British churches see bells as a peal for biodiversity

By staff writers
August 12, 2010

Church bells will ring out across Britain in September 2010, drawing attention to the vital international talks on biodiversity that month.

The 'bell alert' is part of a global initiative involving both faith and civic groups.

Bells will also toll at the United Nations headquarters in New York and Nairobi.

Bell ringers in both local churches and cathedrals or minsters are being encouraged to swing into action on 22 September, the same day that the UN General Assembly discusses, for the first time, the the world’s biodiversity crisis.

2010 has been declared UN International Year of Biodiversity (IYB).

In Britain, all the main churches are involved, as well as church-related NGOs.

The Church of England says around 6,000 of the its 16,000 churches will have a peal of bells, not including those with a single bell.

IYB in the UK is encouraging bell ringing by faith groups, schools and civic organisations from 12-2pm on 22 September.

The UN declared 2010 as IYB in recognition of the fact that, despite the formation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) following the Rio Earth Summit, targets set to stop the global loss of biodiversity by 2010 have not been met.

In October 2010, following the UN meeting, the 193 heads of state who are signatories to the Convention will meet in Nagoya in Japan to make binding agreements. The Secretariat of the Convention is encouraging the ringing of bells all over the world as an urgent ‘memo’ ahead of this meeting to rouse the world to take action to stop the loss of species.

David Shreeve, the Church of England’s national environment adviser, commented: “As Christians we believe it is important to care for God’s creation and our natural world is suffering because of our own actions."

He said: "Many of our estimated 10,000 churchyards are full with often rare biodiversity and others in towns and cities support fewer, but equally important wildlife. The church is providing protected havens right on our own doorstep.”

Dr Jill Hopkinson, the Church of England’s National Rural Officer, added: “Ringing the church bells is a great way for the wider community to be reminded and to celebrate the beauty of creation.

"Rural churches are at the heart of village life and their churchyards are part of the collective history and memory of that community. Celebrating the biodiversity of countryside and churchyard will bring a community together and ringing the bells is a very prominent way of doing it,” she said.

Dr Bob Bloomfield, co-ordinator of IYB in the United Kingdom declared: “The bell ringing will draw attention to critical negotiations taking place in Nagoya that will effect all of us for decades to come.”


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