Faith and religious values inform and motivate hopeful action. Intimidating global issues like deforestation, biodiversity and global warming may find practical solutions in the Ivory Tower, but often it takes faith and religious values to motivate manpower.
A Rocha, an international organization of Christian stewardship, responds to the planet’s biodiversity crisis with community-based conservation projects. A Rocha provides faith-inspired persons opportunities to learn and impact conservation. The worlds great religions have similarly motivated ecological activity for centuries. For instance, Islamic cities typically sport well-designed gardens, as faithful urban planning principles require such spaces for the well-being of the community.
From residential field study centers, A Rocha’s site-based projects povide opportunities for research, education, and ultimately wider advocacy through education. A Rocha selects sites important to the preservation of biodiversity. The centers, among other thing, monitor important ecological indicators, spearhead conservation and habitat restoration projects, foster public participation in conservation projects, conduct educational outreach. Finally, the centers provide a hands-on demonstration of Christian environmental stewardship values. People arriving as ecotourists live into a new faith experience and are empowered as children of God.
A Rocha arose from faith in a living Creator God who, loving the Creation, entrusted its care to humanity, the meaning of stewardship. Accordingly, A Rocha conducts ecological research, restores endangered habitats, and seeks to educate people of all ages, cultures, faiths, and nationalities about sustainable ecology. Understanding the Creator as ever involved in human affairs and the environment, A Rocha works to build community across cultures, faiths, and international environmental organizations.
The bird conservation project in Cruzinha, Portugal was A Rocha’s inaugural project. An open house for all, regardless of color, gender, religion, profession, or affiliation, the Center is in appearance a house, in practice a place of community and exchange of ideas and faith, in achievements a research and education institute, designed to create a more just and environmentally sustainable planet.
In 1983, Anglican clergyman Peter Harris and his wife Miranda traveled to southern Portugal to establish the center. He published two books about the experience, Under the Bright Wings (Regent College Publishing, 2000), and Kingfisher’s Fire (Monarch, 2008). Peter has indicated his greatest joy in his work at Cruzinha and other A Rocha projects is the “privilege to talk frequently about our Christian approach to conservation with many across a wide range of backgrounds.” Running an international environment sustainability organization is no easy task: Peter’s work includes meeting “with entrepreneurs, investors and conservation leaders, trying to develop ways to create jobs and wealth and improve the environment instead of exploiting it.” Sustainability has to address poverty, and Peter notes that “In poverty relief, business models are beginning to take some of the strain off philanthropy, but as conservationists we are only just beginning to exploit exciting new opportunities.”
Cruzinha center has conducted numerous single species studies, for instance, on the Kentish Plover, charadrius alexandrinus, and the Little Tern, sterna albifrons. In addition, habitat studies include the Alvor dunes, documentation of habitat destruction along ria de Alvor, which led to victory in a 2012 law suit to protect the estuary from improper development.
Perhaps, as you consider your next holiday, you could investigate educational ecotourism options around the globe, programs like what A Rocha offers to have a transformative lesson in your own ability to exercise stewardship of Creation.