Co-own the first community-owned farm in Northern Ireland by 5 December!

Jonny Hanson of Jubilee, a Christian creation care organisation, explains why they’re setting up Northern Ireland’s first community-owned farm, and how to get involved.

All over the world, Christians and churches are rediscovering their mandate to care for creation. Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the subject, Laudato si, has reverberated around the planet, from shanty towns to corridors of power. In a similar vein, the World Evangelical Alliance is establishing a Sustainability Centre in Bonn, Germany.

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All over Ireland, too, Christians and churches are rediscovering their mandate to care for creation. The Church of Ireland recently voted overwhelmingly to divest their pension fund from fossil fuel investments and so help tackle the causes of climate change. Likewise, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland have just accepted a report from their Stewardship of Creation panel, adopting creation care as an official position of the denomination.

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This concern for the world around us is no mere passing fad or fancy. Rather, it is a return to the original stewardship mandate of Genesis 1 and 2, where humankind was given the privilege and responsibility of looking after the rest of God’s creation, on God’s terms. The rest of the biblical narrative also reminds us that creation care matters to God, and therefore to the outlook and mission of God’s people. In Leviticus 25 we see a society where the wellbeing of families and the wellbeing of the land were inextricably linked, and where the economic system existed to serve this end, rather than exploit it. In Colossians 1, we’re reminded of the pre-eminent role of Christ’s resurrection in restoring relationships, including with the non-human creation, ‘making peace by the blood of his cross’ (v. 23).

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The latest scientific evidence complements these age-old revealed truths, detailing how God uses creation to care for us as much as he uses us to care for creation. Physical ecosystem services, like pollination, water filtration and the climate, sustain us; without them, human life and activity could not survive on this planet. Cultural ecosystem services, like tasty food, beautiful scenery and beloved pets, delight and inspire us; without them, human life would not thrive on this planet, and our innate need for pleasure, beauty and companionship would not be fully realised.

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In light of all this, we at Jubilee exist to work with Christians and churches in Ireland and beyond to care for creation together, to the glory of God. We also work with local communities to achieve this goal, including with people of differing backgrounds and beliefs. Established in 2017 after several years of prayer, planning and consultation, we define creation care as environmental and agricultural stewardship that incorporates flourishing and fairness, welfare and wellbeing. In seeking to implement this holistic vision, our mission is to practice and promote care farming, community-supported agriculture (CSA), and conservation education and engagement.

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For the first six months of 2018, we were able to use a temporary site in the Co. Antrim port town of Larne. In that short space of time we achieved a great deal of exciting things. Over 100 volunteers attended one of our monthly community volunteer days. Almost 100 primary school-age children attended one of our curriculum-based nature education classes. Twenty-four families each purchased a subscription to our pig club and received a quarter pig’s worth of free range pork in return. And at our Bioblitz Festival of Science and Nature in June, we welcomed more than 400 members of the public to participate in a 24 hour programme of walks, talks and activities, with traditional music and a free range hog roast thrown in for good measure.

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Now, we’re raising £310,000 to purchase a small farm outside Larne, where we can bring our ambitious plans for Jubilee Farm to fruition, with organic pigs, poultry, goats and vegetables, plus an internship programme, and even “glamping” in due course. Already, we’ve raised £165,000 from existing supporters to purchase the farmhouse. Now, we need to raise £145,000 to buy the 13.5 acres of land, as well as polytunnels and other equipment, by Christmas. As a Community Benefit Society – a form of cooperative social enterprise – we’re raising this money via a community share offer, making this the first community-owned farm in Northern Ireland. Launched in Belfast on 20th October, the minimum investment in the project starts from only £50, making it the perfect Christmas present. But hurry, the share offer closes on 5 December!

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All over the world and all over Ireland, Christians and churches are rediscovering their mandate to care for creation. Please consider joining us in putting this mandate into practice at Jubilee Farm.

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Find out more about and invest in Jubilee’s community share offer at http://www.jubilee.coop/shareoffer

Irish Catholic Eco Eye

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis paints a compelling picture of the people of God together rediscovering their mandate to care for God’s world. But how are we to put this noble calling into practice? Here are three suggestions at three different levels: the individual; the parish; and the diocese or denomination.

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Cambridge’s postgraduate pioneers

With thanks to all the many people who have made this research possible…

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny’s research is profiled in this article on pioneering postgraduates at the University of Cambridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Conducting scoping interviews in the shadow of the Annapurna massif.  Photo by Prawesh Poudel

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Encounter more

A look back at the Hanson’s study trip to A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale environmental centre in the summer of 2016.

How do you sum up a summer in just a few sentences? Or how do you describe a formative experience with only words, when words, and even pictures, can only go so far? You can’t. But what you can do is sketch an outline, a few broad strokes of the literary brush that paint a rough image, or distil the basic essence, of an inspiring intercultural encounter, an encounter with myself, with others, with the rest of creation and with God. Continue reading

Tax dodging and conservation

I recently gave a talk at A Rocha Canada’s Brooksdale environmental centre on the potential links between tax dodging and conservation. The issue remains as important now as when I first wrote this blog but the precise nature of any relationships have yet to be explored empirically.

Conservationists should take note of tax dodging and its potential links to biodiversity loss, argues Jonny Hanson, although research is needed to clarify the relationships.

Source: Tax dodging and conservation

Snow leopards and sustainability

Snow Leopard Research Nepal

Jonny’s recent presentation on his research at the 17th Student Conference on Conservation Science at the University of Cambridge, 22nd – 24th March.

Presentation abstract (summary)

Given the prevalence of poverty and pastoralism across the snow leopard’s range, this talk addresses the assumptions that more diverse and resilient livelihoods, and a decentralised conservation governance model, will improve attitudes to and reduce conflict with the species. It also tests these assumptions in relation to snow leopard conservation. Using systematic sampling, a quantitative questionnaire was administered to 705 households at two sites in Nepal: Sagarmatha National Park, with a centralised governance model; and Annapurna Conservation Area, with a decentralised one. Seventy qualitative interviews were also collected for cross-methods triangulation. Regression models were the main form of analysis.

Attitudes to snow leopards were best predicted by attitudes to snow leopard conservation and numbers of livestock; with attitudes to snow leopard conservation, it was…

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