Flows of Life: The Delta of the Nile and Africa

under the patronage of

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
HE Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
HE Mr José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission 


Part One:
Religion, Science & Environment 

a. Introduction
b. Symposium Process
c. Outcomes

Part Two:
Flows of Life: The Delta of the Nile and Africa

a. Summary
b. Proposed Itinerary
c. Honorary Committee for Symposium VIII
d. Proposed Programme
e. Proposed Discussion Groups
f. Religious and Scientific Committee 

a. Introduction

Water or the absence of water dominates all life in Africa. Water comes as lakes alive with fish, as streams supplying fields and villages, as huge river deltas whose overflow fertilises the landscape with silt. But water has always been a potential destroyer too, when seasonal rains fail and spread starvation, or when floods bring death and poverty to thousands.

Now global warming and human interference with ecosystems have brought a new quality of threat to Africa’s water and all who depend on it. Pasture land gives way to desert at an accelerating pace. Lake levels fall, animal and bird migrations change, fish stocks dwindle. River waters grow polluted and aquifers are drained for ‘development’. The predicted rise in ocean levels threatens to submerge Africa’s coastal cities (including Alexandria). Gigantic conurbations discharge untreated waste far beyond the capacity of the environment to absorb. High dams on major rivers block the natural supply of silt to downstream communities.

The last two RSE symposia visited the Amazon Basin and the Arctic coast of Greenland. In both regions, the main implications of climate change are global rather than local. The melting of the Greenland ice cap would lead to a steep rise in ocean levels and temperatures; the destruction of the Amazon rain forests would disrupt the whole global circulation of air and water, the climate of the world.

Africa might seem, then, to be a sufferer rather than a source of global warming. But it is wrong to see Africa as a ‘victim’ continent. Ecological disaster there – in the rainforest belt, for example – could mortally damage the global ecosystem. And on the positive side, this is a place of enormous energy and resilience. Africa can save its waters and its environment, given stability and reliable help. To that hope, this Africa Symposium will bear witness. 

b. The Symposium Process

Underlying RSE’s strategies is a core belief that the analytical tools of science and the spiritual messages of religion must work in harmony if the earth’s environment is to be safeguarded. The symposia take place afloat, bringing participants – international and regional religious leaders, scientists, environmentalists, policy makers, media representatives and other prominent figures in politics and business – directly to endangered bodies of water.

Policy and planning for the symposia are developed by the Religious and Scientific Committee composed of senior international figures from religion and science, under the chairmanship of The Most Revd Metropolitan John of Pergamon. Representatives from countries relevant to each Symposium are also part of the organising committee. Previous symposia have been attended by heads of state, environmental ministers, ministers of economic affairs and prominent intellectual figures.

Symposia participants live and work together over the course of intensive meetings in a number of forums, including formal plenary and informal briefing sessions. During these sessions, speakers present their views on various environmental and ethical themes involving the body of water on which the symposium is focused.

In addition, and equally significant, participants visit sites of key environmental importance, where they are able to discuss specific issues with local experts.

One of the key aims of the symposia is to enable its participants to bond together and develop networks that will serve as bases for future action. To facilitate this interaction, RSE convenes workshop sessions throughout the symposia that are designed to engage participants in dialogues about the body of water under study, its environmental needs, and the resources and actions that might be brought to bear in the years ahead. These workshops draw on the enormous diversity of skills and experiences offered by symposia participants and have yielded a variety of valuable proposals for continued action.

c. Outcomes

Many of the benefits of bringing together representatives of various professions are intangible and derive from the new bonds and working relationships established during the course of the symposia. A number of significant outcomes, however, have resulted directly from prior symposia.

- Communications

An integral part of the symposia is the participation of international and regional journalists. In addition to providing an important critical perspective on the issues raised by the symposia, media participation enables the various messages to reach a broad audience.

The symposia have been the subject of extensive media coverage:

Hundreds of articles have appeared in print media, amongst others The Financial Times; The Economist; The New York Times; The International Herald Tribune; The Guardian; The Observer; newspapers subscribing to the Associated Press, Agence France Presse, DPA, and the Catholic News Service; and scores of major and local newspapers and periodicals.

Many major television and radio stations have covered the symposia during their visits to the various countries, creating special programmes or segments on e.g. The BBC World Service, Al Jazeera (English & Arabic), CNN Türk, ERT Greece, ORF Austria, Bulgaria National Television, TV GLOBO, Vatican TV & Radio, SKAI Greece. Two documentary crews from Canada, two Greek television stations, the Vatican Television station and crews shooting environmental documentaries have all travelled with the symposia. Television stations subscribing to the European Broadcast Union (EBU) throughout Europe, and their affiliates around the world, have used video news releases that were produced by RSE during the symposia.

The Religion, Science and the Environment website is: www.rsesymposia.org

- Programmatic Developments

In addition to communicating to a wider audience the issues related to protecting and improving the environment, the symposia have enabled the formation of new strategic partnerships and the strengthening of existing ones. These partnerships have provided the basis for broadened environmental protection activity. These include seeding networks of concerned people around seas or along rivers – school pupils, teachers, journalists, theological students – who establish and maintain contact in campaigns to spread awareness of the plight of their waters.

The symposia introduce new ideas and provide broadened horizons for consideration of the many different areas of work and interest. They also offer the opportunity for participants to establish an efficient networking scheme that enables new ideas, collaborations and projects to emerge. Another facet of the symposia is the direct setting of the discussed issues in their physical and cultural context, through special visits and the involvement of the local community. The spiritual message carried by the religious leaders taking part has provided enduring inspiration and encouragement in the valuable work of environmental preservation.


a. Summary

The Place: Delta of the Nile

The Time: 28th April - 5th May 2009 POSTPONED TO 2010

The People:  Two hundred and twenty participants – theologians, scientists, policy makers, environmentalists, representatives of business and NGOs, and the media – under the patronage of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch. Shore visits and on-board plenaries will include many distinguished individuals and some 80 members of the international media.

The Purpose: The purpose of this symposium is to study and discuss the challenge of global warming to Africa, and in particular to the Nile Delta. We mean to emphasize how climate change is world-wide, with every global region affecting all the others. Just as change in Amazonia accelerates change in Greenland, so the rapidly-melting Arctic ice threatens the Nile Delta and its peoples. About 77 per cent of the world’s fresh water is locked into the polar ice. A possible rise of only 2.7 degrees in average air temperature could set off an irreversible process, leading to rising sea levels. This would have devastating consequences, not only for small island states but for low-lying coastal countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Egypt, the Netherlands and parts of the United States.



b. Proposed Itinerary
Postponed to 2010.  

c. Proposed Honorary Committee for Symposium VIII

Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi
Grand Imam of Al Azhar
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal
of Jordan
His Beatitude Theodoros II
Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa
HE Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of Liberia
His Beatitude Shenouda III
Pope and Patriarch of the
Coptic Church of Alexandria
HE Mr Nelson Mandela
Former President of South Africa
His Beatitude Abune Paulos
Patriarch of Ethiopia

HE Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Former UN Secretary General,
Director of the Egyptian National Council
of Human Rights
His Beatitude Ieronimos II
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece
HE Mr Kofi Annan
Former UN Secretary General,
Chair of Africa Progress Panel
His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze
Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments
HE Mr Joaquim Alberto Chissano
Former President of Mozambique

The Most Revd Archbishop Desmond Tutu Mr Achim Steiner
Executive Director of UNEP
Sheikh Ali Goma
Mufti of Egypt
Mr Yvo de Boer
Executive Secretary of UNFCCC

His Eminence Damianos
Archbishop of Sinai

Dr Wangari Maathai
Founder, The Green Belt Movement International
The Revd Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary of the
World Council of Churches

Professor Mostafa K. Tolba
Former Executive Director of UNEP

Chief Emeka Anyaoku
Former Commonwealth Secretary-General,
President of WWF International

Mrs Marianna Vardinoyanni
UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador 

Her Excellency Mrs Suzanne Mubarak
First Lady of Egypt
Honorary Chairperson and opening speaker



d. Proposed Programme

Opening Ceremony at the Library of Alexandria:
Welcome and Statement by HE Mrs Suzanne Mubarak
Introductory Statement by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Closing Statement by Dr Ismail Serageldin

1st Plenary:
Deltas under the threat of rising sea levels

A delta is at once the richest and the most vulnerable part of a river. This is true both in terms of a water biosphere, and in terms of the use offshore that human populations make of river deltas. The delta is the flower or blossom of a river, where a narrow water flow proliferates into countless and multicolored forms of natural growth. Here many different ecospheres intersect, in seasonal rhythms, and in effect fertilize each other in the manner of bees exploiting a flowering bush.

In human terms, deltas tend to carry large and exceptionally dense populations. It follows that climate change through global warming will lead to major disturbances of delta ecology. For example, a permanent rise in the adjacent sea level, or temporary flooding, carries catastrophic human consequences: huge loss of life, and/or displacement of populations which may become permanently homeless.

Deltas fulfil a number of functions which are vital to the biosphere and to human ecology. These include silt deposit, which accounts not only for the exceptional fertility of delta soils, but provides rich nutrients above all for species of breeding fish. Deltas (the Danube provides a well-known example) are probably the richest concentrations of biodiversity on earth.

Deltas, like other wetlands, can absorb, dilute, and sometimes neutralise harmful deposits carried downstream. Among other benefits, this protects the life systems in the shallow seas offshore, close to the delta. A second filter function is the way that river deltas can absorb or mitigate sudden exceptional water flows: storm surges or rain-caused flooding. A Mississippi river in better condition might have headed off some of the damage caused by the Katrina hurricane.

Deltas also have great biological and ecological significance as interfaces between fresh and marine/saltwater systems. Global warming and the degeneration of deltas will see this interface moving rapidly inland, ending another ancient function of river deltas: the creation of new land out of silt and mud deposited at the outer rim of the delta fan.

Deltas of great rivers often have an international personality. They present human political institutions with difficult choices. Just as river lines are frequently used as apparently permanent and unchallengeable demarcations between states or regions, so the same attempt at demarcation is often applied to deltas. This often leads to absurd situations in which one ‘frontier’ channel silts up and a nation-state demands ‘sovereignty’ over channels which are essentially changing and impermanent.

The anthropogenic threats of river deltas are mainly three. The first is massive deposit of downstream toxic materials, which undermines the organic structures of the delta. The second is the expedient, tempting in countries with soaring urban populations, of draining large sections of a delta and putting its rich soils under industrialised agriculture for food production. The third threat is the indirect problems created by large-scale upstream dams. These have several powerful and negative consequences. The first is to reduce or abolish the seasonal flow and deposit of silt through delta flooding, a process which is the very life-rhythm of a delta. This rapidly reduces soil fertility, and can lead to progressive depopulation. The second malign outcome is to accelerate river flows, thus increasing scour and bringing material downstream at a rate which may overwhelm the delta’s absorbent ‘filter’ capacity. The last negative effect is on the ecosphere, not only of the delta itself but of the whole region. High dams make it impossible for ‘anadromous’ fish species (salmon, sturgeon etc) to run upstream to breed, with a disastrous impact on biodiversity and on local and regional fisheries.

The local issues concerning the Nile Delta involve the predicted sea level rise associated with climate change, which would have dramatic consequences on the area. Much of the Delta would be submerged, spelling the loss of Egypt’s main food-producing region and its agricultural land. Also, parts of Alexandria would be submerged, leading to the migration of huge numbers of Delta population, possibly numbering up to 6.5 million.

Many measures are being taken by the Egyptian authorities to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the Delta, and on Egypt generally. The future of the Delta as an ecosystem is in the balance.

The Nile River – film by Jacques Cousteau


Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. He laid out a plan of the city, but it was actually built by his successors, the Ptolemies. It was famous throughout the ancient world for the Library of Alexandria and the massive lighthouse just offshore, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Alexandria was the seat of power for the last of the Pharaohs, Cleopatra, as well as being one of the primary intellectual and scientific centres of the world for centuries. 

St Mark the Evangelist brought Christianity to Alexandria in the middle of the first century AD, where much early theology was discussed. 

In 641 AD, Egypt was conquered by Amr Ibn El-Aas, bringing Islam and founding a new capital, near what would become Cairo. The city continued its decline, shrinking as contact with the Mediterranean world receded. Dwindling throughout the Crusades, and finally, with the discovery of a sea route to India at the end of the fifteenth century, the city was reduced to just a few thousand inhabitants.

Passing through French, and then British hands, the city was reborn at last in the 1820s with the changes created by Muhammad Ali. He built the Mahmoudiya canal, making Alexandria into the seaport of the Nile. The city was revived with increased trade, as all produce of the fertile delta came through the port. To lure Europeans, he exempted them from taxes, granting land in the centre of the city, along with other incentives. The city grew again as people from all over the world came and settled. Different cultures retained their customs and respected those of others. It was a city without nationality; people came from everywhere and made the city their own. 

In 1882, a riot erupted and 400 Europeans were massacred. British forces arrived soon after and proceeded to occupy the country. Alexandria continued to prosper under the occupation. The city acted as the main naval base for Allied force in the Eastern Mediterranean in World War I, and was the scene of one of the turning points for the Allies in World War II. By this time, nationalist forces were growing in power as popularity of the monarchy declined. The Egyptian Revolution occurred in 1952. In the post-revolutionary period, foreign-owned banks, insurance companies and some manufacturers were nationalised, and all foreign agencies were forced to change to Egyptian ownership. These actions decimated the international community that had dominated Alexandria for so long. 

Today Alexandria remains Egypt's leading port and an important industrial centre with a population of about four million. 

2nd Plenary:
Renewable Energy

Using a change in energy production methods as an opportunity to redefine personal and common values, technology can be combined with the will to create alternative energy systems that benefit everyone.

Current energy systems based on fossil fuels benefit few and are directly harmful to many. Alternative energy sources (solar, wind, wave, etc.) are by their nature common. They inherently suggest a more cooperative attitude towards energy production and use.

The deserts of North Africa hold the potential for enormous amounts of power, thousands of times more than are needed regionally. If that solar energy were properly harnessed, it could not only supply current energy demands for many nations, but also power desalination plants on many coasts to alleviate global water shortages.

This plenary will address the possibilities of implementing both large and small scale energy plants, according to the available resources of particular regions. For countries with capital and stable infrastructure, large scale systems create substantial amounts of power from a renewable source while simultaneously fostering positive international relations. Stability and security will result from the abundance of energy, without the negative effects of environmental degradation.

Small scale systems generate independence for rural areas, eliminating reliance on unstable, overstrained, or nonexistent centralized services. There are tremendous opportunities to apply renewable energy technologies to benefit the rural areas of Africa, India, China, and Latin America. Modular units could bring electricity to homes, schools, and hospitals; with health benefits through the decrease of bio-mass burning, and increased education opportunities created. If micro-finance assistance programs were created, villages all over the globe could implement renewable energy sources.

The general condition of weak economic development provides an opportunity for ‘leaps of progress’ in renewable energy and modern communications, bypassing interim stages experienced by other parts of the world. These efforts not only help local people, but can have a noticeable impact on emissions responsible for global climate change. Africa is well positioned for a significant transformation, with benefits not only for local communities, but the entire world.

There are exciting examples from sub-Saharan Africa, India, and other developing areas that can teach us about these promising improvements as well as a growing body of research and analysis of their economic, sociological and political dimensions.

Just as the problems of the current fuel production/consumption system have infiltrated many other aspects of our lives through global warming and climate change, the beneficial implications of these new energy systems would be enormous and far-reaching. 

Land Visit: St Catherine’s Monastery at Mt Sinai

The Monastery of St Catherine is located next to the Holy Mountain, where God spoke to Moses and received the Ten Commandments. It is a sacred site for Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

The building began as a small church ordered to be built by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine in 330 AD on what is believed to be the site of the Burning Bush. As it is written in the Old Testament of the Bible, Moses saw a bush on fire without being burnt, in which God manifested himself.

In 527 AD, Justinian ordered the monastery to be built to honour the site and protect the monks of the area. Inside large surrounding walls, a grand basilica was constructed, decorated with a mosaic. In 1100 AD, during the Fatimid Caliphate, a small mosque was built within the walls.

Until the time of the Crusades, the monastery received few pilgrims. But as the cult of St Catherine spread through Europe, the monastery became one of most important sites of pilgrimage for Christians.

The monastery has avoided damage and destruction despite centuries of power changing hands. It was granted protection by decrees from Mohammed, Sultan Selim I and Napoleon.

The monastery took its name from St Catharine, whose body is said to have been transported by angels to the summit of the mountain and then disappeared. The body reappeared and was buried by the monks inside the monastery where it remains.

Today, the Monastery of St Catherine’s remains a crucial pilgrimage site. It has the second largest library of illuminated manuscripts in the world. The monastery also houses the most important collection of early icons, the earliest dating possibly as far back as the 5th century.

Nile Delta
Land Visit: Environmental visit to the area of the Nile Delta

3rd Plenary:
Climate Change and Africa: Land and Biodiversity

Dryland ecosystems constitute 41.3% of earth surface area and are highly vulnerable to land degradation. Drylands support the livelihood of over 2 billion (1/3 of the world population - 2000) in over 110 countries. 70% of Africa depends directly on such systems for their daily livelihoods.

Drylands have great biological value and are home to many of the world’s food crops and livestock (rangelands support about 50% of the world’s livestock - cattle, buffalo, sheep, and goat: FAO 2001).

It is estimated that over 3.6 billion hectares (25% of earth’s land) are affected by land degradation, including many of the least developed countries in Africa and other regions. The global economic cost of land degradation was estimated by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification at 52 billion dollars per year (UNCCD, 2002).

Drylands ecosystems have developed unique strategies to cope with harsh climatic conditions. They are highly resilient and can recover quickly from disturbances like fires, limited rainfall and drought. However, these ecosystems as well as other natural ecosystems become fragile when they are abused by humans. Over-exploitation of resources driven by high demand due to population increase, coupled with inappropriate agricultural practices and poor management, are key drivers for land degradation and biodiversity loss. This situation is exacerbated by climate change, a mainly man-made global problem.

4th Plenary:
Climate Change and Africa: Water

Water is an element that binds and connects diverse ecosystems and peoples. It is also an element that will be greatly affected by climate change which will in turn directly affect the ability of people in Africa to draw on the water resources necessary to maintain agriculture and important ecosystems. Freshwater is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, ensure development and the ecosystems upon which we depend. Former UN Secretary-General Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali once commented: ‘The next war in our region will be over the waters of the Nile, not politics.’

Global water resources are estimated at 1.4 billion Km3, only 2.5% of which is freshwater, unevenly distributed. 68.9% of freshwater resources are in the form of ice and permanent snow, 30.8% in the form of ground water including soil moisture/ swamps/permafrost, and 0.3% as rivers and lakes. Usable fresh water for ecosystems and humans is +/-200,000 km3 (less than 1% of all fresh water, 0.01 % of all water on Earth) mostly located far from human populations.

Population growth and consumption patterns have decreased annual water share per capita from 12900m3 in 1970, to 9000 in 1990 and to 7000 in 2000, and this is projected to drop to 5100 m3 by 2025.

Water scarcity drastically affects the world population. Over one-third of the world's population is under moderate or severe water stress, with African countries mostly affected. Per capita share of <1700m3 defines water stress and <1000m3 defines scarcity (UNPD, UNEP, WB, and WRI, 2000). Three billion people will, it is estimated, suffer water stress by 2025, with 80 million extra people ping into the water supply yearly.

Polluted water affects the health of 1.2 billion people and led to 3 million deaths in 1990, 85% of whom were children. In 2000, 1.2 billion people lacked access to safe water sources and 2 billion lacked access to adequate sanitation.

Water scarcity coupled with poor management and climate change leads to land degradation and biodiversity loss, and would, if continued, result in devastating impacts on ecosystems’ well being.

This plenary will address the water crisis and its global and regional implications on water resources and economic/social/environmental implications. Also to be discussed are Integrated Water Resource Management tools (IWRM is a process ‘to promote coordinated development of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems’) and alternative non-conventional water resources and technologies for water harvesting and conservation.

5th Plenary:
A New Outlook for the Global Environment

By late 2008 it could be argued that after several years in which humankind seemed impotent or merely indifferent in the face of an onrushing catastrophe of climate change, circumstances have altered in ways which might be seen to offer hope.

The first factor is the sudden downturn in the international economy. Though it is undoubtedly set to deliver widespread human misery, it has achieved what international environmental action over more than a decade had failed to accomplish: it slowed the growth of the carbon-burning economies worldwide and offered a breathing space to the planet.

Second, as governments around the world agree on the need to support their economies by spending, it has become possible to imagine that they might spend their money on the environment. Thus we have an opportunity for very large-scale international investment in the green projects and technologies that are essential to climate change adaptation.

Third, the US presidential election replaced an administration which was a significant obstacle to coordinated international action with one which has promised “a new chapter in American leadership on climate change”.

These developments were unlooked-for and indeed unimaginable even at the time of the 2007 Symposium in the Arctic, but is the opportunity they appear to present real or illusory? Is it too late to make a difference? And if it is not too late, how can we ensure that the opportunity is seized?

The final plenary of the Symposium, falling as it does mid-way between three important changes and the Copenhagen conference of 2009, offers a valuable opportunity to take stock. This plenary, moreover, takes place in Africa, the continent which has done least to provoke climate change and is likely to feel its consequences first in terms of hardship, dislocation, and hunger.

Some of the questions to be addressed in this plenary will be: What is the relationship between the economic downturn and the environment? Does it offer an opportunity, or is too late? Are governments seizing the opportunity to spend their money on climate change adaptation? What has been the impact so far of the new US administration? Are we doing enough to ensure that when economic growth returns, we do not repeat our earlier mistakes? Does Africa, as the most exposed continent, have the priority it should?
Monday 4th May 2009 - Siwa Oasis

Land visit: The Siwa Oasis

The extraordinary oasis of Siwa lies in the western desert of Egypt, 50 kilometers east of the Libyan border. The natural beauty of the desert, the sandstone formations, salt lakes, hot springs and ancient ruins all vie for the attention of the visitor.

The people of Siwa are descended from the Berbers, nomadic tribes circulating through Northern Africa for millennia. Because of their geographic isolation, their culture and language are distinct. The current population of the oasis is about 23,000 people, and their primary source of income is agriculture, supplemented by tourism. The dates and olives of Siwa are legendary. Historically, it was a crucial trade post in the desert between the Nile Valley and Libya. Though the area had been settled for thousands of years prior to this, the first evidence of ancient Egyptian culture at the oasis was in the 26th Dynasty, when a necropolis was built which continued to be used until Roman times.

Its oracle of Ammon was considered one of the most important in the ancient world. Its influence was such that when it predicted the downfall of King Cambyses during the 26th dynasty, he sent an army of 50,000 men to destroy it. Mysteriously, they were consumed by a sandstorm en route and were never heard from again. Herodotus describes the oracle and its political importance in his Histories. Alexander the Great visited it after founding the city of Alexandria in order to be confirmed as a divinity. The ancient Egyptians believed that the Pharaoh must be the son of a God and Alexander claimed to have descended from Zeus Ammon, an amalgamation of the Greek Egyptian God.

There are several important ancient monuments in the oasis, including the fortress of the old city, the oracle and its associated temple, the ancient Egyptian necropolis, and several painted tombs. 

Visit to Cyrenaica

The Libyan government has been working since the 1960s on the Great Man-Made River Project to provide water to the cities of Tripoli, Benghazi, Sirt, and elsewhere. It is the largest underground network of pipes and viaducts in the world. The water is being drawn from the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, the world’s largest fossil water aquifer system. It is located underground in the eastern end of the Sahara Desert and spans the political boundaries of four countries in north-eastern Africa: Sudan, Chad, Libya, and Egypt. The groundwater is estimated to be between 210,000 and one million years old. 


e. Proposed Discussion Groups: Topics and Descriptions

The Media and the Environment

The world learns about climate change through the news media. Are they good messengers or bad messengers? When the message is one of doom, do they turn people off? When they offer hope, do they in fact? This is a chance to explore the role and the practices of the news media in telling the greatest story of our time.

Gender & the Environment
Men and women are found to have different roles and responsibilities in all societies, some growing directly out of their biological difference, and others arising out of cultural, economic, and social practices. Because of their roles, their vulnerabilities are different, as well as their opportunities and obligations. Their impact on the health and stability of the environment, and the impact on them of environmental conditions on them are not equivalent, and are worth examination. This discussion group will explore the lives of men and women in environmental contexts, particularly in Africa.

Innovative Actions from Business, Communities, and Non-Governmental Groups in Addressing Climate Change and Environmental Issues
Solutions to global environmental challenges require innovative actions at multiple levels.
What is the role of local communities, NGO’s and businesses in creating solutions?
What examples exist of innovative solutions from businesses, local communities and non governmental groups? This session will explore examples of actions that have been taken by businesses, communities, and NGO’s and address questions derived from these examples. Are these actions simply feel-good initiatives or part of a long-term solution?

Islam, Science, and the Environment
All religions and beliefs have reflected on the spiritual, mental, and physical relationship of humankind and the earth. In Islam particularly, the emphasis on the importance of the environment is explicit. There are many verses of the Holy Quran and quotations from the Prophet Mohammad concerning this topic. It has also been addressed by several Muslim publications and scholars in the last few decades as the environment becomes an increasingly relevant subject. Our aim is to explore the inter-relationship of Islam, science, and the environment.

Overpopulation & Migration
Overpopulation already confronts us with the conflict between our dearth of adequate resources and our overwhelming rate of consumption. There are currently 6.5 billion inhabitants of Earth. By the end of the century, we will, it is predicted, be 12 billion. How can we curb population growth and seek solutions to live and produce more efficiently?

Immigrants are arriving in waves in Europe seeking better conditions and the protection of belonging to the European Union. They are coming mainly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and other countries in which they lack opportunities for the future. Without the resources to receive them, the miserable conditions they endured on their journey can continue upon their arrival. Tensions are created from the strain the host countries and create social and administrative problems for both citizens and immigrants.

Colonialism, Post-Colonialism, and the Environment
Colonialism has radically changed Africa’s physical and human environment. Its negative impacts are lasting, prolonged often by ‘post-colonial’ control and exploitation. The expropriation of land and the overcrowding of indigenous peoples onto inadequate soils, the reduction of forest and inappropriate interference with rivers, have degraded natural resources. Commercial farming has replaced sustainable peasant agriculture. Imperial values and hierarchies have left a legacy of African self-distrust which hinders initiative to this day


f. Religious and Scientific Committee

Executive Committee:

Honorary Chair:

His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon, B.D., S.T.M., Dr Theol. D.Theol h.c.


Mr Neal Ascherson, Writer and lecturer at University College London, UK

Dr Margaret Barker, Biblical scholar and writer

Revd Deacon Dr John Chryssavgis, Boston, USA

Professor Robert Lange, Associate Professor of Physics, Brandeis University, USA

Professor Dr Laurence Mee, Director of the Scottish Association for Marine Science

Mr Philip Weller, Executive Secretary of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR)

Media Advisers:

Mr Paul Brown, Journalist, former Environment Correspondent,
The Guardian

Mr Brian Cathcart, Professor of Journalism at Kingston University, London

Mr Kieran Cooke
Financial Times
BBC / Spectator / Irish Times, freelance features

Special Advisers:

Mr Bruce Clark, Journalist, The Economist

Dr Antonio Nobre, Senior Scientist, National Institute for Amazonian Research



Committee Members:

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon. Richard J.C. Chartres, Lord Bishop of London

Dr Charles N. Ehler
President of Ocean Visions
Consultant, UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission & Man and the Biosphere Programme

Mr Edward Goldsmith, Founder and Editor of The Ecologist, UK

His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia

Dr Graeme Kelleher, Vice President of the Commission on National Parks & Protected Areas, Australia

Professor Nikolaos Mouzelis, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, London School of Economics, UK

Mr Thymios Papayannis, Honorary President of WWF Greece

Mr Frits Schlingemann
UNEP, Regional Office for Europe

Mr Tom Spencer, Vice Chairman, The Institute for Environmental Security, The Hague, the Netherlands

Dr Jan Thulin, Director, GEF Baltic Sea Regional Project

Film Coordinators:

Mr James Becket, Lawyer and Film Producer

Mr James Whitney, Screenwriter, Film Editor (independent) Sage Mountain Films
Mr Christos Barbas

Co-ordinators in Egypt:

General Sherif Ammar, Director of the Internal Security Department, Library of Alexandria

Mr John Casulli, President of Intermed Travel Services SA