User login

Global Climate Change


Global Climate Change - Why should Friends consider it?
Global climate change has been described as the most significant challenge ever to face human kind. It is already upon us and it is predicted to worsen substantially during this century. Scientists will research and advise while some corporations, governments and NGOs will develop policies of mitigation (i.e. slowing down the process) and adaptation. But why should Friends bother thinking about it as well? Surely Friends have more immediate concerns regarding peace and social justice?
Besides a natural concern for survival of the human race and the biosphere, I can see two compelling reasons for developing responses to the threat of climate change: the first is based on our traditional Testimonies and the second is based on our Governance.
Spiritual testimonies
Friends (among others) generally accept that the world is not ours to despoil for our own gain. In traditional theological terms, planet Earth is a gift from God, and we are stewards of that gift. For those Friends who prefer non theistic models of reality, human-kind lives synergistically with all of nature, and must take responsibility for its use of natural resources.
Social testimonies
Simplicity. The climate change crisis appears to have arisen partly because Western society has normalised living extravagantly and nonsustainably. Friends have a consistent testimony towards simplicity and therefore towards sustainability. Simple mitigative responses are already available at the domestic level such as: composting biowaste; insulating buildings; installing solar hot water systems for our communal buildings and private residences; using more public transport and fewer private motor vehicles; switching over to hybrid technology to reduce petrol consumption and greenhouse gas emissions; using less and recycling more plastic and paper. Many more are being developed.
Peace. Changes in the physical environment will inevitably affect social systems. Consider the implications of international pressure to accept an influx of immigrants from low lying Pacific islands or Bangladesh. How will New Zealand respond? Racism would inevitably rear its ugly head again. Friends believe in being proactively peaceable.
Integrity. Friends have a long tradition of living their beliefs and speaking truth to power. ‘Integrity’ means being prepared to do the hard work in order to discern facts from fiction and then to face them squarely and develop appropriate responses.
Community. Our traditional testimonies are our corporate witness, not merely individual choices, and they can be supported through being in community together.
Equality. Global climate change will inevitably widen the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ As Friends, we need to be thinking well in advance about all these issues. The way to abolish fear of a major threat is to become better informed and to take action.
Friends are egalitarian. In principle, Friends share power. There is no CEO. Although Yearly Meeting Clerk has a degree of power, he or she cannot make major decisions unilaterally.
Friends are not formally aligned with the power structures of our Society including Government, Industry, universities, mainstream churches, etc. Individual members may of course be involved in several of these, and this strengthens our opportunities to effect change. But the Religious Society of Friends as an organisation is not compromised by financial or other commitments to mainstream power bases.
There are of course some ‘down’ sides. Because Friends have no paid staff, we have to do everything with voluntary labour, including obtaining and evaluating information. Also, because our processes are consensual rather than heirachical, they take precious time.
Finally, to ignore a major challenge is to invite a sense of helplessness and even chronic depression.
These articles provide a starting point for becoming better informed. They will need to be updated and replaced as knowledge advances and as more and better policy options and personal choices become available.
Richard Milne, July 2006
Acknowledgments: Derek Carver, Martha Savage, Murray Efford, Burn Hockey.