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Planet with a heart and a planet

A faith-based approach to creation care

James Whitehead James Whitehead
3 min

What does stewarding our planet well mean for us as Christians? How can we use our generosity to help create positive change? 

These were among the questions raised at the event that we hosted with International Tree Foundation in October 2023. Here, their CEO reflects on the key takeaways from that discussion.

"It was only a few weeks ago that I was part of an excellent panel discussion hosted by Stewardship in London to discuss creation care and the climate crisis. How would I describe the overall feeling of the event? Perhaps as a mixture of urgency and hope.

Panellists at Stewardship's discussion on creation care and the climate crisis

Image from left to right: Jo Swinney from A Rocha, Richard Elliot from Pickwell Foundation, Joanne Green from Tearfund, James Whitehead from The International Tree Foundation, Janie Oliver, new Stewardship CEO  Copyright: Stewardship

The urgent need to reach net zero

When we met together in London, Richard Elliot from the Pickwell Foundation spoke of the need for us all to move five times faster in our efforts to decarbonise, if we are to avoid the worst excesses of a warming planet. The urgency is clearer than ever in the data, and those of us who’ve visited countries that are feeling the brunt of it, as I did in Uganda this year, have seen the worrying consequences with our own eyes.

Listening to Jo Swinney from A Rocha, I was struck by how her faith and theology incorporate such a deep respect, reverence and love for God’s wonderful creation. As she said, the best motivator for action is love (rather than fear or guilt). When you know and love something, you are compelled to care for it.

Joanne Green from Tearfund spoke of the study resources that they are developing to help Christians consider what the Bible says about the ‘restorative revolution’. God’s church can be a potent force in history. In another century, Christians played a major role in the abolition of slavery. Churches were also at the vanguard in the Jubilee Debt campaign – together we are positive changemakers.

As I shared, there are no silver bullets. The International Tree Foundation, where I work, is deeply committed to working with local communities, predominantly in Africa, to plant trees, restore forests and rebuild livelihoods. We see amazing results that address the climate crisis and work alongside those most affected by it. But it is only one part of the solution – together we need to care, to love and to act at many different levels to bend the course of history.

...perhaps the simple answer is to kindle the fire of love for our breath-taking planet and to do anything, something, out of that love!

Hope for our planet

We all have different talents so we must all choose our own course. But perhaps the simple answer is to kindle the fire of love for our breath-taking planet and to do anything, something, out of that love!

I am writing this from the sweltering COP 28 climate conference in Dubai, seeing the rush of delegates, the swirl of meetings and announcements happening around me, and I’m reflecting on the thought-provoking conversations we had at Stewardship.

In this season of Advent, dare we hope? I have flickers of hope from some of the announcements made by governments at this year's COP, but also deep concerns that we’re not moving fast enough. The brighter light of hope comes from my belief in a God who intervenes, through us, in history and who, through the prophets, has spoken of the reconciliation of humanity with nature. From the Light, born in Bethlehem, who prayed ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. Let us join in that familiar prayer and live out those words in loving action!"

Charities caring for our creation

If you want to support charities working in this area, including International Tree Foundation, follow the link below. 

Visit the Creation Care Cause



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Profile image of James Whitehead
Written by

James Whitehead

James has been CEO of International Tree Foundation since October 2022. James has twenty years’ experience in development and environmental work bridging community-led local action and international policy across multiple regions. He has had a number of high level roles in the third sector and is passionate about advancing social justice while addressing climate change. His favourite tree is the Common Oak!