We are living in a time of crisis for the planet. Our overuse and misuse of water, energy and food has led to dangerous levels of habitat loss, pollution, soil degradation and ocean acidification. As a result we face the giant issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, disease and poverty.

A Rocha has always been a voice of hope in the environmental space. The Field notes podcast, hosted by Rachel Mander and Rick Faw, is an exploration of the ideas, practice and experience making a difference on the ground, through conversations with people who really know what they are talking about – from conservation scientists, explorers and biologists, to artists, entrepreneurs and theologians. They have hopeful stories to tell.

The hosts

Rachel works on the A Rocha worldwide family’s strategy and church engagement. She chairs the Young Christian Climate Network (YCCN) and has a background in campaigning and advocacy. Rachel recently learnt to roller blade, sings in a community choir and blogs at www.thejoyofrachel.com. She lives in Sheffield in the UK.

Rick has been a lead educator at A Rocha Canada since 2004. Rick combines academic backgrounds in science (BSc) and theology (MCS) with a love for the outdoors. His desire is for people to integrate their spiritual life with their experience of the created world. Rick, along with his wife Crista and teenagers Jared and Zoë, lives and plays at Kingfisher Farm in Surrey, BC.

The episodes

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Ep 26: Christine Warner – Learning from the snail: joyful living within painful limitations

Beauty and suffering coexist in this world. There are breath-taking mountains and devastating volcanoes; healthy children and children born with acute medical challenges; birds that sing in war torn countries. How do we endure suffering and retain awareness of the beauty that surrounds us?

Christine loves snails. Since surviving an encounter with a truck which by all accounts should have ended her life instantly, snails have been an inspiration. During her long, slow recovery, she has learnt to find joy through embracing life within new limitations.

This is a raw and moving conversation which we hope you will find a profound encouragement whatever your circumstances.

Christine grew up in Central America during civil war and natural disasters. She is the Director for the Matthew 25 Initiative, the Anglican efforts to companion the vulnerable, marginalized, and under-resourced communities in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Christine is a trustee of A Rocha International and lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and their four children.

Ep 25: Jo Swinney – Finding A Place at the Table and a heart for hospitality

At a time when social distancing and virtual working have become the norm, a new book invites us to rethink our connections to each other, the earth, God, and community. Co-written from A Rocha co-founder Miranda Harris and her daughter, Jo Swinney, A Rocha’s Director of Communications, A Place at the Table explores a philosophy baked into the A Rocha family since the very beginning — hospitality. After her mother’s sudden death in a car accident in 2019, Jo was resolute in getting her mother’s words into the hands of readers. Miranda Harris’s journal entries can be seen along her daughter’s writing in A Place at the Table—her words and her life serve as inspiration for not only the book but all who met Miranda and knew her generous spirit and love of community. Pull up a chair (and a hearty appetite and some snacks) and take a seat at the table. You just might be encouraged to call an old friend for coffee, host a family dinner, or start a new culinary tradition. Jo Swinney is a writer, speaker, editor and Director of Communications for A Rocha—the international Christian environmental conservation charity founded by her father and her late mother, Miranda Harris, who co-authors A Place At the Table. Jo is author of eight books and a regular contributor to many Christian publications in the UK and elsewhere. Jo inherited her mother’s love of hospitality, food, and the God from whom all good gifts come. She lives in Bath, UK, with her husband and two daughters and is often found reading, planning holidays and making food for friends. Jo has a BA from Birmingham University in English Literature and African Studies and an MA from Regent College, Vancouver in Theology.

Ep 24: Soohwan Park – Sustainable activism and the prayer-driven life

How do we sustain our physical, mental and spiritual health when we are expending ourselves for justice? How can we face the reality of the world’s problems and not be crushed?

Soohwan has spent much of her working life up close and personal with suffering on a scale most of us only see on a TV screen. From the Dalit of Bangladesh to the fall out of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, she’s spent significant time in places and with people facing severe challenge. In an airport one day she was struck by the dead expression in the eyes of many of older fellow travellers and knew she didn’t want to turn into them one day, so she quit her job and turned her attention to the task of prayer. A Rocha International is blessed to have her as its prayerful board chair.

Ep 23: Stephen Ruttle – The art of difficult conversations – making peace with God, nature, each other and ourselves

Is peace just the absence of conflict, or is it something more?

In this episode, Stephen Ruttle QC talks to Peter and guest host Rachel about peace making and the art of having difficult conversations. As a professional mediator, Stephen has extensive experience in resolving conflict, helping sparring groups and individuals turn towards each other in search of peace.

Stephen was a practicing barrister, and latterly QC, from 1978 until 2002. Since then, he has worked full time as a Commercial Mediator. In the last 20 years, he has mediated over 1,500 cases of nearly every legal type, from both public and private sectors. As well as mediating in a commercial setting, he has also supported reconciliation efforts in other areas as well, such as in churches or for nature conservation.

Ep 22: Embert Messelink – Engaging head, hands and heart in the conservation effort

Do you ever wonder if you have anything to bring to the effort to protect and restore the planet? Perhaps you feel small and insignificant considering the scale of the problems. Or you think the task requires specialist skills and experience that you lack. The truth is, all of us have something to bring. And we are all needed.

Embert Messelink began his working life as a journalist and a Christian who enjoyed birding but who didn’t see how they connected. When he came across A Rocha, he understood how they all fitted together and the vision for A Rocha Netherlands was born. He stepped down as National Director after 18 years in October ’21 to become a pastor, and he talks with Peter and our guest host Rachel Mander about the struggles and successes of those years and his hope for the future.

Ep 21: Ken Yeong – Being an environmentally friendly consumer in a complex world

Should we really be eating Nutella? Or buying products that contain palm oil? How can – and should – consumers make environmentally-friendly choices when supply chains are so complex?

Ken speaks with Bryony and Peter about moving from the private sector to the environmental sector, his passion for the environment and the challenges of supply chains. In his professional life, Ken Yeong has worked on responsible supply chains and nature conservation. Currently, he works as Sustainability Innovation Manager at Earthworm Foundation, but previously worked in the corporate sector for Samsung, Logitech and Olympus, followed by a period at  WWF-Malaysia.

Ken also co-authored a chapter of “God’s Gardeners: Creation Care Stories from Singapore and Malaysia”, available to purchase online.

Ep 20: Rodel Lasco – a climate scientist in the Philippines faces facts and remains hopeful

The latest IPCC report was even more dire than predicted. As one of its authors, no one could accuse Rodel Lasco of burying his head in the sand. Even if he wanted to, living in the Philippines where the changing climate now causes thousands of deaths annually, reality would have confronted him with the painful truth. And yet, in this extraordinary conversation, Rodel’s deep faith and peace are palpable. If you are in need of reassurance and comfort, look no further.

Dr Rodel D. Lasco is a trustee of A Rocha International. He has almost 40 years of experience in natural resources and environmental research, conservation, education and development. His work has focused on issues related to natural resources conservation, climate change and land degradation. He is an author of several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and is the 2007 co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) in the Philippines. He is the Executive Director of the Oscar M Lopez Center, a private foundation whose mission is to promote action research on climate adaptation and disasters risk reduction. Concurrently, he is a senior scientist of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), a center devoted to promoting “trees on farms”. He is an affiliate professor at the University of the Philippines.

Ep 19: Sandra McCracken – why a world in crisis needs songwriters

The Israelites in exile wondered how they could sing (Psalm 137:4); in our current dire situation, you may wonder what good it does to write songs. Bryony and Peter talk to a dear A Rocha friend, Sandra McCracken, about how her music has come to be her contribution to the ‘renewal of all things’ God is working out in and through each of us, whether artists, scientists, activists or peacemakers.

Sandra McCracken is a singer-songwriter and hymn writer from Nashville, Tennessee. A prolific recording artist, Sandra has produced 14 solo albums over two decades. Her best selling release, Psalms (2015) received critical acclaim, followed by God’s Highway (2017) which made the top 50 on Billboard Heatseekers chart without a major label.

Blending the old and new, Sandra has also shown a unique ability to recast sacred scripture texts into theologically rich yet accessible songs. Her thoughtful lyrics and gospel melodies in songs like “We Will Feast In The House Of Zion,” “Steadfast” and “Thy Mercy My God” have become staple anthems in churches across the U.S. As a published writer, she contributes a regular column in Christianity Today and released her first book “Send Out Your Light” in September 2021.

Ep 18: Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel – The impact of human societies on nature

Are people always bad news for nature? And is there anywhere we haven’t had an impact?

Dr Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel is a Senior Research Scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, and Senior Advisor for the Regional Hub South America of the Wyss Academy for Nature. She has a long history with A Rocha, having first met Peter aged 11!

Now in her 40s, Sarah-Lan has had an impressive career in the fields of sustainable development, natural resource management and conservation. One of her particular passions in ethnobiology – the study of different societies and their relationship to nature.

An excellent communicator, she speaks with clarity and wisdom about the way ahead of nature, about the transformation of Indigenous knowledge, and how societies respond to nature in the 21st century.

Ep 17: Cheryl Bear – The significance of land to the Indigenous peoples of Canada

In our increasingly globalized and interconnected world, the question ‘where are you from?’ is, for so many of us, difficult to answer. In the 21st century, our connection to a place and land as ‘home’ are radically different to any other time in human history.

Cheryl Bear is from Nadleh Whut’en First Nation and is well-known as an important and respected voice on behalf of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. She is an Associate Professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, where she currently lives. She is also a multi-award winning singer/songwriter who shares stories of Indigenous life through story and song.

In this thoughtful interview, Cheryl shares from her experience as an Indigenous woman about the role that the land and nature play in her understanding of home.

Ep 16: Mako Fujimura - How art which honours nature's rhythms can heal trauma

Have you ever felt as though your life is racing past at a breath-taking speed, or that every space is filled by electronic, fast-paced noise? Those living with trauma often testify to the healing impact of nature and the stillness that can be experienced in the great outdoors, yet we avoid it and worse – collude in its destruction.

Mako is a leading contemporary painter whose “slow art” the New York Times called a “rebellion against the quickening of time.” As a Master of the Japanese art form Nihonga, he has steeped himself in the history of 16th century Japan where this style originated, and in the traumatic and widespread persecution of Christians at that time. He leant his expertise to Martin Scorsese for the filmed adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s novel, ‘Silence’ and his own book, ‘Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering” explores how the Christian Faith can survive in a hostile culture and amidst even the most terrible suffering.

 In this thought-provoking and moving conversation, Mako talks with Bryony and Peter about his calling to create generative art that brings life and invites people to enter the great silence where God may be heard and their suffering held.

[Photo credit Windrider Productions]

Ep 15: Darren Evans – What motivates us to care for the planet?

What is it that motivates us – people of faith or none – to care for the planet? And why are conservationists so reluctant to admit their beliefs and values?

Darren Evans is Professor of Ecology and Conservation at Newcastle University, his research earning him the nickname ‘Dr Duck.’ He leads a research group examining the impacts of environmental change on foodwebs, especially in forestry and farmland, with a focus on mitigation and restoration strategies. He enjoys working at the science-faith interface and regularly speaks on the biblical basis for nature conservation. Darren first volunteered for A Rocha as a teenager and remains a good friend and valued advisor to us.

He talks to Peter and guest host Dan Nolloth about the underlying motivations for working in conservation, the intrinsic spirituality of caring for the planet, and the restoration of relationships between God, his people, and his land.

Ep 14: Jyoti Banerjee – Changing systems so we can change the world

For all the good work now being done to address the environmental crisis, why do we not see more impact? Why do things seem to be going from bad to worse and what can be done?

Jyoti Banerjee is co-founder of North Star Transition which aims to accelerate systemic change with the goal of increasing the impact of global efforts to halt climate change and biodiversity loss.  He was part of the team that created the Integrated Reporting movement globally. He has been an impact investor for two decades and used to be an entrepreneur in the tech sector. He taught technology entrepreneurship at Said Business School, University of Oxford. He grew up in New Delhi and lives in London.

Ep 13: Ruth Padilla DeBorst – A story of living hopefully in Costa Rica

How do we keep going after trauma and tragedy? How can we avoid becoming overwhelmed and despairing in the face of the environmental catastrophe unfolding before our very eyes?

Ruth Padilla DeBorst is a renowned Latin American theologian based in Costa Rica, where she lives in Casa Adobe, an intentional community committed to living as good neighbours in right relation with people and the rest of creation. She is a long-time friend and former trustee of A Rocha International.

In this profoundly moving conversation with Peter and Bryony, she talks about how a terrible personal tragedy 24 years ago brought her to a new understanding of God’s compassion for our suffering and the importance of honest lament.

Episode 12: Seth Appiah-Kubi – Fighting for Ghana's forests and the intrinsic value of nature

Is nature intrinsically valuable? Or should we only value nature that benefits humanity?

Trained as a Chartered Management Account with an MBA in International Business, Seth Appiah-Kubi hasn’t come from a conservation background. However, his background in finance and subsequent work in securing natural resources shows the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in caring for creation. We need scientists, but we also need economics, politicians and a wealth of other professions to understand the importance of nature.

In this episode, Seth talks with Bryony and Peter about the work of A Rocha Ghana in the race to protect the Atewa Forest from Bauxite mining. In a country where roughly 70% of the population are Christians, he also knows more than most about how the teaching of the church can impact a population. He speaks with wisdom about the challenges facing the Atewa Forest and Ghana, but also with a real sense of hope.

Episode 11: Deepa Senapathi – Balancing the needs of nature and humanity

Are human livelihoods more important than nature?

Dr Deepa Senapathi is Senior Research Fellow in Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, at the University of Reading, UK, and also serves on A Rocha International’s Conservation Science Advisory Council. Deepa was born and grew up in Chennai, India, before further studies and research based in the UK. Her research has focused on critically endangered bird populations in Mauritius and India and, more recently, on insect pollinator communities in Britain and India.

She speaks with Bryony and Peter about the importance of balancing the needs of nature with the needs of humanity, the challenges this creates and why she remains hopeful for the future.

Episode 10: Colin Jackson – Conserving Kenya’s forests through church and community

The Dakatcha Woodland is facing a crisis. It is among the ten most threatened forest hotspots in the world, located 150km north of Mombasa in the south of Kenya. It is home to a number of rare species, but is threatened by an unprecedented rush of people purchasing land for agriculture and, in particular, pineapple farming and charcoal burning.

Colin Jackson, Director of A Rocha Kenya, founded the organization in 1999 after working with A Rocha Portugal for three and half years. He speaks with Bryony and Peter about the importance of the Dakatcha Woodland, how climate change has altered the Kenya landscape, and the race to purchase land.

Episode 9: Enric Sala – The transformative power of nature

The world’s high seas – our so-called international waters – represent nearly 50% of the planet’s surface but are not owned by any state. Research shows that around half of fishing in the high seas would not be profitable without government subsidies or slave labour… So could we protect it by creating a giant marine reserve, and let nature flourish?

In this episode, Enric speaks honestly with Bryony and Peter about the desperate situation our oceans are facing. Despite the urgent and very real threats to marine life globally, he remains both pragmatic and optimistic about humanity’s ability to protect our seas and to find solutions that work for both people and planet.

Enric Sala is the National Geographic’s ‘Explorer-in-Residence’ which, as he describes in this podcast, is somewhat of an oxymoron. Formerly a university professor, Enric saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life and so quit academia to become a full-time conservationist. Enric has had an astonishing career, having earned numerous awards for his work. He founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to support and empower local communities and inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 22 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of 5.8 million square km.

Find out more:

Episode 8: Rachel Mander – Activism, beauty and the possibility of change

Rachel Mander talks to Bryony and Peter about being an unlikely campaigner, the power of personal action and unlikely places to worship. As a young and increasingly influential leader in the environmental movement in the UK, Rachel speaks honestly about the struggles and external and internal opposition she faces in challenging the status quo.

Rachel is part of A Rocha’s Theology and Churches team. She coordinates the Young Christian Climate Network and also works for Hope for the Future, supporting UK churches to build relationships with their Member of Parliament and take political action on climate change. She blogs at www.thejoyofrachel.com and you can find her on Twitter @manderrachel

Episode 7: Bob Sluka – Marine conservation and mission

Why do starving manatees matter when there are children dying of preventable disease? Is telling people about Jesus the priority for Christians or should we be doing beach clean ups too? Dr Robert Sluka, A Rocha’s Lead Marine Scientist, talks to Bryony and Peter about how he came to believe that holistic marine conservation brings glory to God and what can be done to help the hungry manatees. Bob references a blog by Daniel Pauly about Seaspriracy, which you can find here.

Bob is a curious explorer, applying hopeful, optimistic and holistic solutions to all that is ailing our oceans and the communities that rely on them. Dabbling in theology, he writes on the interface between Christian faith and marine conservation. He has worked cross-culturally, living for extended periods in Australia, India, Great Britain and his native USA where he currently resides. Robert’s research focuses on marine biodiversity conservation, plastic pollution, and fisheries, particularly marine protected areas. The ultimate goal is to glorify God through oceans and communities. Find Bob on Twitter: @BobSluka

Episode 6: Gisela Kreglinger – What wine teaches us about earth-keeping and living life to the full

Wine is mentioned over 1,000 times in the Bible, but what is its significance for the Christian faith today? And how can we produce and buy wines which care for creation?

Gisela Kreglinger grew up on a family-owned winery in Franconia, Germany where her family has crafted wine for many generations. This unique experience has inspired her to write several books, including ‘The Spirituality of Wine’ and ‘The Soul of Wine’. As a trained theologian with a PhD from the University of St Andrew’s, Gisela has devoted her life to cultivating a more holistic, embodied spirituality that takes creation seriously, not least in the form of wine. To find out more about Gisela and her work, visit www.giselakreglinger.com.

She speaks with Bryony and Peter about her childhood as the daughter of winemakers, the complexity of a good wine and the importance of sustainable vineyards.

Episode 5: Stuart Blanch – The mental health cost of environmental campaigning

In the face of rising average global temperatures and the destruction of life on earth, how do we look after our mental health?

In this moving interview, Dr Stuart Blanch, President of A Rocha Australia, tells us about his personal experience of dealing with eco-anxiety, despair and anger in the face of the destruction of the natural world. He continues to hope and to love. Stuart grew up on the New South Wales Coast in a banana farming family and, alongside his role with A Rocha, now works in forest conservation policy for WWF-Australia. He is a conservation scientist, environmental campaigner and has trained in environmental law, and is passionate about God, people and the planet.

Episode 4 – Ellen Davis: Biblical ecology, contemporary life and church teaching

What does the Bible have to say about caring for creation in an age of industrialised agriculture and urban-dwelling?

Ellen F. Davis is Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School. The author of eleven books and many articles, her research interests focus on how biblical interpretation bears on the life of faith communities and their response to urgent public issues, particularly the ecological crisis and interfaith relations.

She speaks to Peter and Bryony about her personal interest in the environmental content of scripture, the teaching of the church on climate issues and our interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis.

Episode 3 – Paul Kariya: Mediation, reconciliation and climate change

What role does reconciliation, mediation and forgiveness have in tackling the climate crisis?

Dr Paul Kariya is Senior Policy Advisor for the Coastal First Nations Great Bear Initiative, an alliance of nine British Columbia First Nations which aims to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, and was a trustee of A Rocha International for nearly a decade. By the end of the 1990s, forest and ocean resources of the area were being rapidly depleted by heavy industrial logging and commercial fishing. The Great Bear Initiative was envisioned to assert First Nations leadership in creating a new conservation-based economy. Paul talks to Bryony and Peter about his work with the Great Bear Initiative, the importance of conflict and reconciliation and how he holds hope for the planet.

For more information about the Great Bear Rainforest visit greatbearcorp.ca/about

Episode 2 – Florence Muindi: Health, poverty and conservation in the global south

Is nature conservation a luxury for those who live in such poverty that even their survival hangs in the balance? Dr Florence Muindi is a medical doctor and founding president of Life in Abundance International. As a young adult, Florence felt called to serve some of the most vulnerable communities in Africa. She soon learnt that if she and her colleagues were to make any impact on all the causes of deprivation then an integrated approach was essential. In this episode, she talks with Bryony and Peter about her life, how her thinking and her work has developed, and about the importance of nature conservation for some of the poorest places on earth.

As CEO, Dr Florence Muindi oversees the work of Life in Abundance in 12 countries in Africa and two in the Caribbean, as well as support offices in the US, UK and Europe. She is considered a sector leader in transformational community development work. Florence is a wife to Dr Festus Muindi, a mother, an ordained minister and an A Rocha International trustee. She is the author of ‘The Pursuit of his Calling’ (Integrity Publishers Inc: 2008).

Life in Abundance is an African-founded, African-led, and faith-based organization with over 25 years of experience bringing hope to more than a million people in need. Visit lifeinabundance.org for more information.

Episode 1 – Paula Banza: Community, moths and wildfires (or, Why we cannot afford not to have hope)

Dr Paula Banza talks to Peter and Bryony about moths and their little-known role as pollinators, and what it was like seeing her study site destroyed by fire only to recover before her eyes. She also shares insight from her 30 years living and working with the A Rocha Portugal community, and the parallels there are in the interdependence of human relationships and natural ecosystems. Find out more about Paula in this short film.
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