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Shrinking the Footprint: Care for creation

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The Church of England’s national Environment Programme (with the strapline ‘Shrinking the Footprint’) was inspired by the General Synod’s 2005 report ‘Sharing God’s Planet’.

Christians believe the natural environment was created then entrusted to human beings by God, who commanded us to ’till and keep it’ (Genesis 2:15). So we must care for it. Others lived here before we came along; we in turn must hand it on to posterity in good order.

Moreover, we say it’s wrong to treat nature as solely for our own use. We should share the earth:

  • With poorer people in the developing world, who suffer from the selfish consumption of relatively few
  • With other creatures, who depend on the same earth for their survival.

There is a wide range of threats to the environment which we humans also depend on. This page is just a summary, setting out what we should do to help.

Climate change

The climate is changing, due to global warming caused mainly by human activity.

We think this is the most serious and urgent environmental threat we face. Time is very short; climate change is fast slipping past the point of no return. We must not be distracted from dealing with it.

See Energy and carbon, global warming and climate change.

What are ‘carbon emissions’, ‘carbon footprints’, ‘CO2‘?

‘Carbon emissions’ are ‘greenhouse gases’ (or ‘GHGs’), which we humans put into the air. Most GHGs have carbon in them.

Carbon emissions add to the greenhouse effect, which causes global warming and climate change.

Each of us is responsible for a share of these gases, each church too. This share is expressed as our ‘carbon footprint’:

  • The carbon footprint of a person or organisation means the weight of greenhouse gases that it causes to be generated each year;
  • A church’s carbon footprint comes mostly from its use of gas and electricity;
  • Our personal carbon footprint is partly from gas and electricity, partly from our food, travelling and other personal consumption.

Dealing with climate change

We should do everything to reduce our carbon emissions as far and fast as possible. See Carbon Footprint.

Operation Noah is a Christian organisation campaigning to persuade the government, industry, churches and people to take climate change seriously.

We must get to work on our churches. More than 90 of our churches have undertaken Environmental Audits. Almost one third of churches in the Diocese so far have undertaken Energy-saving Benchmarking, most recently all 24 churches in Islington.

Biodiversity loss and extinctions

Widespread habitat loss threatens the sustainability of wild species. Human over-population makes a big contribution to this problem.

See Wildlife, ecology and biodiversity.

We can all help conserve biodiversity by looking after the wildlife in our own churchyards. See:

Nitrogen and pesticides

We need to curb our nitrogen emissions too: eg from flying, as well as cars and other vehicles. This causes air pollution.

Since the Clean Air Acts in London, new toxic air pollutants, have come to the fore, especially nitrogen oxides and particulates. The struggle has to be kept up, e.g. through central London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone.

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s powerful book ‘Silent Spring’ drew attention to the dangers of uncontrolled pesticide use.

See Fertilisers and nitrogen, pesticides and pollution.

Ozone depletion

Ozone is a natural constituent of the atmosphere which protects the earth from harmful UV radiation.

The ozone layer has been depleted by CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) leaking from older fridges, air conditioning and aerosols. We should still make sure these are disposed of safely.

See Ozone depletion and CFCs.


Sustainability means the capacity to keep things going, without mortgaging the future.

The Brundtland Commission of 1987 defined sustainable development as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. See:

Sustainable building

The Diocese aims to make all its own building developments sustainable and carbon neutral.

The first fully sustainable diocesan development was the Parsonage House completed in 2011 for St John’s Church in Wembley. Several more have been built since. See:

Building maintenance and risks

The main climate risks to our buildings are storms, high winds, heavy rain and flooding.

Severe floods are becoming many times more common across the UK.

Information and guidance

For a wealth of Christian resources to help us learn about and better care for God’s creation, see Resources on the environment.

To find out more

Contact Brian Cuthbertson, Head of Environment and Sustainability.

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