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The Future is Ours and our Children's
From: New Zealand Friends Newsletter, December 2005
Historically, Friends have not been afraid to identify and face major issues, whether they have been kingly proclamations, slavery, conditions in prisons or world wars. At Yearly Meeting 2005, Kevin Tate and Robert Howell graphically brought to our attention the looming environmental crisis that has been created largely by Western over-consumption in our lifetimes. Collectively, we have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels dramatically, to the point where global temperatures are beginning to rise. The inevitable global climate change that has begun has major consequences for people and ecosystems throughout this planet. The immediacy of the problem touched me through a newspaper article reporting a major loss of the Arctic ice cap at about the same time as Yearly Meeting 2005.
My observation is that people respond to this issue in one of three ways. There are some who still choose to believe that the crisis is imaginary or transient, despite compelling scientific evidence; there are others (I would guess the majority) who have not yet understood or who believe that this is somebody else’s problem; and there are those, including environmental groups, who take this matter seriously and are trying to support policies such as the Kyoto protocol. Surprisingly little of environmental significance became a major issue at the recent election (one major party denied the very existence of global climate change!) and tragically we have recently lost a powerful voice in the environmental/political lobby.
Yearly Meeting 2005 affirmed the importance of climate change and resource depletion in the following Minutes:
Minute 41: Climate Change and what can Friends do about its Consequences.
The scientific account of present rapid climate change by Kevin Tate and the Quaker perspective on these issues from Robert Howell showed the enormous impact of the anticipated consequences for the world. We were made aware that Quaker’s witness must continue. Our present day contributions to public awareness of the problems and the quest for solutions are based on our spiritual and intellectual capital (our heritage) dating back to George Fox and the early Seekers.
Minute 42: Quaker Institute for the Future
We ask Robert Howell to Liaise with the Quaker Institute for the Future (USA) on behalf of Aotearoa / New Zealand Yearly Meeting
Minute 43: A new Networking Group
We ask Nominations Committee to work with BOP/Auckland Monthly Meeting and Standing Committee to find a working group (or groups of people) to look at the links we want to other bodies and other people, nationally and internationally, to find practical ways of proceeding in our Climate Change and World Care concern. We hope the group will report to meetings through the clerk’s letters and the Newsletter and at next Yearly Meeting.
Minute 44: Chances for fuller discussion
We ask the Settlement to set aside two seminar times as soon as practically possible, for further consideration of how our testimonies on simplicity and equality can be developed in the light of the climate change and depletion of world resources.
As a result of these Concerns, a group is being formed to take the first steps in developing a Quaker response to global climate change. It will be a ‘scoping group’ whose task is to determine who is researching global climate change and its implications for New Zealand, and what they are finding. We expect that some government bodies, academics and non-governmental agencies will be working on different aspects of this problem. The long term objective is for Friends to set out possible scenarios for New Zealand and to develop responses to them, in line with our Testimonies. Just as most Peace work occurs between wars, so we must work now while there is (a little) time to become better informed, to helping minimise future trauma and to develop responses in advance. What would happen for example if low-lying parts of our coastal towns and cities were flooded? if traditional agriculture or horticulture failed? if Pacific atolls were flooded and New Zealand had an influx of relatively poor immigrants? How can people be empowered as multiple crises approach us? What particular social and spiritual areas could Friends work in?
Pending approval by Monthly Meetings, it is my privilege to convene the ‘scoping’ group and I am looking for up to 6 enthusiastic people to help me carry out the task in line with Yearly Meeting’s Minute. I need Friends who are willing to be active for a few months; are fully comfortable with the use of internet searching and email; have relevant technical expertise and/or networks that could reach the people who have crucial information; and are willing to learn. What a wonderful force we could generate, if each Monthly Meeting could provide one person to assist in this task!
Please phone me if you would like more information about the task,
Mt Eden Meeting