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As Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared to deliver a key speech on the environment on Tuesday, Environment Minister Michael Meacher described Christians as "partners together in one of the greatest challenges that this world has ever had to face" at a conference of Christian environmentalists in London on Saturday.

Meacher at Wesley's Chapel
In front of 300 participants at a Christian Ecology Link conference Celebration and Commitment, Mr Meacher criticized the emphasis in politics on getting richer and being better off and said that there was no point in being richer while the environment was degraded. He acknowledged that his party had not always been particularly green but concluded that the political climate was changing as people realised that it is the poor who suffer most from environmental problems.

He said
    "As a Christian Socialist I strongly welcome this celebration of the environment by Christian Ecology Link. We live in an amazing, beautifully created world, fine tuned in the most extraordinary way for the existence of living creatures. But we are destroying our inheritance in the way we behave. There is an arrogance among human beings - among Governments - who see themselves as the lords of creation as though the Earth was simply made for our benefit and for our exploitation. I don't believe that is true.

    "I think that Christian Socialism and environmentalism have very strong, shared agendas. Both are about collective solutions to collective problems... We only get the best of our environment, the best for ourselves, on the basis on shared co-operation with each other. Both are about setting limits to the market and to the power of business, and both are about delivering social justice."

    "My party has not always instinctively grasped environmentalism to its bosom. We have for far too long been a productivist party, much more concerned about production, less concerned about consumers and the wider environment. There has been a widespread view in politics over the last century that environmental damage is the prices that we have to pay for economic progress... I think that is profoundly wrong. I would be the first to say mea culpa.. The Labour page 1 of 2 Party has not always been particularly green. But I do believe that things in politics are beginning to change. People have realised that the environment is a social justice issue. We should never lose sight of the fact that it is the poor who suffer most from pollution and environmental problems.

    "The emphasis in politics for far too long has been on gross national product, on all getting richer and being better off. I'm not opposed to that. I don't think that anyone is going to block that. But that isn't what it.s all about. It's about the quality of life. There's very little point in being richer if the air you breathe is polluted... The quality of the environment are absolutely essential to what we all seek.."

Mr Meacher reaffirmed that sustainable development, "treating the world as if we intended to stay" and "holding the world in stewardship for our children", must be at the heart of policy making. He concluded by highlighting the role of Christian environmental ethics which he tried to apply both in his church and through the political process.

Another speaker, Canon Peter Challen, Chairman of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice, warned of the stranglehold of a monetary system based on debt and compounding interest.

He said
    "Debt enslavement is not just a feature of the third world countries. It also traps growing numbers of consumers in the over-developed West, tempted to spend beyond their means in order to meet excessive expectations. The result is a spiral of personal, social and environmental decay.."
The afternoon session included an Any Questions session with a panel including Friends of the Earth Director Charles Secrett (third from right), leading Methodist Leslie Griffiths (right), Professor Mary Grey (second from right) and Christian Ecology Link Chairman Tim Cooper (second from left).

The day concluded with a service in Wesley's Chapel, during which participants made pledges of specific action to take after the event to improve the environment.

Earlier in the day participants heard the black gospel choir of the Church of the Ascension, Blackheath and watched a performance by Steve Stickley of the Footprints Theatre Trust.

There was a display of banners on the theme of Creation. All the banners were of high quality. Stoke Green Baptist Church, Ipswich was awarded the first prize. (left).
Five more Churches / churchgroups were presented in person with CEL Millennium Certificates for undertaking activities that benefited the environment bringing the total number of churches to receive the certificate to 24. They were Mansfield Baptist; St John's College, Durham; St John's Park, Sheffield; Muswell Hill URC and South Norwood Baptist Church.

Several Christian environmental organisations had stalls, including the John Ray Initiative, headed by climate change expert Sir John Houghton, and Eco-Congregation, a new initiative by the Government-backed environmental awareness campaign Going for Green. This collaboration was highlighted by Christian Ecology Link Chairman Tim Cooper in presenting his Annual Report.

He said:
    " The numbers attending today and the good will between Christian organizations working to take better care of the environment reflect a growing movement within the church.."

For more information contact George Dent - 01524 36241

Click here for the original conference programme

Preparing the crab apple tree to be planted after the service

Renewable Energy Workshop                                 Water Workshop

Music Workshop

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