‘Nature in the Balance’ Conference – March 2017

Nature in the balance. Can we put a value on the environment, and should we?

What is the value of non-human nature? Does it only have value if it is useful to humans? In the early 2000s the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment popularized a concept known as Ecosystem Services, defined as ‘the benefits people obtain from ecosystems’. Four categories of services were included: supporting; provisioning; regulating; and cultural. The Ecosystem Services framework has become the dominant thinking in nature conservation, but is highly anthropocentric, focusing on value to humans. Moreover, it encourages attempts to put monetary value on various aspects of the environment, to incentivise conservation. But are there other ways to protect nature? Does our environment have intrinsic value, and how is it valuable to God?

Our Annual Conference for 2017 was held on 18th March in Bournville, Birmingham in collaboration with ForMission College. It investigated different views on valuing nature as a means of deepening our thinking in the face of the current environmental crisis.

We began with Dr. Darren Evans explaining the Ecosystem Services concept, and then explored the theological and ethical implications of this idea with Prof. Richard Bauckham and Revd. Dave Bookless. In the seminars some of the practical outworking of environmental ethics and theology were explored in more detail, and the day concluded with a question and answer panel session involving the keynote speakers and seminar leaders. Our full programme included worship and prayer, opportunities to socialise and network, and to browse the bookstall and information stands of the partner organisations.

The keynote speaker and panel sessions were recorded and these audio files are available below

Dr Darren Evans – “Ecosystem Services – Managing nature for human benefit”

Reader in Ecology and Conservation, Newcastle University

Professor Richard Bauckham -“Why do other creatures matter?”

Biblical scholar and theologian

Revd Dave Bookless – “Biblical wisdom for nature conservation”

Director of Theology for A Rocha International

Panel Session Q&A

In addition to the keynote speakers above, the seminar leaders and themes were:

Dr Aline van Asperen – “Beyond ecosystem services – a framework for valuing the invaluable”

Rev Richard Otieno & Prof Andrew Basten – “Greening out theology – in church and at home”

Dr Deepa Senapathi & Dr Martin Kaonga – “Ecosystem functions, reflecting on the vision of Psalm 104”

Dr Yoseph Araya & Dr David Hanson – “Discussing motives for conservation with our neighbours”

Dr Sam Ewell – “Overhearing the Gospel according to permaculture: a modest proposal for finding our place in God’s good world”