A Rocha's cofounders Peter and Miranda Harris were in their early thirties when they identified the collapse of the biosphere as the issue of our times and decided to give their lives to that cause. With a big vision, next to no resources, and in a context of skepticism and apathy, they and their three small children moved to Portugal in 1983 together with another family, Les and Wendy Batty, and their two daughters.
40 years later, A Rocha's commitments and character are the same, expressed in a multitude of creatively contextualised forms around the world. And the biosphere is in severe crisis. How do we live with our smallness and the scale of the problems? What part can we play in God’s restoration of the world and what can only God fix now? If you have wrestled with these questions, we are sure you will find this conversation a source of deep comfort and inspiration.
It is the poorest of this world who suffer the worst impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change. But we'd be wrong to think the vulnerable are passive in suffering and without agency or hope. This is a conversation that will leave you in awe of human resilience and the goodness of God in spite of the painful reality.
Godwin leads A Rocha Ghana’s work in the north of the country, in and around Mole National Park. The Savannah Region is a beautiful but harsh landscape and severely economically deprived. A Rocha has helped local communities see that their survival is dependent on the well-being of the entire ecosystem, and the choices they make today have consequences that will play out for better or worse in times to come. And together, they are working for a better future for all.
Do you ever find you have walked for several minutes without any awareness of your surroundings? Particularly in cities, where our senses can be overloaded, we can block out much of what is going on around us. Prarthi has always lived in urban environments so her early love of nature was fuelled by nature shows on TV rather than direct experience. But she’s learnt to be attentive, to live with a posture of curiosity and playfulness, and to learn from the book of nature. As you listen to Prarthi we think you will be inspired to do the same. We were.
Prarthi really loves amphibians and reptiles—being particularly passionate about frogs and snakes. She spent most of her student life studying these (and many other) fascinating creatures and bio-systems. Her ecological learning was made all the richer during her service within the Varsity Christian Fellowship where she grew to see that earth-keeping is something God is concerned with. She is currently a Head of Ministry with the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) Singapore. She also volunteers with A Rocha International and is co-editor of the book 'God's Gardeners: Creation Care Stories from Singapore and Malaysia', published as part of her work with Friends of A Rocha in Singapore.
Originally from Brazil, Gustavo draws on his previous experience coming from the business sector to the nonprofit world and challenges us to rethink how we measure success. Rather than continuous growth as the usual marker for achievement, Gustavo shares insights on what living out his Christian faith looks like and how that helps him redefine success. He describes a different way— the A Rocha way, which involves working with vulnerable places and communities, committing to deeper relationships, and learning that contentment is one of the fruits of wisdom. Gustavo also introduces the A Rocha Conservation Certificate and explains how this pioneering program will expand conservation opportunities beyond just science and conservation professionals, to make conservation more accessible for people in all professions and walks of life. Click here to learn more about A Rocha’s Conservation Certificate.
Gustavo H. R. Santos serves as a Co-Chair of the A Rocha Worldwide Family Strategic Direction Working Group and as Content Developer for the Conservation Certificate. Born and raised in Brazil, he merges experiences in the corporate and nonprofit sectors and currently lives at the A Rocha Brooksdale Center with his wife Andrea, and their dog, Mokha.
India has 1.4 billion people and 29 thousand elephants living in a multiple use landscape. Avinash Krishnan has dedicated over half of his life to making peace between these two populations. Now its National Director, Avinash was first a volunteer in his student days, helping with a large scale elephant counting exercise (involving dung and complex mathematical formulas!). He has seen some of his efforts make significant impact and has also experienced discouragement and great sadness, such as the time one particular elephant he'd been closely studying for nine years have an accident and die from his injuries. But he has never lost his hope or his love for the natural world, and especially Bannerghatta National Park and its people, plants and living creatures.
Many of us have felt our consciences pricked in the midst of doing something we know is harming the natural world. But few have thrown their lives into upheaval in the way Dave Bookless did having chucked a few bags of rubbish off a cliff at the end of a holiday.
Twenty five years later, everything from Dave's job to the food on his family's table had changed. He founded A Rocha UK, wrote some influential books, got a PhD, became Director of Theology and Churches for A Rocha International and has spoken to Christians from over 100 countries about God's heart for all he has made. In that time life on earth has thinned dramatically and climate conditions become much worse but Dave has seen the church change and he is hopeful - hopeful because the body of Christ is a force to be reckoned with, and because God's love and faithfulness is eternal and unchanging.
If you have never heard of GBIF (the Global Biodiversity Information Facility) you are not the only one, but after this conversation you will be glad to have discovered it. Funded by the world's governments and free to access, this global network and data infrastructure is used to inform endeavours tackling everything from farming and food security, to disease control, to habitat restoration planning and so much more.
Judith Ochieng is a Kenyan scientist who has spent the past three years coordinating a project to digitise data from four forested landscapes in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda, a partnership of 11 organisations. She speaks articulately and passionately about how the importance of information-based decision making, especially when it comes to conservation, and shares how her faith keeps her grounded and hopeful when the data so often paints a disheartening picture.
Hope is sometimes understood as a feeling of optimism, but as we all know, feelings are transitory and not a rock on which to build a life. What if we instead understood hope as a practice, an active way of living? Lebanon has a turbulent history, a troubled present and an unknown future and A Rocha Lebanon has had its own traumas, not least the death of its founders, Chris & Susanna Naylor, in a car accident in 2019. In this episode of Field Notes, A Rocha Lebanon’s new co-director Guillaume and chair of the board Nabil reflect on the small-scale but tenacious and resilient story of their work to restore a piece of communal land in the town of Mekse, once a dumping ground for burnt out Syrian tanks, for the good of all. As Nabil puts it, “We’re not a big organization. But with the Lord’s help we can do big things.”
Guillaume de Vaulx shares the role of National Director of A Rocha Lebanon with Damien Kasper. A French national, he comes from a background in academic philosophy. Nabil Shehadi is Alpha levant coordinator and became chair of the A Rocha Lebanon board in 2022.
The story of A Rocha Lebanon’s beginnings and early years is told in the book, “Postcards from the Middle East” by Chris Naylor. For more information about what is going on these days please visit www.lebanon.arocha.org
Beauty and suffering coexist in this world. There are breath-taking mountains and devastating volcanoes; healthy children and children born with acute medical challenges; birds that sing in war torn countries. How do we endure suffering and retain awareness of the beauty that surrounds us?
Christine Warner loves snails. Since surviving an encounter with a truck which by all accounts should have ended her life instantly, snails have been an inspiration. During her long, slow recovery, she has learnt to find joy through embracing life within new limitations.
This is a raw and moving conversation which we hope you will find a profound encouragement whatever your circumstances.
Christine Warner grew up in Central America during civil war and natural disasters. She is the Director for the Matthew 25 Initiative, the Anglican efforts to companion the vulnerable, marginalized, and under-resourced communities in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Christine is a trustee of A Rocha International and lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their four children.
At a time when social distancing and virtual working have become the norm, a new book invites us to rethink our connections to each other, the earth, God, and community. Co-written from A Rocha co-founder Miranda Harris and her daughter, Jo Swinney, A Rocha’s Director of Communications, A Place at the Table explores a philosophy baked into the A Rocha family since the very beginning — hospitality.
After her mother’s sudden death in a car accident in 2019, Jo was resolute in getting her mother’s words into the hands of readers. Miranda Harris’s journal entries can be seen along her daughter’s writing in A Place at the Table—her words and her life serve as inspiration for not only the book but all who met Miranda and knew her generous spirit and love of community. Pull up a chair (and a hearty appetite and some snacks) and take a seat at the table. You just might be encouraged to call an old friend for coffee, host a family dinner, or start a new culinary tradition.
Jo Swinney is a writer, speaker, editor and Director of Communications for A Rocha—the international Christian environmental conservation charity founded by her father and her late mother, Miranda Harris, who co-authors A Place At the Table. Jo is author of eight books and a regular contributor to many Christian publications in the UK and elsewhere. Jo inherited her mother’s love of hospitality, food, and the God from whom all good gifts come. She lives in Bath, UK, with her husband and two daughters and is often found reading, planning holidays and making food for friends. Jo has a BA from Birmingham University in English Literature and African Studies and an MA from Regent College, Vancouver in Theology.
How do we sustain our physical, mental and spiritual health when we are expending ourselves for justice? How can we face the reality of the world's problems and not be crushed?
Soohwan has spent much of her working life up close and personal with suffering on a scale most of us only see on a TV screen. From the Dalit of Bangladesh to the fall out of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, she's spent significant time in places and with people facing severe challenge. In an airport one day she was struck by the dead expression in the eyes of many of older fellow travellers and knew she didn't want to turn into them one day, so she quit her job and turned her attention to the task of prayer. A Rocha International is blessed to have her as its prayerful board chair.
Is peace just the absence of conflict, or is it something more?
In this episode, Stephen Ruttle QC talks to Peter and guest host Rachel about peace making and the art of having difficult conversations. As a professional mediator, Stephen has extensive experience in resolving conflict, helping sparring groups and individuals turn towards each other in search of peace.
Stephen was a practicing barrister, and latterly QC, from 1978 until 2002. Since then, he has worked full time as a Commercial Mediator. In the last 20 years, he has mediated over 1,500 cases of nearly every legal type, from both public and private sectors. As well as mediating in a commercial setting, he has also supported reconciliation efforts in other areas as well, such as in churches or for nature conservation.
Do you ever wonder if you have anything to bring to the effort to protect and restore the planet? Perhaps you feel small and insignificant considering the scale of the problems. Or you think the task requires specialist skills and experience that you lack. The truth is, all of us have something to bring. And we are all needed.
Embert Messelink began his working life as a journalist and a Christian who enjoyed birding but who didn't see how they connected. When he came across A Rocha, he understood how they all fitted together and the vision for A Rocha Netherlands was born. He stepped down as National Director after 18 years in October '21 to become a pastor, and he talks with Peter and our guest host Rachel Mander about the struggles and successes of those years and his hope for the future.
Should we really be eating Nutella? Or buying products that contain palm oil? How can - and should - consumers make environmentally-friendly choices when supply chains are so complex?
Ken speaks with Bryony and Peter about moving from the private sector to the environmental sector, his passion for the environment and the challenges of supply chains. In his professional life, Ken Yeong has worked on responsible supply chains and nature conservation. Currently, he works as Sustainability Innovation Manager at Earthworm Foundation, but previously worked in the corporate sector for Samsung, Logitech and Olympus, followed by a period at WWF-Malaysia.
Ken also co-authored a chapter of “God’s Gardeners: Creation Care Stories from Singapore and Malaysia”, available to purchase online.
The latest IPCC report was even more dire than predicted. As one of its authors, no one could accuse Rodel Lasco of burying his head in the sand. Even if he wanted to, living in the Philippines where the changing climate now causes thousands of deaths annually, reality would have confronted him with the painful truth. And yet, in this extraordinary conversation, Rodel's deep faith and peace are palpable. If you are in need of reassurance and comfort, look no further.
Dr Rodel D. Lasco is a trustee of A Rocha International. He has almost 40 years of experience in natural resources and environmental research, conservation, education and development. His work has focused on issues related to natural resources conservation, climate change and land degradation. He is an author of several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is the 2007 co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) in the Philippines. He is the Executive Director of the Oscar M Lopez Center, a private foundation whose mission is to promote action research on climate adaptation and disasters risk reduction. Concurrently, he is a senior scientist of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), a center devoted to promoting “trees on farms”. He is an affiliate professor at the University of the Philippines
The Israelites in exile wondered how they could sing (Psalm 137:4); in our current dire situation, you may wonder what good it does to write songs. Bryony and Peter talk to a dear A Rocha friend, Sandra McCracken, about how her music has come to be her contribution to the 'renewal of all things' God is working out in and through each of us, whether artists, scientists, activists or peacemakers.
Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter and hymn writer from Nashville, Tennessee. A prolific recording artist, Sandra has produced 14 solo albums over two decades. Her best selling release, Psalms (2015) received critical acclaim, followed by God’s Highway (2017) which made the top 50 on Billboard Heatseekers chart without a major label.
Blending the old and new, Sandra has also shown a unique ability to recast sacred scripture texts into theologically rich yet accessible songs. Her thoughtful lyrics and gospel melodies in songs like “We Will Feast In The House Of Zion,” “Steadfast" and “Thy Mercy My God” have become staple anthems in churches across the U.S. As a published writer, she contributes a regular column in Christianity Today and released her first book "Send Out Your Light" in September 2021.
Are people always bad news for nature? And is there anywhere we haven't had an impact?
Dr Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel is a Senior Research Scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, and Senior Advisor for the Regional Hub South America of the Wyss Academy for Nature. She has a long history with A Rocha, having first met Peter aged 11!
Now in her 40s, Sarah-Lan has had an impressive career in the fields of sustainable development, natural resource management and conservation. One of her particular passions in ethnobiology – the study of different societies and their relationship to nature.
An excellent communicator, she speaks with clarity and wisdom about the way ahead of nature, about the transformation of Indigenous knowledge, and how societies respond to nature in the 21st century.
In our increasingly globalized and interconnected world, the question ‘where are you from?’ is, for so many of us, difficult to answer. In the 21st century, our connection to a place and land as ‘home’ are radically different to any other time in human history.
Cheryl Bear is from Nadleh Whut’en First Nation and is well-known as an important and respected voice on behalf of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. She is an Associate Professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, where she currently lives. She is also a multi-award winning singer/songwriter who shares stories of Indigenous life through story and song.
In this thoughtful interview, Cheryl shares from her experience as an Indigenous woman about the role that the land and nature play in her understanding of home.
Have you ever felt as though your life is racing past at a breath-taking speed, or that every space is filled by electronic, fast-paced noise? Those living with trauma often testify to the healing impact of nature and the stillness that can be experienced in the great outdoors, yet we avoid it and worse - collude in its destruction.
Mako is a leading contemporary painter whose "slow art" the New York Times called a "rebellion against the quickening of time." As a Master of the Japanese art form Nihonga, he has steeped himself in the history of 16th century Japan where this style originated, and in the traumatic and widespread persecution of Christians at that time. He leant his expertise to Martin Scorsese for the filmed adaptation of Shūsaku Endō's novel, 'Silence' and his own book, 'Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering" explores how the Christian Faith can survive in a hostile culture and amidst even the most terrible suffering.
In this thought-provoking and moving conversation, Mako talks with Bryony and Peter about his calling to create generative art that brings life and invites people to enter the great silence where God may be heard and their suffering held.
What is it that motivates us - people of faith or none - to care for the planet? And why are conservationists so reluctant to admit their beliefs and values?
Darren Evans is Professor of Ecology and Conservation at Newcastle University, his research earning him the nickname 'Dr Duck.' He leads a research group examining the impacts of environmental change on foodwebs, especially in forestry and farmland, with a focus on mitigation and restoration strategies. He enjoys working at the science-faith interface and regularly speaks on the biblical basis for nature conservation. Darren first volunteered for A Rocha as a teenager and remains a good friend and valued advisor to us.
He talks to Peter and guest host Dan Nolloth about the underlying motivations for working in conservation, the intrinsic spirituality of caring for the planet, and the restoration of relationships between God, his people, and his land.
For all the good work now being done to address the environmental crisis, why do we not see more impact? Why do things seem to be going from bad to worse and what can be done?
Jyoti Banerjee is co-founder of North Star Transition which aims to accelerate systemic change with the goal of increasing the impact of global efforts to halt climate change and biodiversity loss. He was part of the team that created the Integrated Reporting movement globally. He has been an impact investor for two decades and used to be an entrepreneur in the tech sector. He taught technology entrepreneurship at Said Business School, University of Oxford. He grew up in New Delhi and lives in London.
How do we keep going after trauma and tragedy? How can we avoid becoming overwhelmed and despairing in the face of the environmental catastrophe unfolding before our very eyes?
Ruth Padilla DeBorst is a renowned Latin American theologian based in Costa Rica, where she lives in Casa Adobe, an intentional community committed to living as good neighbours in right relation with people and the rest of creation. She is a long-time friend and former trustee of A Rocha International.
In this profoundly moving conversation with Peter and Bryony, she talks about how a terrible personal tragedy 24 years ago brought her to a new understanding of God's compassion for our suffering and the importance of honest lament.
Is nature intrinsically valuable? Or should we only value nature that benefits humanity?
Trained as a Chartered Management Account with an MBA in International Business, Seth Appiah-Kubi hasn't come from a conservation background. However, his background in finance and subsequent work in securing natural resources shows the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in caring for creation. We need scientists, but we also need economists, politicians and a wealth of other professions to understand the importance of nature.
In this episode, Seth talks with Bryony and Peter about the work of A Rocha Ghana in the race to protect the Atewa Forest from Bauxite mining. In a country where roughly 70% of the population are Christians, he also knows more than most about how the teaching of the church can impact a population. He speaks with wisdom about the challenges facing the Atewa Forest and Ghana, but also with a real sense of hope.
Are human livelihoods more important than nature?
Dr Deepa Senapathi is Senior Research Fellow in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, at the University of Reading, UK, and also serves on A Rocha International’s Conservation Science Advisory Council. Deepa was born and grew up in Chennai, India, before further studies and research based in the UK. Her research has focused on critically endangered bird populations in Mauritius and India and, more recently, on insect pollinator communities in Britain and India.
She speaks with Bryony and Peter about the importance of balancing the needs of nature with the needs of humanity, the challenges this creates and why she remains hopeful for the future.
The Dakatcha Woodland is facing a crisis. It is among the ten most threatened forest hotspots in the world, located 150km north of Mombasa in the south of Kenya. It is home to a number of rare species, but is threatened by an unprecedented rush of people purchasing land for agriculture and, in particular, pineapple farming and charcoal burning.
Colin Jackson, Director of A Rocha Kenya, founded the organisation in 1999 after working with A Rocha Portugal for three and half years. He speaks with Bryony and Peter about the importance of the Dakatcha Woodland, how climate change has altered the Kenya landscape, and the race to purchase land.