Columban Lay Missionary Roberta Kim recently attended the National Justice and Peace Network's annual conference which was held between 23rd-25th July in Swanwick, Derbyshire. Besides a number of interesting discussions regarding our common earth and ecological conversion, conference participants were given the opportunity to attend workshops on such topics as: ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, ‘Conflict and Environment,’ and ‘Attendance at COP26 – real or virtual'.

Columban Lay Missionary Roberta Kim reflects on the workshop she attended titled ‘Nature Explore Walk with a Botanist’.

I browsed the different workshops on offer to us and knew ‘Nature Explorer Walk with a Botanist’ was absolutely my first choice. I knew I would be tired after sitting in the conference so I thought it would be a good excuse to get outside, refresh myself and encounter some of the nature in Swanwick.

The conference centre had two ponds and a walking path amongst a beautiful garden. The workshop was on the second day, after a morning session led by Mark Rotherham, ‘Framing the Global Crisis: Integrating Ecological & Economic Change’ which was quite an interesting, informative and inspiring talk. As I thought I would be, I was exhausted from all the concentration and I couldn’t wait to meet the Botanist who was going to guide us around the nature. On my way to the workshop I came across another participant who was joining the same workshop so we walked together. As soon as she discovered that I’m from Korea she told me all about her love of Korean films. I was already half uplifted by our endless talking and laughter on the way to the meeting room.

The botanist introduced herself as Dr. Judith Allinson. She gave a short introduction and each of participants was given a hand-lens. This made me so excited to meet the micro world of nature outside. Our exploration began from a large oak tree which had some yellow spots on its leaves. Apparently, it looked like a disease but somehow it seemed to have its own role beyond our knowledge. I recalled my anguish at trying to determine the cause of spots on leaves in the community gardens where I volunteer. I remembered the staff who take time to go over the plants with me nice and slowly while I learn. They might already know that there are many things in nature that go beyond our knowledge.

During the session what amazed me the most was the lichen growing on the bark of a tree which I thought was moss. As I was listening to botanist’s explanation, I looked underneath the lichen through the hand-lens and couldn’t find any root. I learned that a fungus and alga’s are symbiotic partnership organisms, and that they were using the bark of a tree as a substrate. It was amazing to hear that this lichen could live for thousands of years. Lichen has become my admiring subject since then and I’ve researched quite a bit about it. I discovered that we call it ‘clothes of the earth species’ in Korean which I think is quite an appropriate name! Now I see them whilst out walking and I imagine their life journey and feel like a close friend.

Our nature explore ended with a discussion on the reeds growing alongside the pond. We peeled up a leaf, found its hidden future roots under the hand-lenses and talked about its appearances in Asian paintings. The weather was perfect for walking, we were so fortunate! The participants were passionate and interested; the Botanist kind and knowledgeable. All this combined made our exploration fruitful and joyful!

The more I explore nature, the more I see the interconnectedness of all creatures and it wakes me up to be aware of the presence of our Creator, our God in the world.

Find out more

Read 'NJPN Conference 2021: “We come together for our common home”', an article written by Ellen Teague from the Columban Justice and Peace team.

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