ENGLAND: Church bells to ring out in September for species protection

August 15, 2010

Support for United Nations talks on biodiversity will be marked in Britain by the biggest nationwide peal of bells since celebrations to mark the eve of the third millennium, organizers say.

"Ringing the church bells is a great way for the wider community to be reminded and to celebrate the beauty of creation," said Jill Hopkinson, the Church of England's national rural officer, in an August 10 statement.

The denomination is urging cathedrals and several thousand parish churches to ring their bells to mark the talks at the U.N. general assembly on Sept. 22 in New York that will address the international failure to meet targets on species conservation.

The United Nations has declared 2010 to be International Biodiversity Year to draw attention to the failure to meet targets to stop the global loss of biodiversity by 2010, despite the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, which entered into force in 1993.

"As Christians we believe it is important to care for God's creation and our natural world is suffering because of our actions," David Shreeve, the church's national environmental adviser, said in a statement.

"Many of our estimated 10,000 churchyards are full with often rare biodiversity and others in towns and cities support fewer, but equally important wildlife. The church is providing protected havens right on our own doorstep," he said.

A similar initiative involving the worldwide ringing of church bells took place in December to mark U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen.

In October, following the U.N. biodiversity meeting, the 193 heads of state who are signatories to the convention will meet in Nagoya in Japan. The secretariat of the convention is encouraging the ringing of bells all over the world as an urgent appeal ahead of this meeting to rouse the world to take action to stop the loss of species.

Bell ringers will be reminded through blogs and Twitter messages to peal their bells between 12 noon and 2 p.m. on Sept. 22.

The initiative is linked to the MEMO project, which the Church of England is also supporting, to erect a stone sculpture on the Isle of Portland in southern England featuring a bell and carved images of threatened species. The great bell will be tolled whenever a species is declared extinct.