2005 Laureates

Acceptance Speech by Archbishop Demetrios of America on behalf of His-All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch BARTHOLOMEW

Honorable Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program Dr. Klaus Toepfer, Excellencies, honorable Champions of the Earth, distinguished guests and noble friends.

It is my honor and privilege to represent His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to receive on his behalf this truly prestigious award and designation of him as a Champion of the Earth. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from the beginning of his election to the sacred throne of Constantinople has been an ardent, methodical, and uncompromising champion for the preservation and protection of our natural environment. He has made the environment a central issue in the Orthodox Church, not by simply talking about the environment in general but by helping to create educational programs, especially for young people, emphasizing the importance of respecting the environment and the consequences that await us should we fail to preserve and protect it as citizens of the planet Earth.

It is my honor and privilege to represent His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to receive on his behalf this truly prestigious award and designation of him as a Champion of the Earth. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew from the beginning of his election to the sacred throne of Constantinople has been an ardent, methodical, and uncompromising champion for the preservation and protection of our natural environment. He has made the environment a central issue in the Orthodox Church, not by simply talking about the environment in general but by helping to create educational programs, especially for young people, emphasizing the importance of respecting the environment and the consequences that await us should we fail to preserve and protect it as citizens of the planet Earth.

In addition to this effort, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been traveling extensively all over the world meeting with prime ministers, ministers of environment, religious leaders, and academic leaders as well as issuing encyclicals in order to raise the ethical consciousness of the plight of the environment, and to help the struggle to reverse the damage for the generations that will follow us.

I would like to mention one of the many important efforts that His All-Holiness has initiated that I had the distinct honor to participate in, namely, the Baltic Sea Symposium.

This was a Symposium constituting a basic expression of a movement entitled, "Religion, Science and the Environment" in which a significant number of specialists participate. This movement is devoted to spreading awareness of the human threat to the natural world - above all, to the world's waters. It brings together scientists and members of faith communities, policy makers, business and media people and other world leaders, in a program of waterborne study voyages within waters that are suffering the consequences of pollution. So far, these 'Symposia' have visited the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Danube River, the Adriatic and the Baltic Seas. The next Symposium will take place on the Caspian Sea, under the co-patronage of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.

All of these have been one week symposia on a boat with approximately 200 participants from all over the world mostly specialist in the field of environmental preservation and protection, economics and religion. I will never forget my visit with the Ecumenical Patriarch to the Baltic Sea. Being on a boat and traveling from Gdansk, to Helsinki and then to Stockholm. Visiting in essence or being in a sea that is surrounded by ten countries: Germany, Estonia, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway. I understood the difficult work of saving the environment when you have ten states trying to do something in the Baltic Sea that are not always working together or communicating and coordinating their efforts, increasing, therefore, the expense and the anxiety. It is an enormous task and I confess that this trip gave me the opportunity to see the magnitude and significance of the work these countries provide for the preservation of the environment. This symposium was not a seven day vacation on a nice boat just talking romantically. It was a symposium of hard work, heated debates and powerful alliances for the enhancement of our natural world. I cannot forget the debates between the proponents of sustainable development and those who believed this was a wrong attitude. But these debates ended in a very amicable and peaceful way that leads to cooperation among all parties for the promotion of the work to save the waters.

I should like to close by expressing personal thanks to Dr. Klaus Toepfer and his colleagues in the United Nations Environmental Program and to all the people who contribute to it. It is a tremendous and significant work in which they engage and for which I extend on behalf of our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew our warmest congratulations and commendations which are inadequate to thoroughly express our real appreciation. I should like to conclude with something that the Ecumenical Patriarch would have liked to use here tonight. They are the two opening verses from Psalm 24.

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein; for he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew has been called the Green Patriarch because of his extraordinary work for the environment. I would suggest that because of his particular emphasis on the restoration of the cleanliness of the seas and the waters, he should be renamed the Green Patriarch of clean waters.

 

Quotes

Izabella Teixeira, Brazil
Champion of the Earth 2013 - Policy Leadership

We are witnessing a positive change in the way sustainable development is seen, and embraced, by policymakers.


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