What are the connections between widespread poverty and ecology? Seventy-five scientists, activists, philosophers and theologians met Sept. 26-30 at the Orthodox Academy of Crete here to understand the intertwined dynamics of economic development and environmental sustainability.

The conference, entitled “Sustainable Alternatives for Poverty Reduction and Ecological Justice,” was sponsored by the academy, the World Council of Churches (WCC) programs on climate justice and poverty, wealth and ecology, along with other organizations.

“Of course, poverty eradication and eco-justice are closely related, as poor communities in various parts of the world suffer the worst consequences of environmental degradation, climate changes and the current development model,” said Guillermo Kerber, WCC program executive on Care for Creation and Climate Justice.

Although the WCC and the academy have focused on sustainable communities since the 1970s, today they face new and steeper challenges: accelerated climate change, environmental degradation and a global economic crisis.

The conference, said Kerber, facilitated “sharing experiences from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, the Pacific islands ― all looking for sustainable responses to these interrelated issues.”

Meeting in Greece, a tumultuous flashpoint in the current economic turbulence, presenters offered case studies in specific sectors of agriculture, energy, economic development, healthcare and finance.

Behind the economic and ecological challenges, and the search for an overarching conceptual and ethical framework, stands a spiritual crisis inviting personal and societal conversion, according to Argentine presenter Elias Abramides from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. He added, “Humankind seems to forget that we share one world and the same resources. Yet humankind can even now take a decision to save creation.”