When I look out on our beautiful Sierra Nevada this winter, I worry. Even with the late February snowfall, there will likely be little snowpack to sustain trees and wildlife through the coming summer, extending the drought of the past few years. And that makes me wonder if I’m doing all I can to help protect the remarkable blue planet that is our home.
Quakers have long held a testimony to live in harmony with nature. As stated in Faith & Practice:
“God is revealed in all Creation. We humans belong to the whole interdependent community of life on earth. Rejoice in the beauty, complexity and mystery of creation, with gratitude to be part of its unfolding…. Live according to principles of right relationship and right action within this larger whole. Be aware of the influence humans have on the health and viability of life on earth…. Guided by Spirit, work to translate this understanding into ways of living that reflect our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”
For me, and for many Quakers, the accumulation of scientific data is convincing: the climate is changing and humans are responsible. Recently I received a copy of “Facing the Challenge of Climate Change,” a statement developed by Quaker Earthcare Witness, the Quaker United Nations Office, and Friends Committee on National Legislation for the United Nations Climate Summit in September 2014. In this statement, the Quaker organizations called on world leaders to make the radical decisions needed to create a fair, sufficient and effective international climate-change agreement. They also wrote that “the current rise of greenhouse gas emissions is leading to an unprecedented rate of increase in global average surface temperature of extreme detriment to the Earth’s ecosystems and species, including human beings.” The groups added that they “recognize a personal and collective responsibility to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable peoples now, and all our future generations, do not suffer as a consequence of our actions.”
The Quaker groups referred to this challenge as a call to conscience. “We recognize the connections between climate change and global economic injustice as well as unprecedented levels of consumption, and [we] question assumptions of unlimited material growth on a planet with limited natural resources.” I find this statement interesting, because it links the threat of climate change with the economic and social consequences of drought, disruptive storms, rising ocean levels and accelerating desertification. For Quakers, it’s not just caring about the earth that matters – it’s finding a way to live sustainably so that everyone may share justly in the riches the earth provides.
Many other Quaker testimonies are interwoven with our commitment to live in harmony with nature. The Integrity Testimony calls on us to keep our lives centered in the Spirit so that our beliefs and actions are congruent, and our words dependable. The Simplicity Testimony asks us to take no more than our share of the earth’s resources and to be sensitive to the needs of others, especially future generations. The Unity Testimony calls on us to work together to discern and serve God’s will, trusting one another and being confident that, together, Friends will find the truth.
Climate change presents perhaps the greatest challenge humans have ever encountered. I trust that, consistent with our testimonies, Quakers will help define and lead the national and international response to this pressing problem.
In the Light,
Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting
email: wswallow54 (at) gmail.com
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.