Climate change is not just about melting ice caps, worsening droughts and rising sea levels. While it is clearly a crisis for the environment, it is also a crisis for people. In fact, some experts consider climate change just as serious a moral issue as it is an environmental issue, and one that could have severe social and economic consequences.
Pope Francis released an encyclical in 2015 that served as a moral call for action on phasing out the use of fossil fuels “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” the papal statement said. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
According to Globalchange.gov (a congressionally-mandated group that compiles climate science research from federal agencies), the impact of climate change on humans could be profound. The group cites issues such as home destruction by rising waters or severe storms, the spread of disease such as West Nile virus or Lyme disease, the loss of crops and clean water due to drought, the health risk of increased air pollution and many other factors. The group also points out that populations that are most vulnerable to climate change are the poor, undereducated, those least able to adapt, and those already struggling with high rates of disease, hunger and societal disruption.
In A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, author Stephen M. Gardiner argues that we are failing to address the ethical dimensions of climate change in three important ways. First, those who live in wealthy countries are passing on the cost of environmental degradation to poorer and weaker nations. Second, we are also pushing the worst impacts on to future generations. And, third, when we ignore the scientific evidence, we deceive ourselves about our responsibility to act. We must face up to our ethical failure, Gardiner says, and push our leaders and our institutions for different solutions before it’s too late.
Climate change is emerging among Quakers as one of the most critical issues of our day, and the Pacific Yearly Meeting (a gathering of western Friends known as PacYM) has recently launched a new effort to bring west-coast Quakers together to share spiritual guidance and strategic action around climate issues.
In a recent statement, the PacYM Climate Action Working Group called for Quakers to join their effort: We are already well into rapidly worsening threats to all of life on this planet, and to our own existence as a species–caused by us and without precedent in human history. And yet, paradoxically, at the same time and for the same reasons, we are also blessed with the greatest opportunity we have ever had to transform society, help heal our planet and achieve a truly livable future. What is it then that we as Quakers are called to do? How can we find discernment as deep as the crises, the needs, and the opportunities demand? How do we give each other–and our communities—support for the intense feelings that surface whenever we face the full impact of these realities? How do we name, support, and live-into the grief, overwhelm, and even despair moving through ourselves, our meetings and our local communities? And by what processes–Quaker and other–do we find the clarity we need, and the courage and compassion to act as led—no matter the cost–in service of Life.”
Reno Friends are welcome to join the PacYM Climate Action Working Group, either for their Midweek Meeting for Worship, or their Working Group Meeting. They meet most Wednesdays and invite those who share these concerns to visit and, as led, to join in the work. Here are the times and links:
- The PacYM Midweek Meeting for Worship is: 7:00-7:30 pm Wednesdays, PacYM Midweek Meeting for Worship Zoom Meeting ID: 813 4193 2011 Passcode: 131328.
- The Weekly Working Group Meeting is: 7:30-8:30 pm Wednesdays PacYM Climate Action Working Group Zoom Meeting ID: 834 4514 1574 Passcode: 752059.
Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting, wswallow54 (at) gmail.com
The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.