Faith Leader to Conservation Groups: ‘Who Needs Whom?’ on Climate

U. of Minnesota’s Momentum site explores faith and environmental issues with the leader of British secular organization working with major religions worldwide.


The head of a secular organization that helps major religions worldwide “develop their own environmental programmes, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices,” provides illuminating insights on faith-based views on environment and climate in a newly released issue of Momentum, produced by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, IOM.

Martin Palmer, secretary general of the British-based Alliance for Religions and Conservation, ARC, in an interview conducted by Greg Breining, says conservation community leaders “need to actually invite the faith side to the table and stop pretending that no one other than environmental organizations has done any work in this area.”

He speaks of a meeting in the U.S. with leading conservation leaders saying they wanted “to get the churches active on climate change.”

“I said, how long have you had a climate change unit? They said, eight years,” Palmer continued. “I said, the National Council of Churches in the United States has had a climate change unit for 20 years. So, who is needing whom?”

Palmer said most language on environmental problems is “entirely Judeo-Christian and rooted in the Book of Revelation … quasi-Biblical and apocalyptic … predicated on fear, guilt, and sin …. And most people get quite bored by it.”

Palmer in the interview also addresses how conservation organizations can learn from religion about sustainability, given that “the most sustainable — that is, enduring — of human institutions have been religious.” He also discusses how religious and scientific interests can better coordinate on common concerns.

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