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In Harmony with Nature: Faith communities have a role in uplifting biodiversity

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond ― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

Planting for nature: From coast to coast to coast



The decline of biodiversity worldwide is a twin crisis with climate change; as with climate, we need to act urgently to halt and reverse this trend.

But what is biodiversity? It is the variety of life on earth and its interdependence. 

Why is it important? First of all, nature has its own intrinsic value, and should be loved and respected for itself. We are part of nature, not apart from it. But what needs to be understood is that diversity makes living things adaptable--and we need all the adaptability we can get, with climate changes, fragmented ecosystems, habitat loss and destruction, diseases, and more. With loss of biodiversity comes loss of genetic diversity, which means fewer kinds in a group that can handle the changes and still thrive. With rapidly disappearing biodiversity, we are actively weakening our resiliency (including our food security). Biodiversity is the health of the planet; it is literally, life. Further, loss of nature is a loss of ourselves.

COP15, Montréal

Right now, Montréal is hosting the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an international meeting bringing together governments from around the world. The conference – going on until the 19 – focuses on protecting nature and halting its loss around the world. Participants will be setting new goals and developing an action plan for biodiversity over the next decade. 

Some scientists are proposing integrated patterns of wildlife areas and linkages so that wildlife can move throughout these and preserve genetic diversity between populations.

Because the world population will continue to grow, and since most of us will continue to live in cities, greening our urban areas and making them more friendly to nature is something that we can all do. Scientists are encouraging us to look at the peripheries of our cities, where there are opportunities to enhance biodiversity. There are especially cities that are hotspots of biodiversity and need even more focus. From the Atlas of the End of the World, “It is important to note here that although our mapping….is based on particular endangered species, 'biodiversity' does not only mean individual animals and plants; it means the complex web of life which creates a healthy and resilient ecosystem, without which, no city can survive.”

Because wildlife populations are declining so rapidly, there are even proposals from groups like Nature Needs Half to make 50% of the planet a nature reserve. 

What’s exciting and empowering is that everybody –not just our leaders– can play a role in protecting and enhancing biodiversity in their own backyards and neighbourhoods.

Greening Sacred Nature: We got this!

Across every single religion and spiritual teaching, we are taught that we must take care of the earth/creation (see our Green Rule Poster). Faith communities have an incredible opportunity to rise to the occasion by planting life-supporting habitats on their own properties. Movements like Wilder Churches that seek to find ways to increase the value of these special places for wildlife, and Sikhs planting trees in countries all across the world (Guru Nanak Sacred Forest) are spreading.

Our network is teaming with diverse faith communities who are joyfully embracing the challenge and creating gardens and planting trees. In Toronto, our GSS chapter has downtown faith groups planting pollinator gardens that not only feed and shelter bees, birds, small animals, but also refresh and delight people as oases in this urban setting, and help us to remember that we are part of something bigger. For example, Islington United is creating native plant gardens and have documented their process for others to learn from. Wellspring Worship Centre’s vision is to have an abundant food and native plants garden that invites and welcomes neighbours onto our grounds. “We want to make our space inviting and fulfilling for human beings, as well as butterflies, birds and wildlife,” they say. Read more here. You can read more blogs about the work GSSToronto is doing here.

In Kitchener, our Divest Waterloo partners collaborated with Grand River Food Forestry and worked with faith communities and a local Indigenous group to plant Food Forests. Rooted in ancient traditions of mimicking woodland ecosystems, food forests and gardens consist of diverse plantings of edible plants (fruit trees, nuts and berries, herbs), that provide year-round nutrition and medicines for Nature’s dependants--including people! Participating groups include the Jewish Temple Shalom, Westminster United Church, Community of Christ Church, Eby Street Mennonite Church and Shri Ram Dham Hindu Temple. Read about it here.

In Oakville, our collaborators, OakvilleReady have worked with faith groups to depave their properties in favour of permeable surfaces and rain gardens.

In Ottawa, in Nova Scotia, Calgary, from coast to coast to coast, our community is growing biodiversity for the planet and for people.

As COP continues, let us all think about what we can do for the planet. Winter time is a great time to start planning your garden. We have many resources, guides and inspiration to get you started. 


Two of our members with MLSMCanada team are in Montréal and will be writing a blog post after the conference. Karen Van Loon has written an in depth piece called Protect the Web of Life: People of Faith Call for Ambitious Action at UN Biodiversity Conference that you can read here.

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  • Beatrice Ekoko

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