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Thinking Nature Positive (Part2)

Agnes Richard, Darlene O’ Leary, Caroline Kiiru and Anna Johnson at the Multi-Faith pavilion.
Part 2 of a blog series about 
COP15 on Biodiversity

In December, MLSM Canada’s Agnes Richard and Karen Van Loon were in Montréal during the UN Biodiversity Conference COP15. They reflect on their experiences at COP15 and parallel events in a 5-part blog series.

Laudato Si’ and Biodiversity

I took the train to the COP15 conference in Montréal on December 9th.  Karen Van Loon, a member of the Mouvement Laudato Si’ Movement - Canada (MSLM Canada) Advisory Circle, was my travelling companion, and I was so happy to have her company. We were bringing with us an important message that she had crafted on behalf of MLSM Canada; our statement titled Urgent and ambitious action needed at COP 15.  The document was written to convey the concerns and hopes of the MLSM Canada membership, and it supported similar messages from the Joint Ecological Ministries (JEM). We intended to share with Canadian and other delegates a faith informed perspective to the biodiversity crisis as expressed by Pope Francis through his 2015 letter to the world, Laudato Si’

The plan was to arrive in Montréal, get my luggage stashed, then make my way to the conference to take care of my COVID screen, clear security, and find the Multi-Faith pavilion. The first side event I expected to participate in was scheduled for 7pm. But plans change – a common occurrence at these conferences. The event was moved forward two hours!  Since Karen did not have observer status, we said a hasty goodbye at the train station. She planned to participate in parallel events organized by Indigenous Peoples. Karen will be sharing her experiences in the fourth blog of this series.

So, I hustled over to the faith pavilion and upon arriving I was welcomed by a Hindu woman from India who showed me graphic cards designed to help people of faith talk about the six recommendations of the Multi-Faith Working Group to the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). These three struck me as perfectly aligned with the hopes of MLSM Canada.


The GBF needs to reflect the current and impending biodiversity crisis and increase ambition by addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss, in a fair and equitable way for the benefit of present and future generations and all life on earth. 

Rights-Based Approach

We believe that the framework will not and cannot succeed without the knowledge, expertise, and active participation of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) and other historically marginalized groups.

Production & Extraction

The GBF needs to better reflect and address the overwhelming impact that industrial agriculture, food systems and fossil fuel industries have in driving the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem destruction.

Meeting like-minded people

It was easy to feel at home among people who understood and spoke the language of faith inspired ecological justice! I was delighted to meet Caroline Kiiru, Biodiversity and Climate Change Campaign Manager for the Laudato Si’ Movement (LSM), Anna Johnson, North American Program Coordinator for LSM, and Darlene O’Leary, Coordinator of the Martha Justice Ministry for the Sisters of St. Martha, Antigonish (pictured above).

Stephen de Boer, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada and Agnes Richard, Coordinator of MLSM Canada.

Together, we hosted a partial screening of the Laudato Si’ film, The Letter, followed by a panel discussion about the connections between Pope Francis’ messages on the climate and biodiversity crises and the work of delegates at COP15. Our panelists were:

Stephen de Boer, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Canada International Affairs Branch.

Amy Echevarria, Co-Coordinator of the Vatican's Ecology Taskforce and Columban Missionaries JPIC.

Kamran Shezad, Director of the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, UK.

Adiza Abdul-Rafiu Mohammed, Climate, Marine & Environment Protection Advocate, Youth delegate from Ghana.

Cyrus Mageria, Multilateral Environmental Agreements Director for the government of Kenya. 

De Boer spoke of Canada’s understanding that “The role of Indigenous partners underpins our work to conserve and protect nature. Indigenous language and culture reveal important details about our local ecosystems. As such, a key to restoring our balance with nature in Canada is in close collaboration and partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.” 

Kamran Shezad reminded us that “Faith groups are now starting to rise and become active. Pope Francis, with Laudato Si’ is a leading example of this. Campaigning and advocacy is key. We must call for change and get involved in the politics of change.” 

Social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society. When we feel that God is calling us to intervene with others in these social dynamics, we should realize that this too is part of our spirituality. Laudato Si’ 231

Following the event, I took the opportunity to share the MLSM Canada statement with Stephen De Boer who promised to bring it back to the offices of MP Steven Guilbeault and fellow staff at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Delivering our message

Caroline Kiiru (right), Biodiversity and Climate Change Campaign Manager for Laudato Si' Movement, presents a petition to Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. (Grove Harris)

On Dec 12th, Caroline represented the Laudato Si’ Movement in a multi-faith meeting with Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. The MLSM Canada statement on COP 15 was one of several documents delivered, along with the Healthy Planet Healthy People petition, signed by hundreds of thousands of Catholics around the world, and a statement from the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar.

Mrema spoke of her own faith, and welcomed religious organizations becoming more engaged on biodiversity. When asked what she might want from faith groups, the Executive Secretary replied “A lot. You must take the messages you have delivered here to me back to your own faith communities and government officials. If a sheikh, an imam, or priest stands up, people listen to them. And so, you must use that power to mobilize people at the grassroots.”

With Caroline at the helm of the Laudato Si’ Movement’s Biodiversity and Climate Change campaigns the Laudato Si’ Movement is committed to bringing more programming focused on biodiversity. Our chapter in Canada will echo these efforts.

My encounters during the six days spent in Montréal left me feeling MLSM Canada was on the right track.

Watch for Part 3 of this blog series next week.

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