of Vespers. On the Orthodox understanding of time, as in Judaism, the new day commences not at midnight or at dawn but at sunset; and so Vespers is the opening service in the twenty-four hour cycle of prayer. How, then, do we begin the new day? Throughout the year, except in the week after Easter Sunday, Vespers always starts in the same way: with the reading or singing of Psalm 103 (104). This is a hymn of praise to the Creator for all the wonders of his creation; and in this cosmic doxology we have much to say about the animals:

‘You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, They give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.’

The psalm continues by speaking of cattle, storks, wild goats, badgers and young lions, and it concludes this catalogue of living creatures with a reference to Leviathan, who must surely be a whale:

‘Yonder is the sea, great and wide, which teems with things innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and there is the great sea monster which you formed to sport in it.’

In this way, embarking upon the new day, we offer the world back to God in thanksgiving. We bless him for the sun and moon, for the clouds and wind, for the earth and the water; and not least we bless him for the living creatures, in all their diversity and abundance. with which he has peopled the globe. We rejoice in their beauty and their playfulness, whereby they enrich our lives:

‘How marvellous are your works, O Lord! In wisdom have you made them all.’

As we stand before God in prayer, the companionship of the animals fills our hearts with warmth and hope.

Nor is it only in the service of Vespers that the animals have their assured place. In the Orthodox book of blessings and intercessions known in Greek as the Evchologion, and in Slavonic as the Trebnik or Book of Needs, there are prayers for the good health of sheep, goats and cattle, of horses, donkeys and mules, and even of bees and silkworms; and also, on the negative side, there are prayers for protection from poisonous snakes and noxious insects. Up to the present day, the great majority of Eastern Christians dwell in an agricultural rather than an urban environment; and so it it only natural that their prayer – rooted in the concerns of this world as well as being otherworldly – should reflect the needs of a farming community. In daily prayer as in daily life, humans and animals belong to a single community.

As a typical example of a prayer for living creatures, let us take these phrases from a blessing on bees:

‘In ancient times you granted to the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey (Exod. 3:8), and you were well-pleased to nourish your Baptist John with wild honey in the wilderness (Matt. 3:4). Now also, providing in your good pleasure for our sustenance, do you bless the beehives in this apiary. Greatly increase the multiplication of the bees within them, preserving them by your grace and granting us an abundance of rich honey.’ [4]

A prayer for silkworms includes the words:

‘All-good King, show us even now your lovingkindness; and as you blessed the well of Jacob (John 4:6), and the pool of Siloam (John 9:7), and the cup of your holy apostles (Matt. 26:27), so bless also these silkworms; and as you multiplied the stars in heaven and the sand beside the sea-shore, so multiply these silkworms, granting them health and strength: and may they feed without coming to any harm…so that they may produce shrouds of pure silk, to your glory and praise.’ [5]

Yet not all these prayers for animals are as genial as this, for there are also exorcisms directed against the creatures that, in this fallen world, inflict harm on humans and their produce:

‘I adjure you, O creatures of many forms: worms, caterpillars, beetles and cockroaches, mice, grasshoppers and locusts, and insects of various kinds, flies and moles and ants, gadflies and wasps, and centipedes and millipedes, … injure not the vineyard, field, garden, trees or vegetables of the servant of God [name], but be gone into the wild hills and into the barren trees that God has given you for sustenance.’[6]

It will be noted here that the exorcism does not actually pray for the destruction of these baneful creatures, but only that they should depart to their proper home and cease to molest us. Even rats, hornets and spiders have their appointed place in God’s dispensation![7]

 Here, by way of contrast, is a prayer by St Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (1748-1809) expressing tenderness and compassion for the animals:

‘Lord Jesus Christ, moved by your tender mercy, take pity on the suffering animals… For if a righteous man takes pity on the souls of his cattle (Prov. 12: 10. LXX), how should you not take pity on them, for you created them and you provide for them? In your compassion you did not forget the animals in the ark (Gen. 9: 19-20)… Through the good health and the plentiful number of oxen and other four-footed beasts, the earth is cultivated and its fruits increase; and your servants, who call upon your name, enjoy in full abundance the produce of their farming.’[8]

Many other examples of such prayers for the animals could be quoted, but these are enough to show that Orthodox intercessions are not exclusively anthropocentric, but encompass the entire created order. We humans are bound to God and to one another in a cosmic covenant that also includes all the other living creatures on the face of the earth: ‘I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground’ (Hos. 2:18; cf. Gen. 9:15).[9] We humans are not saved from the world but with the world; and that means, with the animals. Moreover, this cosmic covenant is not something that we humans have devised, but it has its source in the divine realm. It is conferred upon us as a gift by God.

A striking illustration of this covenant bond is to be seen in the custom that once prevailed in the Russian countryside; perhaps it still continues today. Returning from the Easter midnight service with their newly-kindled Holy Fire, the farmers used to go into the stables with the lighted candle or lantern, and they greeted the horses and cattle with the Paschal salutation ‘Christ is Risen!’ The victory of the risen Saviour over the forces of death and darkness has meaning not for us humans alone but for the animals as well. For them also Christ has died and risen again. ‘Now all things are filled with light’ (hymn at the Easter matins).

Do animals have souls?

St Nicodemus, in the prayer quoted above, cites the words of Proverbs 12:10: ‘The righteous man shows pity for the souls of his cattle.’[10]Does this mean that animals have souls?[11]The answer depends upon what precisely we mean by the soul. The word psyche in the ancient world had a wider application than that which is customarily given in the present day to our word ‘soul’. Aristotle, for example, distinguishes three levels of soul: the vegetable, the animal, and the human.[12]According to this Aristotelian scheme, the vegetable or nutritive soul has the capacity for growth, but not for movement or sensation. The animal soul has the capacity for movement and sensation, but not for conscious thought or reason. Only the human soul is endowed with self-knowledge and the power of logical thinking. For Aristotle, then, psyche means in an inclusive fashion all expressions of life-force and vital energy, whereas in contemporary usage we limit the term ‘soul’ to the third level, the human or rational soul. If we today were to speak of potatoes or tomatoes as possessing souls, we should doubtless be considered facetious. But Aristotle was not trying to make a joke.

Employing the term ‘soul’ in a restricted sense, as denoting specifically the self-reflective rational soul, most thinkers in the West – and, on the whole, in the Christian East as well – have denied that animals are ensouled. Descartes held that they are simply intricate machines or automata. On such a view, there is a clear demarcation between human beings and the animal world. Humans alone, it is said, are created in God’s image, and they alone possess immortality, in contrast to ‘the beasts that perish’ (Ps.48 [49]: 12, 20). In modern Greek the horse is called alogon, ‘lacking logos or reason’. Animals, so it is maintained, cannot form abstract concepts, and so they are unable to construct logical arguments; they lack personal freedom and the faculty of moral choice, for they cannot discern between good and evil, but act solely from instinct.

Yet are we in fact justified in making such an emphatic division between ourselves and the other animals? (I say ‘other’, because we humans are also animals; we have the same origin as those whom we call ‘beasts’.) Many of the characteristics that we tend to regard as distinctively human are also to be found, to a varying extent, in the animals as well. This certainly was the view of early Christian writers. ‘The instinct (physis) that exists in hunting dogs and war horses’, observes Origen (c. 185- c. 254), ‘comes near, if I may say so, to reason itself.’[13]We may think of the behaviour of a monkey, confronted by a cage with a complicated latch, and with a banana inside. Seeking to open the cage, twisting the latch first in one direction and then in another, the monkey is evidently engaged in something closely similar to the process of thinking that a human being would employ in a similar situation. Animals as well as humans try to solve problems.

Origen has in view domesticated animals, but Theophilus of Antioch (late 2nd century) goes further, noting how the instinct in all animals, wild as well as domestic, leads them to mate and to care for their offspring: this indicates that they possess ‘understanding’.[14] Other Patristic authors point out that animals share with humans not only a certain degree of reason and understanding, but also memory and a wide range of emotions and affections. They display feelings of joy and grief, asserts St Basil of Caesarea (c. 330-79), and they recognize those whom they have met previously.[15] St John Climacus (c. 570- c. 649) adds that they express love for each other, for ‘they often bewail the loss of their companions’.[16] Indeed, some animals are faithfully monogamous, in a way that all too many humans conspicuously are not.

It is often argued that animals lack the power to articulate speech. Yet, as we can see from dolphins, they have other subtle ways of communicating with one another. Ants and bees are capable of social co-operation on an elaborate scale. Animals may not use tools; yet they do not simply exist within the world, but actively adapt the environment to their own needs. Birds build nests, beavers construct dams.

Nor is this all. If we are to accept the testimony of Scripture, it would seem that animals can sometimes display visionary awareness, perceiving things to which we humans are blind. In the story of Balaam’s ass (Num. 22: 21-33), the donkey sees the angel of the Lord, blocking the pathway with a drawn sword, whereas Balaam himself is unaware of the angel’s presence. As investigators of the paranormal have often discovered, animals react to unseen ‘presences’ in places reputed to be haunted. May it not be claimed that animals possess, at least in a rudimentary form, psychic insight and a capacity for spiritual intuition?

Instead of making a sharp separation between animals and human beings, would it not be wiser to keep in view the kinship that links us together? Nemesius of Emesa (late 4th century) is surely correct to insist upon the unity of all living things. Sharing as they do the same life-force, plants, animals and humankind belong to the single integrated structure of creation.[17] We and the animals are interdependent, ‘members one of another’ (Eph. 4:25). The world is variegated yet everywhere interconnected. As my history master at school used to say, ‘It all ties up, you see; it all ties up.’

Can we in fact be sure that animals do not enjoy immortality? At any rate there is good reason to believe that animals will exist in the future Age, after the Second Coming of Christ and the general resurrection of the dead. As Isaiah affirms, ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion together, and a little child shall lead them’ (Isa. 11:6). When Martin Luther, distressed by the death of his pet dog, was asked whether there would be animals in heaven, he replied: ‘There will be little dogs with golden hair, shining like precious stones.’[18]

It is not clear, however, whether these animals in the Age to come will be the same animals as we have known in this present life. Yet that is at least a possibility; we do not have good grounds for asserting that it could not conceivably be so. Let us leave the question open. Friendship and mutual love contain within themselves an element of eternity. For us to say to another human person, with all our heart. ‘I love you’, is to say by implication, ‘You will never die.’ If this is true of our love for our fellow humans, may it not be true of our love for animals? Although we are not to love animals in the same way as we love our fellow humans, yet those of us who have experienced the deeply therapeutic effect of a companion animal will certainly recognize that our reciprocal relationship contains within itself intimations of immortality.

Even if animals are not ensouled, yet they are undoubtedly sentient. They are responsive and vulnerable. As Andrew Linzey rightly says, ‘Animals are not machines or commodities but beings with their own God-given life (nephesh), individuality and personality… Animals are more like gifts than something owned, giving us more than we expect and thus obliging us to return their gifts. Far from decrying these relationships as “sentimental”, “unbalanced”, or “obsessive” (as frequently happens today), churches could point us to their underlying theological significance – as living examples of divine grace.’[19]

‘Cruelty is atheism’, said Humphrey Primatt (18th century). ‘… Cruelty is the worst of heresies.’[20] Indeed, not only should we refrain from cruelty to animals, but in a positive way we should seek to do them good, enhancing their pleasure and their unselfconscious happiness. In the words of Starets Zosima in Dostoevsky’s master-work The Brothers Karamazov: ‘Love the animals: God has given them the rudiments of thought and an untroubled joy. Do not trouble it, do not torment them, do not go against God’s purpose. Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals; they are sinless, and you, you with all your grandeur, defile the earth through your appearance upon it, and leave traces of your defilement behind you – alas, this is true of almost every one of us!’[21]

Unfortunately it has to be said that, while there can be found within Orthodoxy a rich theology of the animal creation, there exists a sad gap between theory and practice. It cannot be claimed that, in traditional Orthodox countries such as Greece, Cyprus or Romania, animals are better treated than in the non-Orthodox West; indeed, the contrary is regrettably true. We Orthodox need to kneel down before the animals and to ask their forgiveness for the evils that we inflict upon them. I have concentrated here upon the positive elements in the Orthodox teaching about animals; but we should not ignore the many ways in which we fall short of our pastoral responsibility towards the living creatures, domestic and wild, that God has given us to be our companions.

Dominion or domination?

‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?’ says Jesus. ‘Yet mot one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will’ (Matt. 10:29). ‘Not one of them’: God’s care for his creation, his love for all the things that he has made, is not merely an abstract and generalized love. He cares for each particular creature, for every individual sparrow. But Jesus then goes on to say, ‘You are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matt. 10:31). Every living thing has its unique value in God’s sight, but at the same time we dwell in a hierarchical universe, and some living things have a greater value than others.

The significance of this hierarchy is expressed in a more specific way in God’s creative utterance in the opening chapter of Genesis: ‘Then God said, “Let us make the human being in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” ‘ (Gen. 1:26). Humans, then, are entrusted by the Creator with authority over the animals. Yet this God-given ‘dominion’ does not signify an arbitrary and tyrannical domination. We must not overlook the explicit reason that is given for this dominion: it is because we are fashioned in the image and likeness of God. That is to say, in the exercise of our dominion over the animals, we are to show the same gentleness and loving compassion that God himself shows towards the whole of his creation. Our dominion is to be God-reflective and Christlike.

How far does this dominion extend? Certainly it includes  the right to use domestic animals for our service: to employ horses and oxen for ploughing, to keep cows for their milk, to breed sheep for their wool. Yet there are definite limits to what we can legitimately do. We should not adopt a narrowly instrumentalist attitude towards the animals. We are to respect their characteristic ‘life-style’, allowing them to be themselves. This is scarcely what happens with battery hens! We are not to inflict upon them excessive burdens that cause them exhaustion and suffering. We are to ensure that they are kept warm, clean, healthy and properly fed. Only so will our dominion be according to the image of divine compassion.

Does our dominion over the animals entitle us to kill and eat them? In the Orthodox Church, as in other Christian communities, there are many who on serious grounds of conscience refrain from eating animals. But the Orthodox Church as such is not in principle vegetarian. The normal teaching is that animals may indeed be killed and used for food, so long as this killing is done humanely and not wantonly. It is true that in traditional Orthodox monasteries meat is not eaten in the refectory; fish, however, is allowed. It is also true that in Lent and at certain other seasons of the year all Orthodox Christians, whether monastics or those in the ‘world’, are required to abstain from animal products. But this is not because the eating of animal products is in itself sinful, but because such fasting has disciplinary value, assisting us in our prayer and our spiritual growth. In the Gospels it is stated that Christ ate fish: ‘They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate before them’ (Luke 24:41-42). Since he observed the Passover, presumably he also ate meat.

Beasts and Saints

In the lives of Eastern Christian Saints – as among the saints of the West, especially in the Celtic tradition – there are numerous stories, often well authenticated, of close fellowship between the animals and holy men and women. Such accounts are not to be dismissed as sentimental fairy tales, for they have a definite theological significance. The mutual understanding between animals and humans recalls the situation before the Fall, when the two lived at peace in Paradise; and it points forward to the transfiguration of the cosmos at the end time. In the words of St Isaac the Syrian (7th century), ‘The humble person approaches the wild animals, and the moment they catch sight of him their ferocity is tamed. They come up and cling to him as to their master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. For they smell on him the same smell that came from Adam before the transgression.’[22]

Not that mutual understanding between holy men and wild animals has always been complete! There is, for example, a story in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers about an unsociable lion: ‘There was a certain old man, a solitary, who lived near the river Jordan; and going into a cave because of the heat, he found there a lion. The lion began to gnash his teeth and to roar. The old man said to him, “What is annoying you? There is plenty of room here for both of us. And if you don’t like it, get up and go away.” But the lion, not taking it well, left and went outside.’[23]

Many of the 20th-century stories about humans and animals come from the Holy Mountain of Athos, the chief centre of Orthodox monasticism. I recall one such story, told to me many years ago. The monks in a small hermitage, as they prayed in the early morning, were much disturbed by the croaking of frogs in the cistern outside their chapel. The spiritual father of the community went out and addressed them: ‘Frogs! We’ve just finished the Midnight Office and are about to start Matins. Would you mind keeping quiet until we’ve finished!’ To which the frogs replied, ‘We’ve just finished Matins and are about to begin the First Hour. Would you mind keeping quiet until we’ve finished!’

Compassion for animals is vividly expressed in the writings of a recent Athonite Saint, the Russian monk Silouan (1866-1938). ‘The Lord’, he says, ‘bestows such rich grace on his chosen ones that they embrace the whole earth, the whole world within their love. … One day I saw a dead snake on my path which had been chopped into pieces, and each piece writhed convulsively, and I was filled with pity for every living creature, every suffering thing in creation, and I wept bitterly before God.’[24]

Such is in truth the compassionate love that we are called to express towards the animals. All too often they are innocent sufferers, and we should view this undeserved suffering with compunction and sympathy. What harm have they done to us, that we should inflict pain and distress upon them? As living beings, sensitive and easily hurt, they are to be viewed as a ‘Thou’, not an ‘It’, to use Martin Buber’s terminology: not as objects to be exploited and manipulated but as subjects, capable of joy and sorrow, of happiness and affliction. They are to be approached with gentleness and tenderness; and, more than that, with respect and reverence, for they are precious in God’s sight. As William Blake affirmed, ‘Every things that lives is holy.’[25]

[1] See Philip Sherrard, The Sacred in Life and Art (Ipswich: Golgonooza, 1990), pp. 71-74.

[2] Relatively little has been written on the theology of animals from an Orthodox viewpoint. Extensive material on saints and animals in both ancient and modern times can be found in the two books by Joanne Stefanatos, Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1992), and Animals Sanctified: A Spiritual Journey (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 2001). On the non-Orthodox side, compare the classic anthology by Helen Waddell, Beasts and Saints (London: Constable, 1934). There is not much from Eastern Christian sources in the two collections (in other respects, rich and representative) edited by Andrew Linzey, Animal Rites: Liturgies of Animal Care (London: SCM, 1999), and (with Paul Barry Clarke), Animal Rights: A Historical Anthology (New York: Columbia U. P., 2004).

[3] A Monk of the Eastern Church [Lev Gillet], Serve the Lord with Gladness: Basic Reflections on the Eucharist and the Priesthood (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), p.16.

[4] The Great Book of Needs (South Canaan, PA: St Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1999), vol. 4, pp. 382-3 (translation adapted).

[5] Evchologion to Mega, ed. N. P. Papadopoulos (Athens: Saliveros, no date), p. 511.

[6] Exorcism of the Holy Martyr Tryphon, in The Great Book of Needs, vol. 3, p.53 (translation adapted).

[7] But, at a later point in this same exorcism, it is said that, if these creatures fail to obey the command to depart to their own place, ‘May he [God] kill you with pigs… and birds also will be sent by my prayers to devour you’ (The Great Book of Needs, vol. 3, p.54).

[8] Prayer of St Modestos, in Mikron Evchologion i Agiasmatarion (Athens: Apostoliki Diakonia, 1984), p. 297.

[9] See Robert Murray, The Cosmic Covenant: Biblical Themes of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (London: Sheed & Ward, 1992).

[10] I follow here the text of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament used at Orthodox church services.

[11] See Kallistos Ware, ‘The Soul in Greek Christianity’, in M. James C. Crabbe (ed.), From Soul to Self (London/New York: Routledge, 1999), especially pp.62-65. For other passages in the Septuagint that mention the ‘souls’ of animals, see for example Genesis 1:21 and 24, and Leviticus 17:14.

[12] See Ware, ‘The Soul in Greek Christianity’, pp.55-56.

[13] On First Principles 3:1:3.

[14] To Antolycus 1:6.

[15] Hexaemeron 8:1 (PG 29: 165AB).

[16] The Ladder of Divine Ascent 26 (PG 88: 1028A).

[17] On the Nature of Man 1 (ed. Morani, 2:13-14; 3: 3-25).

[18] William Hazlitt (ed.), The Table Talk of Martin Luther (London: H. G. Bohn, 1857), p. 322.

[19] Animal Rites, p. 58.

[20] Quoted in Linzey, Animal Rites, p.151.

[21] Fyordor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, tr. Richard Pervear and Larissa Volokhonsky (New York: Vintage Classics, 1991), p. 319 (translation adapted).

[22] Homily 82, in Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh, tr. A. J. Wensinck (Amsterdam: Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, 1923), p. 386 (translation adapted).

[23] Helen Waddell, Beasts and Saints, p. 24 (translation adapted).

[24] Archimandrite Sofrony (Sakharov), Saint Silouan the Athonite (Tolleshunt Knights: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1991), pp. 267, 469. But Silouan also warned against showing excessive affection towards animals (pp. 95-96).

[25] ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), Poetry and Prose of William Blake (London: Nonesuch Press, 1948), p. 193.

*In the book ‘Icons and Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church , it has the following information on St Florus and St Laurus:

‘The brothers Florus and Laurus, stonecutters by trade and native of Illyria, were martyred in the second century for having built a temple and dedicated to Christ instead of the pagan deities. Because of the veneration they enjoyed in the early Church, they are represented in Russian icons in the company of Elijah, Nicholas, and James, bishop of Jerusalem and patron saint of Novgorod. Miraculous powers against epidemics were ascribed to Florus and Laurus, who were also protectors of domestic animals. In icons the archangel Michael entrusts a herd of horses to their care.’

See the following link to the icon:


Feast Day of Flores and Laurus, August 18th, “feast day of horses”. (Getty Publications, 2004), p292.

WCC: Statement on the Climate Change Emergency

World Council of Churches


Bossey, Switzerland

20-26 November 2019

Doc. No. 04.3 rev

Statement on the Climate Change Emergency

But the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their doings.

                                      – Micah 7:13

Recent extreme weather events of increasing strength and frequency around the world together with further studies conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have jolted many into belated recognition that the climate crisis is not a distant prospect, but is upon us today.

From Hurricane Maria, Tropical Cyclone Idai, Hurricane Dorian and Typhoon Hagibis which caused loss of lives and left widespread devastation in Puerto Rico, in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, in the Bahamas and in Japan respectively, to ongoing bushfires in Australia and California, to unprecedented flooding in Bangladesh and in Venice, and to the very recent landslide following exceptionally heavy rains in Kenya, the impacts on our communities – especially the poorest and most vulnerable among us – and on the bountiful Creation that God has entrusted to human beings as stewards – are now all too tragically real.

The latest IPCC special reports on climate change, land, oceans and cryosphere confirm that climate change has become a top driver of hunger all over the world, and project rising sea levels of up to 1 metre by 2100 due to melting glaciers, water scarcity affecting nearly 2 billion people and more intense sea-level events such as storms and flooding, if warming is not kept at the safer limit of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Moreover, exceptionally destructive fires and the encroachment of industrial agriculture and mining, have greatly increased concern about runaway deforestation in the largest remaining rainforest ecosystems – the earth’s lungs, the home and heritage of many Indigenous Peoples, and a critical resource in confronting the threat of climate change. Especially in the Amazon, in the Congo Basin, and in West Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia, this resource is, often deliberately, being squandered at a perilous rate.

Children, young people and ordinary citizens have made public demonstration of their outrage at the lack of any adequate response by governments to the gravity of this global crisis, and against the backsliding by some governments. Children have been obliged to mobilize and to raise their voices to demand what adults have failed or refused to deliver – fundamental changes to our economic and social systems in order to preserve God’s Creation and their future.

Indeed, a recent research report shows that governments are currently projected to produce 120% more fossil fuels by 2030 than can be burned if the world is to limit warming to an increase of 1.5°C

In particular, the United States’ formal notification of its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement – despite the increasingly disastrous impact of extreme weather events in the US itself – seriously undermines the best hope the international community had secured for a multilateral global response to the climate crisis. This is an abject failure and abdication of global leadership, at precisely the historical moment when such leadership is most needed. It will embolden other backsliding states. It impoverishes and imperils all of us.

The protests against widening inequality in Chile, triggering the move of the 25th Conference of Parties (COP 25) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from Santiago to Madrid, underscore the importance of holding together the goals of sustainability and equity, and ensuring that the costs of transitioning to a carbon neutral economy are not borne by those who already have few resources. In other words, there can be no real transition without socio-economic justice.

The time for debate and disputation of established scientific facts is long over. The time for action is swiftly passing. We will all be held to account for our inaction and our disastrous stewardship of this precious and unique planet. The climate emergency is the result of our ecological sins. It is time for metanoia for allWe must now search our hearts and our most fundamental faith principles for a new ecological transformation, and for divine guidance for our next steps to build resilience in the face of this unprecedented millennial challenge.

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 20-26 November 2019, therefore:

Joins other faith leaders, communities and civil society organizations in declaring a climate emergency, which demands an urgent and unprecedented response by everyone everywhere – locally, nationally and internationally.

Expresses its bitter disappointment at the inadequate and even regressive actions by governments that should be leaders in the response to this emergency, especially inaction to stop fires and deforestation, the destruction of Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands and livelihoods, and attacks on ecological defenders; the weak commitments made under the Paris Agreement; and measures that place additional financial burdens on poor communities.

Calls on COP 25, taking place in Madrid on 2 to 13 December 2019, to:

–        set the groundwork for committing to more ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as part of Nationally Determined Contributions with a view to attaining carbon neutrality by 2050 and limiting warming to not more than 1.5°C;

–        ramp up commitments by wealthy nations to provide sufficient, predictable and transparent climate finance to low-income nations for adaptation and resilience-building;

–        strengthen the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage to include finance to support people and communities affected by the impacts of the climate emergency; and

–        promote actions to engage and learn from Indigenous Peoples in and beyond the UNFCCC process, protect biodiversity, combat deforestation, encourage agro-ecology and construct circular and redistributive economies.

Invites UN system partners, consistent with the critical research and policy advice emanating from UN sources, to examine and divest from fossil fuel investments in their own banking systems and pension funds.

Calls on member churches, ecumenical partners, other faith communities and all people of good will and moral conscience to find the means whereby we can make a meaningful contribution in our own contexts to averting the most catastrophic consequences of further inaction and negative actions by governments – and may join in confronting this global crisis through concerted advocacy for climate change mitigation and adaptation, zero fossil fuel use and a “just transition”, as well as through local action, everywhere – in our fellowship, our churches, our communities, our families, and as individuals.

Let Them Eat Larvae

This is an article by Christopher Pollon, a Vancouver-based independent journalist and explores alternative sources of protein. Whilst many humans might bulk at eating such products, consider the positive environmental impacts of using it for animal food. 

Farmers are feeding their livestock the larvae of black soldier flies—an abundant, sustainable snack that’s quietly greening the industry, one maggot at a time.

My visit to see the future of farming begins in an unlikely place, on the edge of a 60,000-square-foot insect farm in the suburbs of Vancouver, British Columbia. 

I am standing inside what workers at Enterra, one of the world’s most commercially advanced insect agriculture companies, call “the love shack”—a humid warehouse where adult black soldier flies reproduce and the females lay up to 600 eggs at a time.

The love shack is an unnerving place to visit: black soldier flies do not bite (they do not have mouths; the adults subsist on a small abdominal fat sack), but they are not shy about landing and crawling all over you. Most are contained by netting and stacked vertically. Virtually no land is needed for breeding, which is happening all around me. 

Enterra’s insect larvae (bug farmers prefer this to “maggots”) are technically livestock, making this, by population, one of the largest animal husbandry operations in the world—and part of an early-stage farming experiment that might be the start of the green future animal farming has been searching for.

In recent years, the $400 billion global animal feed market has grown hungry for alternatives to wild fish and soybeans, currently the two dominant animal feed protein sources. 

And it’s about time alternatives came around. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report in 2006 that found livestock is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, they’ve discoveredthat it’s not livestock itself, but the food livestock eats, that produces almost half of those emissions. 

Companies like Enterra are betting that this unsustainable link in the food chain will be gradually replaced by insect protein, which feeds on food waste and is carbon neutral. If a handful of fledgling global bug farmers can be successful, 2019 could be a make-or-break year for insect agriculture, and an opportunity to eliminate vast water and land pollution, protect forests and global fish stocks, and slash runaway greenhouse gas emissions. 

About a quarter of the world’s commercial fish catch today—mostly forage fishes like herring, menhaden and anchoveta—are reduced into protein meal and oil to feed livestock and other fish. Meanwhile, soybeans consume vast tracts of deforestedland, and are grown with herbicides and other polluting chemicals.

It’s a simple premise: why feed our high-emission animals high-emission food when the world’s chickens, pigs, farmed fish and more can easily subsist on low-impact insect larvae that can be raised on the food and agricultural waste we currently discard? 

Enter the black soldier fly (BSF), a quick-to-mature, non-invasive insect that has a voracious appetite during its larval stages. At Enterra’s farm, they thrive on a diet of 100 percent pre-consumer food waste. The operation requires no water and a miniscule footprint of land, with negligible methane or greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is the future of food,” says Bruce Jowett, director of marketing for Enterra, a private Canadian company that sells farmed fly larvae products directly to commercial feed companies. “We are diverting food waste from the landfill, and black soldier fly larvae convert it into protein.”

Compared to other livestock raised as sources of protein feed, black fly larvae require a fraction of the space and emissions-producing resources to grow.

On the cusp of a mass expansion, Jowett says Enterra will soon be ready to supply an industrial-scale stream of insects to a protein-hungry world. And they’re not the only ones. 

The race is on

Enterra is one of at least six early-stage insect agriculture companies around the world—based in Europe, Canada, the U.S. and China—engaged in a race to prove their own proprietary approaches to farming insects can supply animal feed on the scale required to be commercially successful.

Most of them raise black soldier flies, which are super-fast to mature, and whose bodies in the larval stages are rich in fat, protein and calcium. Their larvae are pressed into a fat-rich oil; their bodies are ground into a high-fat/protein powder meal particularly good for aquaculture; and their molted skins and feces (called “frass”) are processed to make an excellent fertilizer.

EnviroFlight opened its first commercial-scale farm near Cincinnati last year, while Enterra is set to begin commercial production at a new CAD$30 million (about USD$23 million) 160,000-square-foot insect farm in Alberta this fall, with new farms planned for Greater Vancouver and Ohio in the next five years.

The black soldier fly is a quick-to-mature, non-invasive insect that has a voracious appetite during its larval stages— perfect for converting waste into biomass that can then be fed to livestock.

Europe is a particular hotbed, home to companies like England’s AgriGrub, which produces about eight tons of BSF per year for fertilizer and bird and reptile pet feed, and Protix, one of the biggest companies, with farms in the Netherlands and Asia. 

InnovaFeed, a relative newcomer, has built the world’s largest insect production facility to date, producing 300 tons of insect meal per year in the north of France. But the company is scaling up, says spokesperson Maye Walraven, with a new facility opening in 2020 that is capable of producing 10,000 tons of insect meal annually—enough to feed 35,000 farmed salmon until maturity—with five similar-sized units planned for Europe, the U.S. and Asia by the end of 2022. This company made news earlier this summer when it signed a deal with Cargill, one of the world’s biggest agricultural food and animal feed companies, to jointly market its insect protein for the global farmed salmon industry.

The interest from Cargill, the biggest private company in the United States, bodes well for the future of the world’s nascent insect farmers. In 2015, Cargill paid over €1.35 billion (about USD$1.5 billion) to buy Norway’s EWOS, which produces about a third of the world’s feed for farmed salmon and trout.

“As aquaculture continues to grow, fish meal substitutes will be necessary, and this is where insects can play a key role,” says Cheryl Preyer, a spokesperson for the North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture, an industry trade group. “With amino acid profiles very similar to those of fish meal, insects can help by extending or replacing fish meal in those diets.”

Fish farmers could be forced to seek out protein from alternatives like insects sooner rather than later. Faced with dwindling wild fish stocks diminished by overfishing and climate change, the availability of wild fish is an open question moving forward. According to a June report by the FAIRR network of investors, warming waters in 2014 reduced anchovy yields in Peru, the world’s biggest exporter of fish feed. As a result, fish feed costs ballooned from $1,600 to $2,400 per ton.

Chickens, if given the choice, will devour all the bugs they can find, too. Last spring, Reuters reported that fast food behemoth McDonald’s is studying using insects as chicken feed to reduce its reliance on soy protein.

“With a population that is growing exponentially and finite resources on our planet, Cargill is proactively looking for alternative feed ingredients and new proteins to feed the world. We are therefore encouraging the emergence of several alternative ingredients which will enable a growing feed and food industry.”

Ziv added that the appeal of the BSF is that it can be produced in a sustainable way using agricultural waste—all at a cost that is competitive.

Insects are happy to eat the food waste that we humans discard or ignore, converting it into high-quality protein and fat. And herein lies the great promise of insect agriculture. Starchy waste from corn and wheat processing feeds InnovaFeed’s bugs; AgriGrub is involved with experiments to use marine algae as BSF feed; and for Enterra, their larvae gorge on pre-consumer food waste, otherwise destined for the landfill.

Along the way, huge reductions in greenhouse gases are possible. InnovaFeed has calculated that by feeding insect meal to animals, the company can eliminate 25,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year with each 10,000-ton-production facility it operates—the equivalent to taking 14,000 cars off the roads.

Back at Enterra’s farm, I visit a food mixing warehouse, where waste food—much of it discarded due to appearance or expiry date—is collected from bakeries, food processors and warehouses. (Jowett estimates 30 to 40 percent of all food produced for human consumption is wasted). There are dozens of watermelons on the concrete floor, piled crates of ripe Roma tomatoes and about a ton of fresh pasta. The food waste is mixed together and fed to the larvae in liquid smoothie form. Getting the right dietary balance is so important, Enterra has a nutritionist on staff to ensure the optimal mixture for health and growth.

After the larvae are cooked and dried, which kills the insects and any pathogens therein, they are pressed for oil and the remaining solids converted into a powdery meal.

The lucky one percent that escape the kiln or press end up at the love shack, where this journey begins all over again.

Helene Ziv, director of risk management and sourcing for Cargill’s animal nutrition business, confirmed that the InnovaFeed partnership will go beyond aquaculture, to include using insect protein to feed chickens and piglets, and to explore the unique health benefits of insect oil for farmed animals.

The 1995 Symposium on the Book of Revelation and its meaning for Today

As many of you will know I was asked to be part of the initial Holy Gardens of Patmos Project team earlier this year, with a goal to examine the situation for animals on the island and how they might fit into this wider project. This brief article by another of the attendees, Fred Krueger, gives context to our explorations on the theme. Final comments by CN.

As background to our 2019 exploration of the potential for a model development for the world, it is helpful to recall that in 1995 religious leaders gathered from around the world to examine the relevance of the Book of Revelation for our present global environmental predicament.

In 1995 on the 1900 year anniversary of the Book of Revelation, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew together with His Royal Highness Prince Philip, president of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, convened a week long symposium on The Book of Revelation and its meaning for the world today. They brought together over 200 scientists, religious leaders, philosophers, economists, artists and government officials to examine the nexus of religion and the environment.

In this examination of The Book of Revelation, religious leaders saw that at the climax of the New Testament, there is no conclusion but only an opening to the work of the Holy Spirit in the future and the promise of a new creation. There is the promise of a new heaven and a new earth; a new community in a holy city. There is a river of life and a tree with leaves for the healing of nations. St. John’s vision is of a united human family – of every nation and kindred singing a new song.

In his opening remarks Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew pointed out: “We desire not only a pollution free world, but a ‘healing of nations…’ Our common future depends on developing a way to perceive and participate in the world, which will complement the analytical approach with an ecological awareness of entities in their various relationships…. The work which lies ahead for us is to translate this world community, which exists as an object under threat into a subject of promise and hope.”

Representing a Roman Catholic perspective His Eminence Roger Cardinal Etchegary, in his paper, “The Apocalypse… A New Genesis,” provided a conclusion: “It cannot be repeated too often that the Revelation to John describes not the end of the world, but quite the contrary, the new creation of the world.” He continues, “It is important to underline that the new Creation does not define itself by a sort of ascension to heaven of redeemed humanity, and therefore by the disappearance of the earth, but on the contrary, by a solemn descent to earth. ‘I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men…’ (Revelation 21:2,3).

From the Anglican Church, the Rt. Reverend and Right Honorable Richard J Chartres, Bishop of London, added these insights. “We ought to note that the vision is the coming of the eternal world with people from ‘every tribe and tongue and nation,’ participating in the reign of God. They shall not live as mere subjects but ‘the Lord God shall give them light and they shall reign for ever and ever.’ “For what it is worth, in reading and re-reading Revelation I feel my own agenda shifting, my complacency judged, my sense of urgency intensified and my hope enlarged of a world community in harmony with creation, assembled by the Spirit of God and flowing from the Resurrection of the One who spoke to John like the voice of ‘many waters.’”

Metropolitan John of Pergamon added another theme in his statement: “We are used to regarding sin mainly in anthropological or social terms, but there is also sin against nature, since evil upsets the created order as a whole. The solution of the ecological problem is not simply a matter of management and technicalities, important as these may be. It is a matter of changing our world view. For it is a certain world view that has created and continues to sustain the ecological crisis.”

These insights by the assembled religious leaders reflect the evidence of the worsening state of the environment and its grim implications for the future. Religion, with its access to moral and symbolic dimensions, can espouse the imperative of scientific observation and endow society with a new vision that can lift science from its isolation as a social force and promote it into a materially-based pillar of moral and spiritual existence.

The Patmos Principles

The symposium recommended seven ‘Patmos Proposals’ to guide future actions and initiatives taken by individual participants. In response to the Ecumenical Patriarch’s invitation to participate in the symposium Revelation and the Environment, participants produced the following proposals in response to the growing concern for the future of the world’s environment. The participants believe that in his support for the symposium, the Patriarch can act as a leader, not just in his, but for other religions, to encourage global environmental awareness crucial to achieving a sustainable environment on earth.

1. A New Sense of Sin All religions affirm as an imperative, the need to care of the Earth and the whole of nature. To pollute the environment or not to take care of it should be seen as sin. This new sense of sin extends beyond what has been traditionally considered wrong.

2. Recognise and support the rights of traditional communities This involves recognising that indigenous peoples are the architects and stewards of sustainable management, the guardians, and in the case of crop plants and animals, the creators of biodiversity; we urge churches, scientists and environmentalists to support the cause of indigenous peoples and traditional communities throughout the world.

3. Recognize the lack of environmental knowledge At many levels of society, the Church should encourage the development and implementation of education programs for audiences from all schools (including Sunday Schools) to adult (including seminary).

4. An Exchange of Information between Church, science and society Recognising that the improvement of information exchange between Church, NGOs and government on environmental matters is of crucial importance, the Church should encourage efforts at planning, collaboration, and co-operation whenever and wherever possible.

5. Establish clear leadership The Church should take positive steps in establishing sustainable and environmentally-friendly land-use practices, resource use and investments

6. Recognize the role of the world’s media The world’s media play a vital role in promoting awareness of environmental issues. The Church should encourage the media to feature environmental issues on earth.

7. The urgency of environmental problems Recognising the urgency of the Earth’s environmental problems, projects promoting the Patmos Proposals are of utmost urgency.

At the end of the Symposium, participants joined in to a large planting of trees around the island.


Jump forward 25 years and we shall see that despite the efforts of the Church, many of those in power, both in the church and outside of it, have failed to rise to the challenge. We are now in a grave situation because of the collective failures of many, despite the numerous warnings from the scientists, many in our churches and from elsewhere.

I have advocated that ‘priests’ of all faiths, imitate St Amphilochios of Patmos who gave those who came to confession, the task of planting a tree and caring for it for two years. This was shared on our FB page and reached over 30K. Imagine if just half of those planted a tree and if just some of our priests followed his vision.

There are now calls for reforestation projects around the world and i would like to see one on Patmos. I have also suggested to several groups, mayoral candidates and NGOs, a ‘Citizen Forest Initiative’ with local boroughs/mayors and church groups making land available for their citizens/parishioners to plant trees in order to save ourselves, our children and grandchildren, along with the rest of God’s beautiful creation. Let us pray and ask for God’s help with our work. Dr. Chris

“The Church of England must inspire change, not mimic societal norms.” Green Christian calls for Church of England to set an example on carbon targets

As you know Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals is not only pan-Orthodox, it works with other faith and secular groups who try to lessen the suffering of animals. This requires us to enter into discussions on for example, climate change, due to the large impact and suffering in the animal food production industries. Here is the latest offering from the Green Christian group.

Posted on November 13, 2019 by  Ruth Jarman Posted in Climate EmergencyMedia Release2 Comments ↓

Green Christian welcomes plans by the Church of England, announced last week, to “recognise the Climate Crisis and step up its action to safeguard God’s creation.”

The charity is seriously concerned, however, by the Environmental Working Group’s proposal that General Synod should support the Government’s carbon reduction of net zero carbon by 2050. It is particularly worrying that this is described as being “in line with UK Government policy” as if this provides due justification for the target. 

Speaking today (Wednesday, 13 November), Deborah Tomkins, Co-Chair of Green Christian, said:

“The Church of England should be setting an example of environmental responsibility to the nation, not merely supporting existing policy and practice. Christians ought to set the highest standard of ethical behaviour as an example to others. The 2050 target will dismay those in the Church who expect its leaders to inspire change rather than mimic societal norms.”

She indicated that Green Christian will campaign over the coming months for members of the General Synod to adopt a far more challenging target.

Tim Cooper, a Green Christian Trustee and Professor of Sustainable Design and Consumption at Nottingham Trent University, added:

“Experts increasingly agree that the Government’s 2050 deadline is inappropriate. Institutions, regional authorities and opposition parties are increasingly advocating 2030 as a target – and even this may be inadequate. The Working Group’s current proposal is weak and indefensible.”


  1. The Environmental Working Group’s guidance bishops, dioceses and church leadership teams also includes an environmental campaign during Lent, engaging with the UN climate change summit (known as COP26) and making the environment a central part of the Lambeth 2020 Conference.
  2. Green Christian exists to encourage and inform Christians on green issues and to offer Christian insights to the wider environmental movement. The charity seeks to encourage all Christians in prayer, protest, campaigning and environmental witness, as well as living more gently with joy on the Earth.  See its website (www.greenchristian.org) for details of further resources offered.
  3. In June Green Christian criticised the Climate Coalition’s The Time is Now mass lobby of parliament because of their 2045 target date for UK net zero emissions, saying “The Time is Now, not 2045!” and that setting a date post 2025 “would cross a moral threshold and hold future generations to ransom“.
  4. Sir David King, a former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government, recently said on Radio 4 (at 8:30 minutes into the programme) – “The right date [for net zero emissions] is probably in the past.” He also said “I think it’s not necessary to argue whether or not [zero emissions by 2030] is realistic, we need to look at what is necessary, and if we look at what is necessary we need to be doing that well.”


As a result of recent questions on the Icon we have reposted this article.

More information is found in the book ‘Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Animal Suffering: Ancient Voices in Modern Theology’ published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, out in paperback January 2020.


Here is a brief post on a new Icon representing Christ’s concern for animal suffering. It is on the basis of the arguments laid out in my PhD and forthcoming book that led me to instigate discussions with one of the United Kingdom’s most experienced iconographers Aidan Hart.[1] Our collaboration on this theme has led to the creation of a beautiful triptych entitled Christ Breaking the Bonds of Animal Suffering.

I also asked Aidan to write a brief explanation of the meaning behind some of the symbols in the Icon:

The icon suggests Paradise by the inclusion of trees, sea, grass, bees, birds, fish, snake and lizard, all of which look healthy. These creatures, and Saints Irenaeus and Isaac, face Christ, acknowledging Him as their Creator and Sustainer. One of the bees flies towards Him. This attitude of praise lies at the heart of Edenic life, just as ingratitude lies at the heart of the hellish life… This triptych shows Christ in the midst of creation, like a second Adam in paradise. He blesses with it His right hand, and directs it with His left.  He is a prophet, priest and king of creation. 

In our discussions I expressed the desire for the icon to depict different aspects of animal suffering in the contemporary world whilst ensuring that it was grounded in both Eastern Orthodox theology and in the Patristic teachings of Luke 13:15 and 14:5.[2] I gave Aidan some ideas on how Christ might be depicted surrounded by a variety of animals, some emaciated, emerging from cages with broken doors, whilst others would be shown with broken chains, thus symbolising the breaking of the bonds of death and power of Satan. Aidan beautifully captures this brief in the center panel and explains that the icon:

...shows Christ blessing and liberating them, the tiger and chicken from their cages and the dog from its chains. Christ has come to set not just humanity free, but all creation. [3]

Cruelty to animals not only causes physical suffering to the victims but also introduces a tragic dissonance to this cosmic hymn. Such behaviour is therefore a sin not only against the animals, for it is also a failure of us humans to be conductors of the Eucharistic choir.

Aidan also explains that the image doubles as an image of Christ’s second coming:

Rome is home to numerous apse mosaics dating from the first millennium. Some of them show Christ in the midst of brightly coloured clouds. Examples are found in the churches of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Santi Cosma e Damiano, Santa Constanza, Santa Prassede, and Santa Maria Trastevere.  What do these clouds represent? They are clouds of a sunrise, and thus indicate Christ’s Second Coming in glory:

…then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory… (Matthew 24:30)

Most of these apses also bear a cross at the apex. This is the “sign of the Son of Man” that will appear in the skies at Christ’s coming, a sign traditionally understood by the Orthodox Church to be the cross.  The stars that surround our cross in the triptych represent the host of heavenly angels that will accompany Him.

On either side of Christ are Saints Irenaeus of Lyon and Isaac the Syrian who are depicted holding scrolls of texts which refer to two of their important teachings for this theme. On the left panel we have one text from St Irenaeus (Against Heresies 2:2:5) which reminds us, should we forget: ‘Now, among the “all things” our world must be embraced.’ It is as a result of our failure to remember this teaching and others like it, that has resulted in our current ecological crisis and incalculable animal suffering.

On the right panel is St. Isaac with a lesser known teaching from Mystic Treaties, (Ch.1): ‘Oppression is eradicated by compassion and renunciation.’ Here we are reminded that it is through compassion – and we could add other virtuous behaviours – together with a recognition and renunciation of our sins against ‘all things’ in creation,  that will enable us to rid ourselves and those we are to care for, of all forms of oppression and harmful vested interests.

Both of these teachings are grounded in the Saint’s love and desire to reflect the true image of God.  The icon above reflects just that.

[1]  Aidan Hart Icons  http://www.aidanharticons.com. Aidan’s article will be posted on our website when complete.

[2] Drawn either side of Christ in the centre panel. The discussion on Patristic teachings on Luke 13:15 & 14:5 has been discussed in greater detail in my article in the Greek Orthodox Theological Review,Volume 61 Fall-Winter 2016 Numbers 3-4:125-140.

[3] Rom 8:19-23.


At the weekend, Pan Orthodox Concern for Animals representatives attended the Service of Remembrance Sunday, which commemorates the animals who have died in various human conflicts. This was held at the ‘Animals in War Memorial’ in Park Lane. The Memorial is beautiful, moving and well worth a visit.

The service was organised by the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA) and undertaken by Revd Prof Martin Henig and Revd Dr Helen Hall (Front row). Fr. Simon from our charity is in the back row. Prayers were said, hymns were sung and wreaths were laid.

A small pamphlet ‘Animals in War’ by Louise Clark, was freely available and we include some of that information here.

London’s Park Lane memorial is dedicated to the often forgotten animal victims of war, who served, suffered and died whilst involved in human conflict. The numbers of fallen animals in this pamphlet reminds us of the huge sacrifice of animal life involved in human conflicts: 326,073 horses died in the Boer War; 8,000,000 died in the WW1. It was the sight of ex-cavalry horses who were sold into hard labour on the streets or in the stone quarries of Egypt that led to the establishment of The Old War Horse Memorial Hospital in Cairo which is now known as The Brooke Hospital. Other animals listed are mules and donkeys; pigeons; dogs; cats; camels; oxen and elephants, dolphins and sea lions; canaries – even glow worms which were used in WW1, to allow soldiers to read maps in the dark before going over the top of the trenches.

When we returned from our time in Pakistan, we took with us a Mine Clearance dog, who was deaf and old but lived out her days with us with a great deal of love and care. When she was diagnosed in cancer when living with us in the Seychelles, the vet came to our home out of respect for her service to mankind. She was given a burial at sea curtesy of our friends at the local diving club.

We are also informed of the animals who are ‘civilian’ yet caught up in the wars across the globe, learning of the animals in zoos who are forgotten and die from hunger or thirst, or who are stolen and killed for food and, of the efforts of service men and women who have tried to bring back animals they have befriended in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

This pamphlet can be obtained from ASWA at AngSocWelAnimals@aol.com

Intercessions for Remembrance Sunday 2019, was given by Revd. Prof. Martin Henig and is used here with permission:

Loving Lord, we pray for your wonderful creation; we pray for peace in our world; we pray for mindfulness of and forgiveness for the long history of human conflict resulting in the suffering of humans and other animals over countless generations; we pray for those engaged or co-opted  in conflict both as combatants and as civilians and all creatures who have suffered and are suffering as a result of war, especially in the past century or so.

 This afternoon we meet together in prayer especially for those who have cared and continue to care for animals in battle and in conflict zones, whether members of armed forces or civilians, just as we pray for the animals themselves. We give thanks for the love and gentleness of all who have honoured and continue to honour the integrity of life, human and non-human, as the gift of God.

Lord hear us…Lord graciously hear us.

Loving Lord, we give thanks for those animals that have born the burden in wars, not their own choosing, for the species shown on this memorial. We remember the horses taken from their farms to serve as cavalry mounts and as beasts of burden; we also recall the many donkeys and asses, camels and elephants, dogs and pigeons employed in war.

Lord hear us… Lord graciously hear us.

Loving Lord, we pray for the animals that have been loving companions to men and women, facing loneliness, and isolation in conflict zones and given that love which we call ‘humane’ though often expressed where most needed in conflict zones by non- human creatures.

Lord hear us… Lord graciously hear us.

Loving Lord, we pray for all animals which have been killed, suffered from wounds, suffered from trauma, have lost security and habitat; have suffered from malnutrition and from neglect as a result of the devastation of war. We pray for a time when swords will be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks, when humans and all other creatures will at last enjoy the heavenly bliss promised when Our Lord will restore all creation to the new Jerusalem, a new Eden.

Lord hear us… Lord graciously hear us.

Loving Lord, we ask for protection for all animals in the care of the armed forces and the police, whether on active service or on ceremonial duties, not forgetting police dogs so often on the front-line and facing danger when confronting criminals in our own country, We pray also for the wild animals on MOD land in this country and on sovereign bases abroad, and we pray for all those in the armed services as well as licensed civilians responsible for other creatures. Finally, we pray for ourselves and for all creation.

Lord hear us… Lord graciously hear us.

There was also an address by a Metropolitan Police Dog handler (see top photo) who described the strong bond between the handler and dog.  This too was very moving.

The service is held each year on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday so please mark it in your diary for next year and come to celebrate the animals who have died in wars across the world.

The ceremony was attended by representatives from several animal organisations and we shall make this a regular POCA event with the laying of wreath and a prayer, written for this event by Fr Simon.

Sad mystery of elastic bands found on remote Cornish island solved

Seabird conservationists perplexed by discoveries on Mullion island work out depressing explanation. This corresponds to findings shown in the recent Blue Planet series and increasingly, in bird populations around the world, including the islands near my home in Wales.

Original article by Steven Morris @stevenmorris20

Mullion island, off the Cornish coast, is uninhabited and requires a permit to visit.
 Mullion island, off the Cornish coast, is uninhabited and requires a permit to visit. Photograph: National Trust/Seth Jackson/PA

There isn’t a lot to Mullion island, a jagged outcrop of volcanic rock that rises out of a crystal-clear sea just off the Cornish coast. Nobody lives on the island and visitors need a permit to land.

So when conservationists who occasionally paddle across on kayaks to carry out seabird surveys began spotting brightly coloured elastic bands – thousands of them – there was a little bit of head-scratching.

Had they washed ashore from a wreck or could it be that someone was playing a practical joke? Might they have been to do with the film crew that once shot an Agatha Christie adaptation there?

A few of the thousands of old elastic bands, together with parts of green fishing net, found by conservationists on Mullion island
 A few of the thousands of old elastic bands, together with parts of green fishing net, found by conservationists on Mullion island. Photograph: National Trust/Seth Jackson/PA

But the mystery of Mullion island turned out to be unromantic and upsetting.

Ornithologists from the West Cornwall Ringing Group and the National Trust have revealed that they believe the elastic bands have been brought to the island by seabirds mistaking them for worms while searching for food on the mainland.

The thought is that great black-backed and herring gulls had come across the bands in flower fields, gobbled them up and returned to the island. The bands had then been regurgitated by the birds on the island.

Depressing sign of the times: a pellet of undigested food containing a new yellow elastic band, collected from Mullion island
 Depressing sign of the times: a pellet of undigested food containing a new yellow elastic band, collected from Mullion island. Photograph: National Trust/Seth Jackson/PA

“It’s a bit depressing, a sign of the times” said Mark Grantham, from the West Cornwall Ringing Group. “It’s a beautiful place and people rarely go there but it shows how humans have an impact everywhere.”

Grantham said the group had been paddling across to count the birds since 2013 and had begun to notice the colourful bands. To avoid disturbing the birds, they usually kept their trips short and so did not realise just how many bands were there.

After this year’s breeding season, though, the group decided to paddle over and take a closer look.

Grantham said he thought the birds had been collecting the bands for decades.
 Grantham said he thought the birds had been collecting the bands for decades. Photograph: National Trust/Seth Jackson/PA

“We were puzzled why there were so many and how they’d got there,” said Grantham. “To save disturbing the nesting birds, we made a special trip over to clear the litter. Within an hour we’d collected thousands of bands and handfuls of fishing waste.

“The gull breeding season was disappointingly poor in 2019. These human pressures are doing nothing to help our seabirds.”

Some of the bands were new and bright, others faded and brittle. Grantham said he thought the birds had been collecting them for decades.

As well as the bands, small bundles of green fishing net and twine were also uncovered among the undigested food, likely mistaken by the gulls for tasty morsels floating on the sea surface. They also found a dead gull with a fishing hook it its gullet.

Rachel Holder, area ranger for the National Trust, said: “Ingested plastic and rubber is another factor in a long list of challenges which our gulls and other seabirds must contend with just to survive.

“Despite being noisy and boisterous and seemingly common, gulls are on the decline. They’re already struggling with changes to fish populations and disturbance to nesting sites – and eating elastic bands and fishing waste does nothing to ease their plight.

Some of the bundles of green plastic fishing net and twine that had been regurgitated by gulls, collected from Mullion island.
 As well as the bands, small bundles of green fishing net and twine were also uncovered among the undigested food. Photograph: National Trust/Seth Jackson/PA

“Places like Mullion island should be sanctuaries for our seabirds, so it’s distressing to see them become victims of human activity.”

Sitting half a mile off the coast of the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall, Mullion island is a two-hectare outpost made up of volcanic pillow lava. Before the first world war, pilchard companies posted sentries on the island to look out for the dark patches in the sea that indicated shoals of fish.

Now the island is home to one of the largest colonies of great black-backed gulls in Cornwall, with up to 70 nests each summer, plus 50 cormorant nests.

Landing is prohibited except for researchers with permission. Ornithologists from West Cornwall Ringing Group visit to monitor the populations of gulls and cormorants, and to colour-ring their chicks to follow their movements.

The National Trust is calling on businesses to consider how they dispose of materials that could cause harm to wildlife
 The National Trust is calling on businesses to consider how they dispose of materials that could cause harm to wildlife. Photograph: National Trust/Seth Jackson/PA

The elastic bands are believed to have come from nearby horticultural fields, where they are used to tie together bunches of cut flowers. The trust is calling on businesses to consider how they dispose of materials that could cause harm to wildlife.

Lizzy Carlyle, the head of environmental practices at the National Trust, said“Single-use materials are having an alarming impact on our country’s most remote places. It’s up to all of us to take responsibility for how we use and dispose of these items – whether we’re producers or consumers.”

Gull populations are on the decline, with the herring gull – the species notorious for pinching food from unassuming tourists – appearing on the UK Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern.

Ocean acidification can cause mass extinctions, fossils reveal

Having seen the considerable reduction in the health of the reefs off the Seychelles between 2000 and 2007 and the rise in the temperature of the sea, this article by Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington, gives context to what is happening without most people noticing. Add to this, the problem of overfishing worldwide, much of which goes to feed farmed animals for the animal based diet and, the widely recognised fact that we are on target for a 4 degree rise in global temperatures by the end of this century – we can see that talk and targets of zero carbon emissions by 2050 are scandalously inaccurate and immoral .

Carbon emissions make sea more acidic, which wiped out 75% of marine species 66m years ago

Blue-green chromis schooling above finger corals underwater near Menjangan island
 Researchers say humanity risks potential ‘ecological collapse’ with seas becoming more acidic, as they absorb carbon emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Photograph: John Anderson/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ocean acidification can cause the mass extinction of marine life, fossil evidence from 66m years ago has revealed.

A key impact of today’s climate crisis is that seas are again getting more acidic, as they absorb carbon emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas. Scientists said the latest research is a warning that humanity is risking potential “ecological collapse” in the oceans, which produce half the oxygen we breathe.

The researchers analysed small seashells in sediment laid down shortly after a giant meteorite hit the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs and three-quarters of marine species. Chemical analysis of the shells showed a sharp drop in the pH of the ocean in the century to the millennium after the strike.Advertisement

This spike demonstrated it was the meteorite impact that made the ocean more acidic, effectively dissolving the chalky shells of many species. Large-scale volcanic activity was also considered a possible culprit, but this occurred over a much longer period.

The oceans acidified because the meteorite impact vaporised rocks containing sulphates and carbonates, causing sulphuric acid and carbonic acid to rain down. The mass die-off of plants on land after the strike also increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

“We show ocean acidification can precipitate ecological collapse,” said Michael Henehan at the GFZ German research centre for geosciences in Potsdam, who led the study. “Before we had the idea, but we did not have the empirical proof.”

The researchers found that the pH dropped by 0.25 pH units in the 100-1,000 years after the strike. It is possible that there was an even bigger drop in pH in the decade or two after the strike and the scientists are examining other sediments in even finer detail.

Henehan said:“If 0.25 was enough to precipitate a mass extinction, we should be worried.” Researchers estimate that the pH of the ocean will drop by 0.4 pH units by the end of this century if carbon emissions are not stopped, or by 0.15 units if global temperature rise is limited to 2C.

Countries must triple climate emission cut targets to limit global heating to 2C

Henehan said: “We may think of [acidification] as something to worry about for our grandchildren. But if it truly does get to the same acidification as at the [meteorite strike] boundary, then you are talking about effects that will last for the lifetime of our species. It was hundreds of thousands of years before carbon cycling returned to normal.”

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed sediments that Henehan encountered by chance, during a conference field trip in the Netherlands. The sediments, which straddle the moment of the impact, lie in caves that were used by people hiding from the Nazis during the second world war. “It was so lucky,” said Henehan.

The rocks contained foraminifera, small-shelled marine organisms. “In the boundary clay, we managed to capture them just limping on past the asteroid impact. But you can see their shell walls were much thinner and poorly calcified after the impact,” he said.

Heterohelix globulosa foraminifera isolated from the K-Pg boundary clay at Geulhemmerberg in the Netherlands, shown at 8x magnification
 Heterohelix globulosa foraminifera isolated from the K-Pg boundary clay at Geulhemmerberg in the Netherlands, shown at 8x magnification. Photograph: Michael J. Henehan/PNAS

It was the knock-on effects of acidification and other stresses, such as the “nuclear winter” that followed the impact, that finally drove these foraminifera to extinction, he said: “You have the complete breakdown of the whole food chain.” He said oceans also faced additional stresses today, from global heating to widespread pollutionoverfishing and invasive alien species.

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Phil Williamson, at the University of East Anglia, who was not involved in the research, said: “It is relatively easy to identify mass extinction events in the fossil record, but much harder to know exactly what caused them. Evidence for the role of ocean acidification has generally been weak, until now.”

He said caution was needed in making the comparison between the acidification spike 66m years ago and today: “When the asteroid struck, atmospheric CO2 was naturally already much higher than today, and the pH much lower. Furthermore, large asteroid impacts cause prolonged darkness.”

Williamson added: “Nevertheless, this study provides further warning that the global changes in ocean chemistry that we are currently driving have the potential to cause highly undesirable and effectively irreversible damage to ocean biology.”

Henehan said the generally lower ocean pH 66m years ago might have made shelled organisms more resilient to acidification. “Who knows if our current [marine] system is as well set up to cope with sudden acidification?”


A few Orthodox individuals from different nations will be meeting in Patmos between the 9-17th October, to discuss how to live a sustainable life. As part of this program we are invited to distribute some of our work. Fred Kreuger has decided to distribute this Foreword to one of his books ‘Greening The Orthodox Parish.’ As you will see H. A. H. Bartholomew recognises the difficulty in moving from words to concrete actions in our parishes and is something for us all to be mindful of at this most critical of times in the World’s history.


IT IS WITH PROFOUND JOY AND PATERNAL DELIGHT that we welcome this publication of Greening the Orthodox Parish, which promises to serve as an invaluable and indispensable handbook for Christian ecological practice” in our communities. Moreover, we humbly acknowledge and express our sincere gratitude for its appearance in honor of the 20th anniversary since our election to the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople. From the outset of our ministry, it has been our hope and prayer that the various ecological initiatives developed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate would result in the parallel creation of green parishes” and green priests” throughout the world. With the grace of God, we have gradually infiltrated the attitudes and influenced the actions of a broad segment of society on an international level  gathering and affecting politicians, scientists, theologians, and journalists – as we traveled to critical seas and rivers to discuss the impact of selfish and senseless human behavior on climate change and global warming. Nevertheless, foremost in our mind and heart has always been the transformation of our own church communities and Orthodox faithful, which has ironically proved to be the most difficult task to achieve. This is why we have repeatedly and extensively visited Orthodox Patriarchates and Churches, addressed Orthodox parishes and congregations, and invited Orthodox hierarchs to historical synods and assemblies in order to share with them the inherent Orthodox principles behind all of our environmental activities as Orthodox leaders and responsibilities as human beings. This book is, therefore, precisely what is needed in our parishes to encourage and guide our faithful to understand not only the theological and spiritual vision behind ecological awareness, but also the practical and tangible ways which can realistically and readily be adopted by all Orthodox Christians in larger and smaller parishes alike, in both more comfortable and struggling communities. For the contents of this publication include the theological foundations and perspectives of the natural environment, while also covering a range of crucial topics that would inspire and motivate an effective environmental ministry in parishes. We are thankful to the editor, Mr. Frederick W. Krueger, for his hard work as well as to all those who conceived this project and achieved its realization in manifold ways.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, September 1, 2011 +

BARTHOLOMEW Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch

Green Christian Leaflet

God created our beautiful planet Earth to be our home. God loves all created things, including plants, animals, insects, fungi, bacteria and the soil which nourishes everything. The United Nations estimates that three quarters of our land and two thirds of our oceans have been severely altered by human activity. If the natural world is over-exploited it may never recover.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth, including variation within species. Such genetic diversity enables species to survive in adversity, such as disease, drought and climate change. Ecology is the study of living things, together with their environment and how they interrelate. All life on Earth is part of the same ecosystem. What happens to one species affects many others.

At least 130 fruit and vegetable crops depend on insects for pollination, including almonds, apples, aubergines, beans, blueberries, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cherry, cucumber, kiwifruit, pears, peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes.

Science says… A 2019 report* by the United Nations (UN) states:

• The current high extinction rate is accelerating. 680 vertebrate species (animals, birds and fish) have been driven to extinction by humans since the 16th century. We have lost about 50% of the world’s wildlife in the past 40 years.

• Around a third of the Earth’s forested area has been lost since the start of the industrial revolution. Forests are home to millions of species. Causes of wildlife decline globally based on analysis of 3,430 populations

The climate crisis, with weather systems breaking down, will cause extinction rates to rise more quickly. Even a small temperature rise causes habitats to change and species to be under stress or to die.

Other causes of extinction are over-exploitation of natural resources – fishing, farming, forests – and pollution in water, air and land. (* Global Assessment Study, Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services, May 2019)

The Bible says… God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the Earth across the expanse of the heavens.” Genesis 1:20.

For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. Psalm 50: 10-11.

Praise the Lord from the Earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the Earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the Earth! Psalm 148:7-12.

Solomon spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. 1 Kings 4: 33-34.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Luke 12:6.

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in him, and through Him to reconcile to God all things, whether things on Earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1.19-20.

Making a Difference – at home and at church.

Tick any actions you will try.

 Pray for Creation and those who protect it, including children and adults courageously standing up to people in power. Include Creation in Church services.

 Campaign, write to MPs or supermarkets, sign petitions and join marches. Follow “green” groups on social media. Support conservation charities.

 Ensure your savings, and those of your Church, are ethically invested and are not destroying wildlife.

 Make your garden and churchyard wildlife-friendly:

Garden organically; use peat-free compost.

Create a pond – even a small wet area helps

Leave wild areas e.g. log piles and meadows

Allow plants to set seed for birds

 Help people of all ages enjoy the health benefits of outdoor spaces. For example, take Sunday School children on a nature trail; hold an outdoor Church service; go for walks in all seasons; learn to identify local wildlife and plants.

 Buy less and buy ethically: look for recycled paper and sustainably produced/recycled wood products; use less plastic and fewer household chemicals; move towards a plant-based diet. Conservation efforts can and do work: the extinction rate of birds, mammals and amphibians would have been at least 20% greater without conservation action in recent decades.

Some other Christian environmental organisations:

• A Rocha: arocha.org.uk • Operation Noah: operationnoah.org/ • John Ray Initiative: jri.org.uk/ Gardening for wildlife • RSPB: rspb.org.uk • The Wildlife Trusts: wildlifetrusts.org/actions • The Eden Project: edenproject.com

1st Sept Message from Pope Francis

“And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:25). God’s gaze, at the beginning of the Bible, rests lovingly on his creation. From habitable land to life-giving waters, from fruit-bearing trees to animals that share our common home, everything is dear in the eyes of God, who offers creation to men and women as a precious gift to be preserved.Tragically, the human response to this gift has been marked by sin, selfishness and a greedy desire to possess and exploit. Egoism and self-interest have turned creation, a place of encounter and sharing, into an arena of competition and conflict. In this way, the environment itself is endangered: something good in God’s eyes has become something to be exploited in human hands. Deterioration has increased in recent decades: constant pollution, the continued use of fossil fuels, intensive agricultural exploitation and deforestation are causing global temperatures to rise above safe levels. The increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather phenomena and the desertification of the soil are causing immense hardship for the most vulnerable among us. Melting of glaciers, scarcity of water, neglect of water basins and the considerable presence of plastic and microplastics in the oceans are equally troubling, and testify to the urgent need for interventions that can no longer be postponed. We have caused a climate emergency that gravely threatens nature and life itself, including our own.In effect, we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God (cf. Gen 1:27) and called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home. We were created not to be tyrants, but to be at the heart of a network of life made up of millions of species lovingly joined together for us by our Creator. Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation.For this reason, I strongly encourage the faithful to pray in these days that, as the result of a timely ecumenical initiative, are being celebrated as a Season of Creation. This season of increased prayer and effort on behalf of our common home begins today, 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends on 4 October, the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is an opportunity to draw closer to our brothers and sisters of the various Christian confessions. I think in particular of the Orthodox faithful, who have celebrated this Day for thirty years. In this ecological crisis affecting everyone, we should also feel close to all other men and women of good will, called to promote stewardship of the network of life of which we are part.This is the season for letting our prayer be inspired anew by closeness to nature, which spontaneously leads us to give thanks to God the Creator. Saint Bonaventure, that eloquent witness to Franciscan wisdom, said that creation is the first “book” that God opens before our eyes, so that, marvelling at its order, its variety and its beauty, we can come to love and praise its Creator (cf. Breviloquium, II, 5, 11). In this book, every creature becomes for us “a word of God” (cf. Commentarius in Librum Ecclesiastes, I, 2). In the silence of prayer, we can hear the symphony of creation calling us to abandon our self-centredness in order to feel embraced by the tender love of the Father and to share with joy the gifts we have received. We can even say that creation, as a network of life, a place of encounter with the Lord and one another, is “God’s own ‘social network’” (Audience for the Guides and Scouts of Europe, 3 August 2019). Nature inspires us to raise a song of cosmic praise to the Creator in the words of Scripture: “Bless the Lord, all things that grow on the earth, sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever” (Dan 3:76 Vg).It is also a season to reflect on our lifestyles, and how our daily decisions about food, consumption, transportation, use of water, energy and many other material goods, can often be thoughtless and harmful. Too many of us act like tyrants with regard to creation. Let us make an effort to change and to adopt more simple and respectful lifestyles! Now is the time to abandon our dependence on fossil fuels and move, quickly and decisively, towards forms of clean energy and a sustainable and circular economy. Let us also learn to listen to indigenous peoples, whose age-old wisdom can teach us how to live in a better relationship with the environment.This too is a season for undertaking prophetic actions. Many young people all over the world are making their voices heard and calling for courageous decisions. They feel let down by too many unfulfilled promises, by commitments made and then ignored for selfish interests or out of expediency. The young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down. They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now. We owe them real answers, not empty words, actions not illusions.Our prayers and appeals are directed first at raising the awareness of political and civil leaders. I think in particular of those governments that will meet in coming months to renew commitments decisive for directing the planet towards life, not death. The words that Moses proclaimed to the people as a kind of spiritual testament at the threshold of the Promised Land come to mind: “Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (Dt 3:19). We can apply those prophetic words to ourselves and to the situation of our earth. Let us choose life! Let us say “no” to consumerist greed and to the illusion of omnipotence, for these are the ways of death. Let us inaugurate farsighted processes involving responsible sacrifices today for the sake of sure prospects for life tomorrow. Let us not give in to the perverse logic of quick profit, but look instead to our common future!In this regard, the forthcoming United Nations Climate Action Summit is of particular importance. There, governments will have the responsibility of showing the political will to take drastic measures to achieve as quickly as possible zero net greenhouse gas emissions and to limit the average increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius with respect to pre-industrial levels, in accordance with the Paris Agreement goals. Next month, in October, the Amazon region, whose integrity is gravely threatened, will be the subject of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Let us take up these opportunities to respond to the cry of the poor and of our earth!Each Christian man and woman, every member of the human family, can act as a thin yet unique and indispensable thread in weaving a network of life that embraces everyone. May we feel challenged to assume, with prayer and commitment, our responsibility for the care of creation. May God, “the lover of life” (Wis 11:26), grant us the courage to do good without waiting for someone else to begin, or until it is too late.

From the Vatican, 1 September 2019

Statement on the Global Wildfires by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

In recent weeks, our planet has witnessed extreme heatwaves and expansive wildfires throughout the world—from the rain forests of the Amazon and desert regions of Africa, normally snow-covered regions such as the Arctic and Alaska to far away countries from Spain to Siberia. Month after month, we have experienced record temperatures and unprecedented heatwaves, resulting in the destruction of millions of acres and the disruption of millions of people. And the intensity of these fires and storms is progressively increasing and intensifying, mandating critical and commensurate changes on our part.  

Scientists warn us about the threat of such fires to the world’s ecosystems, which are becoming increasingly jeopardized and vulnerable. The impact of these fires could reverberate for generations, affecting soil, infrastructure, and human beings. Trees are vital for the soil, for our survival and for our soul. Trees are not simply valuable for their aesthetic beauty or commercial benefit, but essentially for our defense against climate change. Planting more trees is certainly commendable, but cutting down less trees is perhaps the most compelling response to global warming. 

While this global wildfire crisis may not entirely or exclusively be a consequence or cause of climate change, the calamitous events that the world is now experiencing undoubtedly and undeniably sound the alarm about the urgent and dire repercussions of a rising level of carbon emissions. Therefore, if nothing else, such extreme phenomena compel us to consider the fundamental fragility of nature, the limited resources of our planet, and the unique sacredness of creation.

In our Encyclical that will appear on September 1st, we outline the diverse initiatives and activities pioneered by the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the last thirty years, while observing the fundamental principles and precepts proposed by the Orthodox Church over the last twenty centuries with regard to preserving God’s creation.

We pray for all those threatened or afflicted by the fires in all corners of our world. We call all faithful and all people of good will to consider carefully how we live, what we consume, and where our priorities lie, using the words of the Divine Liturgy: “Let us pay attention! Let us stand with awe!”

At the Phanar, Saturday August 24th, 2019