By Elizabeth Uwandu
Martin Palmer, guest speaker, at the 17th Chief S.L Edu memorial lecture held last week in Lagos, stated that for the world and indeed Nigeria to preserve her natural habitats from extinction, the involvement of religious bodies were key.
The event organised by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation NCF, and sponsored by Chevron Nigeria Limited and the family of the late Chief S. L Edu had the theme “A Quiet Revolution- Faith and the Environment”.
Mr. Palmer, Secretary General, Alliance of Religions & Conservation ARC, explained that going by the fact that over 80 per cent of the world’s population belongs to one of the world’s major religions, and that in many parts of the world, religious leaders are trusted more than politicians , Non governmental organisations NGOs , the United Nations, or any other outsider body , there is need to engage faith based bodies who are guided by values and teachings rooted in a vision of the place of humans within nature.
According to him, “Conservationists constantly talk about sustainability. Yet, the conservation/ environment movement has , for most of its short life span largely shunned the oldest, most sustainable , powerful and nature-value-driven groups in the world such as religions.
“ However, religion has become the largest civil society force working to protect the planet. But to reach this new level of engagement by the faiths, we have to explore different ways of reawakening or helping traditions to understand the power they have to protect nature”.
Mr. Palmer who has been a Religious Adviser on the environment to the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip since 1985 and is the longest serving member of Prince Philip’s team asserted that faiths hold the keys not just to the past but also to the present and the future, adding that they are the major landowners. 80 per cent of habitable land is owned by them, and they are the fourth largest investing group in the world.
Explaining the benefits of involving religious organisations in the sustainability of the Eco-system, the guest speaker noted that not only has the UN recognised the impact of the group in the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, also religious bodies have recorded success in the business of religion.
President, Board of Trustees, NCF, Philip Asiodu, while making his remark said “One of our major advocacy tools is the annual Chief S. L. Edu Memorial Lecture put in place to honour our Founder, the late Chief Shafi Lawal Edu, who was committed to the cause of conservation, an obscure subject at the time. He collaborated with friends to establish NCF. NCF has since grown to command the attention of both the Federal and State Governments, corporate organisations, notable Nigerians, students and the media.
“The occasion of this lecture also serves as the platform for the presentation of awards to the two grantees of the Chief S. L. Edu Memorial Research Grant for PhD studies. The two winning proposals were chosen out of 57 research proposals received from all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. Chevron Nigeria Limited has sponsored, the Research Grants for many years, thereby tremendously strengthening research in biodiversity conservation in Nigeria by building the capacity of young conservation professionals”, Asiodu said.
In his remarks, Chairman, National Executive Council, NCF, Chief Ede dafinone, said the Chief S. L. Edu Memorial Lecture is a policy advocacy tool being used by NCF to raise awareness on salient environment issues affecting Nigeria and Nigerians.
Dafinone added that the Lecture not only identifies the problems but seeks to proffer solutions to these problems for policy makers to consider. It also stirs up discussions in the media and the society to join in the crusade for the conservation of nature.
According to him, “This year’s topic; A Quiet Revolution – Faith and the Environment, is particularly relevant in view of the unrelenting increase of carbon monoxide pollution into the earth’s atmosphere that is provoking unprecedented climate change which has been described as the existential threat of all time.
“Every year since its creation, NCF has committed itself to conservation projects, programmes, activities, advocacy and has recorded lots of incredible achievements. For instance, last year, the Foundation held an advocacy campaign for coastal communities along Lekki-Lagos axis to raise awareness on the increasing challenges of coastal erosion along the shoreline; organised annual teachers training and inauguration of school conservation clubs to promote environmental education among school children; inducted into the governing council of the National Forestry Trust Fund to address the issues of funding reforestation and sustainable forest management; commemorated environment days to raise awareness and canvass for affirmative actions and many more”.