Friday, March 17, 2023

Irish bishops ask parishes to put aside 30% of parish grounds 'as a haven for biodiversity'

Irish Bishop Martin Hayes from COP26 | Laudato Si' Movement

Nearly a third of parish grounds should be given over as "a haven for pollinators and biodiversity" by the end of the decade, Irish bishops have recommended.

Citing the global biodiversity crisis, the spring general meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference said providing 30% of parish grounds by 2030 was a way to "live out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork".

Parishes will be asked through their councils and diocesan trusts to identify suitable grounds for the biodiversity drive. A landmark global agreement on biodiversity was signed in December at the Cop15 summit in Montreal as the biodiversity crisis reaches a tipping point.

The most significant part of the agreement is a commitment to protect 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity by 2030. At present, around 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected.

There are currently more than 42,000 threatened species on the IUCN Red List, which stands for the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the world's biggest data inventory of vulnerable species conservation status.

Outside of the IUCN red list, as many as 7.5% to 13%, or 150,000 to 260,000, of all two million known species have already gone extinct since 1500, biologists from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris estimated last year.

Up to a million wild species are facing extinction, many within decades, a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), signed off by 193 member countries, also revealed last year.

Irish bishops said they were inspired to act by the Cop15 agreement in Montreal, as well as Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical letter, Laudato Si’, which called for action to protect the natural world and act on climate change.

The conference of bishops has received a report "on the wide range of work being undertaken by its Laudato Si’ Working Group, together with various related initiatives being undertaken at parish level across the country," they said.

They agreed to "ask parishes, through their parish pastoral councils and diocesan trusts, as a first step, to identify and care for 30% of parish grounds as a haven for pollinators and biodiversity, in order that it can be enjoyed in perpetuity by the whole community".

They added: "In embracing this initiative we encourage parishes to expand their circles of solidarity, to protect and care for biodiversity and recommend that, by 2030, 30% of church grounds be returned to nature. 

"The first goal of Laudato Si’ asks us to respond to the ‘Cry of the Earth’. In Laudato Si’, we read that this diversity of species has an intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. Each organism, as a creature of God, is good and admirable in itself’. 

"Humanity is called to care for the Earth and all of its creatures, in other words to ‘live out our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork’."

The conference said that resources will be provided to parishes to help them identify areas for biodiversity to thrive.