Walking Gently into the 21st Century
a Sourcebook on Sustainability
for Quaker Meetings
the New England Friends in Unity with Nature Committee
Our goals for this book are to connect spirit with right relationship with Earth; to help Monthly Meetings and by offering tools, inspiration, connection, and models; and to report to YM.
This Sourcebook has been a labor of love. I believe each selection offers light. Thanks to all of you who sent messages now included in this book, and to the NEFUN committee. Especially helpful in drafts and edits were Susan Lloyd McGarry, Louis Cox, Molly Anderson, David Dahm-Luhr, David Ahlfeld, Gwen Noyes, and Bob Hillegas.
Welcome, please feel invited to explore and add to this work. Please let us know what you are doing in your Meeting or Committee.
Clerk of New England Friends in Unity with Nature
July 31, 2000
1. Take this book back to your Meeting
2. Punch holes and put it in a recycled binder with section tabs.
3. Have first Day school decorate the binder
4. Assign someone to be caretaker and keeper of the book.
5. Read it, duplicate it, add to it, make it yours
6. Tell NEFUN what you are doing
Table of Contents
Chapter One. Request from Yearly Meeting
Chapter Two. A Picture of NEYM
Chapter Three. Writings, Queries and Minutes that Ground Us in the Spirit
Chapter Four. Resources for Discernment
Chapter Five. Leaders that provide Content or Facilitation
Chapter Six. Recommended Titles, Organizations and Websites
Chapter One - Request from Yearly Meeting
1. The 1998 request from New England Yearly Meeting
2. The 2000 report to New England Yearly Meeting from NEFUN
1. 1998 request from New England Yearly Meeting
In 1998, New England Yearly Meeting asked the New England Friends in Unity with Nature committee (NEFUN) to support discernment throughout the region on the faith and practice of sustainability. This was in response to a Minute from Netherlands Yearly Meeting on sustainability.
New England Yearly Meeting in 1991 had approved a Minute which concluded with the following sentence: "We ask Friends, individually and corporately, to affirm our connectedness with all Creation and to consider how the Spirit of Christ by which we are guided can help us live in a more loving association with the Earth and its inhabitants." The Netherland Minute reminds us to look for opportunities to act on our previous commitment.
The following letter was sent to all Monthly Meetings in New England.
October 18, 1998
At the 1998 New England Yearly Meeting sessions, the attached minute was approved that accepted the challenge forwarded from the 1997 Triennial meeting to seek discernment about the faith and practice of sustainability.
The call to reconsider the truth of our work in the light of new changes and conditions in our world is urgent and challenging, but this is also a joyful opportunity to grow in truth. Our concern is spiritual. "By recognizing this concern as spiritual, we are acknowledging that significant changes in how human beings treat the earth and its creatures will not take place until there are significant changes in how we feel about the earth. When the heart is engaged, actions will follow."
We also look to John Woolman:
"The produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants,
and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be an
injury to the succeeding age." John Woolman, 1772, (as quoted in Britain YM
Faith and Practice, 25.01) From Conversations on the True Harmony of
mankind...ms 1772 included in the journal and essays ed Al G ummere, 1922,
This letter is being sent to Monthly Meetings to support your work to discern how you
might link environmental concerns to the testimonies of Peace, Justice, Simplicity and Integrity
and our faith-led work. To assemble a response to Yearly Meeting, we would like to have a description of the state of your Meeting with regard to the Netherland Minute on Sustainability by April of 1999. We suggest this letter and its attachments be passed to your Peace and Social Concerns Committee for finding the best approach for your Meeting.
Our committee offers support in three ways:
* A Listening Program of dedicated Friends who will come to your meeting and witness to and listen to your discernment, or offer workshops on the subject if requested. If you have Meeting members who wish to join this Listening Program, please have them contact Molly Anderson.
* A Resource Packet with thoughts and writings from other New England Friends as well as definitions and basic concepts.
* Those so inclined may wish to join our email listserve (email@example.com), which nurtures our own threshing.
You will receive a telephone call in October or November to learn what approach you have chosen and in what way we can support you.
The following queries noted in the Netherland Minute may serve to initiate your discussion. Also attached is a personal response to the Netherland Minute from Bob Hillegass which he shared at Yearly Meeting and which is included here as one view of the scope of the topic. (Note – the Netherland Minute and Bob Hillegass’ response are offered in Chapter Three of this book.)
1. We live in a society where political and economic choices are more often dictated by greed than by need. What choices do we make as individual Friends?
2. If the dominant life-style, the dominant economic model is causing... detrimental effects, even the extinction of God's creatures, should not Friends question it?
3. Throughout Friends' history we are reminded not only of the "Words of God" but also of the "Works of God". Who are we to put these works of God at risk?
4. We are called to sound stewardship in order to care for the integrity of Creation. How do we let our lives speak in answer to the love of God?
New England Friends in Unity with Nature Committee
2. Aug 2000 REPORT TO New England Yearly Meeting Sessions from the NEFUN Committee
The current work of the NEFUN committee supports discernment around New England Monthly Meetings about the faith and practice of sustainability as requested by Yearly Meeting in 1998. To focus and unify NEYM on the issue of sustainability, we sought clarity about suggesting corporate action. In fact, New England Friends are involved in lots of relevant activities.
In the end, we found no clear leading to suggest for Yearly Meeting action, and realized that NEYM may take a little more time to discern right action. Our expectation is that, over the next few years, a clear issue or leading will emerge from one or more of our Monthly Meetings and gain the support of YM.
Our members have worked hard this year ‑‑ surveying Monthly Meetings by phone, traveling to lead workshops, and holding on‑site dialogs with individual Meetings ‑‑ to connect with all of the New England Meetings and hear about their experiences as they open this issue to the Light. There is a wide variety of vital, luminescent experience and concern across New England related to exploring and creating sustainable pathways.
Some Meetings are just beginning to understand and others are more clear in their leadings to work toward sustainability. Some individuals work outside their faith community on these issues, and others find vital connection to this work of the Spirit through their Meetings. A deep connection with and appreciation of nature as a revelation of God in the world is widespread among NEYM. Many, many people ask for more information or express continuing confusion about the status of environmental problems, solutions that can be tried, and the right stance for Friends toward these problems and solutions.
There are emerging among Friends some common understanding about sustainability concepts that help us with its complexities. What follows are some basic themes from writings and gatherings, especially from Mt. Toby and Cambridge Meetings and from the NEFUN Committee.
1. Sustainability is about limits to Earth's resources, especially the use and protection of air and water, and responsible use of energy and materials. Fair and equitable access to these resources is as important to sustainability as preservation, conservation, and attention to waste.
2. The perspective of sustainability adds the dimension of time to existing Quaker concerns of peace, justice and simplicity. Peace and justice actions support sustainability when they address the causes of conflict and oppression, and work for strategies that put living and replicating solutions in place. If limited resources foster conflict and injustice (as they do in a large proportion of global conflicts), it follows that a stable supply of resources and equitable access to them are part of peace and justice. Simplicity can then be understood to be about personal resource use, and "conformity to this world" (the theme of this year's sessions) to be about greed and waste. There's a connection with the plain‑speaking or honesty testimony too ‑‑ that we labor to overcome the denial of environmental destruction on which our global economy rests and from which we have profited.
3. We are of Earth ‑‑ physically and spiritually. We were created to live in Eden, and Eden was created to be our home. The Divine is in the garden as surely as within each of us. As Cambridge Friends Meeting, tells us, the universal processes that establish and maintain the forms we find in nature, including those forms we call "life", are a manifestation of God in which we are blessed to participate.
4. This work is a call to unity with Earth, a call of such clarity and urgency that we should feel joy and love as we prepare and begin. In loving and honoring whatever part of the web of life draws us, we are helping to sustain it. Guilt and dismay are not effective strategies for the problem solving and change that are needed. Neither are about niggling over trivial details or pride of concept ownership.
5. Technology is intertwined with our economy and our community, both important issues for sustainability. Technology also drives our use of earth's resources. Bob Hillegass, in a letter just submitted to "Friend's Journal" suggests that sustainability requires attention to the intersection of technology and Quaker testimonies. The Full Moon Group at Mt. Toby Meeting urges that we take time to understand technical complexities, that we may better understand this intersection. This means learning about emerging cleaner and more efficient production and transportation, product design with environment in mind as well as cost and performance, toxic chemical threats, fair access to resources and other issues ‑‑ as diligently as we learn about injustice, prisons and preparation for war.
How will NEYM support this work? Our committee found that resources are scarce or non‑existent in some Meetings and concentrated in others. Increasingly we have focused on the creation of a sourcebook, a resource for Monthly Meetings filled with writings, ideas, queries and questions, workshop tools, and initiatives to explore right action from around NEYM.
This manual is offered at NEYM Sessions this year in draft form. It is a work in progress because we see no finish to those activities that are generating such deep and fine ideas and experience. We are asking Monthly Meetings to
take this book and make it their own ‑‑ read it and add their own sections and material. We ask that they continue in this way to foster in their Meetings and communities learning and inspiration toward unity with nature.
Let us know what you are doing. This committee will continue to assemble master files on the materials generated for YM and provide a section of the NEYM website for downloading the Sourcebook. There are also experiences and projects across Yearly Meeting offering opportunities for action. For example, Equal Exchange offers fairly-traded coffee, a term that includes organically grown products that support grass roots co‑ops in El Salvador, Peru, Nicaragua, and Chiapas/Mexico. Other YM initiatives for peace ‑‑ Friend's Peace Team Project, Family Peace Projects, and Active Peace Zones can support or suggest models for action on sustainability. The NEFUN Workshop at YM sessions last year suggested an "Alternatives to Consumption" project. One meeting did an "ecoteam" project during which five families met monthly to reduce their consumption and live more sustainably.
We would like to see Friends become a model for discernment and action which will bring sustainability, as we are on actions which will bring peace and simplicity, but note that we are behind other faith groups on this work ‑‑
individual Friends notwithstanding.
What does the long-term perspective mean? What can Quakers do to model a joyous, authentic, valuable, full‑bodied life which is in harmony with the natural processes of renewal and replacement of what is used? What is our Friendly vision for a peaceful, green future? What are we called to do as Monthly Meetings to bring this vision to fruition? How can we help to focus the Yearly Meeting to hear whatever corporate action God asks of us?
Chapter Two - A Picture of New England Yearly Meeting
An overview of YM (monthlys' and committees') work to discern the faith and practice of sustainability
Over the last two years NEFUN members have been talking with Monthly Meetings and Yearly Meeting Committees to help discern the faith and practice of sustainabilty. As well as receiving minutes, draft minutes, and requests for assistance, NEFUN members called out to every Meeting in New England. Often, the first reaction from our telephone calls has been guilt: we need to be doing more, we meant to consider it, we're not doing anything but we know we should, we want to do more but we're straining just to work on this issue....
We heard an epidemic of busyness, reflecting the busyness of our lives, which several mentioned as a drawing away from the testimony on simplicity.
Very often, we have then found that the Meeting has been doing much. One example is North Fairfield Meeting who first indicated they were not doing anything and then told us: "For more that ten years this Meeting has worked to achieve justice for cancer victims of illegal toxic dumping by Scott Paper Company. We await the results of court decisions, and work to empower this politically weak community. There are actually many illegal dumping issues in our town which keeps this small Meeting locally focused."
Often we heard confusion about or even dislike of the term "sustainability" particularly the phrase in the Netherlands Yearly Meeting Minute that cited "sustainable development." We also heard some Meetings wonder whether there was a need for a new testimony, with the sense that if we lived out the existing testimonies, particularly those related to simplicity and peace, we would be doing the work that the Netherlands Yearly Meeting Minute suggests.
Yet we also heard that we need to examine our relationship with and role in the natural world, and that might have some different aspects than how we have traditionally interpreted it, even with existing testimonies. We heard pain and suffering about how we treated that world, and our fellow occupants of it, human and non-human. We heard worry and concern about the environment and our part in it, and about the interrelatedness of all of these issues. We heard of the difficulty of living up to what we already know, and the difficulty of educating ourselves about what we do not know. Meetings and individuals are grappling with this question and struggling with a way in. Again and again we heard that Friends know that they are called to do more in living faithfully, but struggling with how. One very important aspect of the discernment of sustainability as a testimony has been a renewed focus on all the testimonies and how we live them.
We agree with Friends who see the interconnectedness of the testimonies. We want to encourage Friends to approach this work from a place of joy, love, and in search of beauty rather than from Quaker guilt. In loving and honoring whatever part of the web of life draws you, you are helping to sustain it. In becoming informed about ecology, you are doing the work. In assisting in a local issue, you are helping to keep your part of the web connected. We also want to encourage Friends to support one another, and cite Mt. Toby's Full Moon group as an example.
Many Monthly Meetings are working to discern the faith and practice of sustainability through multiple strategies, including second hour discussions, workshops, surveys, special committees, and creation of their own minute on sustainability. Mt. Toby and Friends Meeting at Cambridge have been leaders in this area. Other Meetings are encouraging individuals in their Earthcare leadings and memberships in other environmental organizations and project activities. Ecumenical efforts such as the Maine Council of Churches program on "Spirituality and Earth Stewardship" are a valuable way members of smaller Meetings in Maine are addressing the faith and practice of Sustainability.
Several Quarterly Meetings (Vassalboro, Connecticut Valley, and Salem are examples) have held retreats or discussions within the regular Quarterly Meeting that focused on this topic. Yearly Meeting Committees are having a hard time connecting their work and focus with sustainability, although some are seriously making the effort. The Nominating Committee minuted this discussion, in part:
“Can we reduce our use of paper? Almost all of us have email, so perhaps we could avoid making copies by bringing our own printouts. Jonathan encouraged us to think more broadly than merely recycling, to consider during our nominating work the sustainability gifts of the
individuals we are considering for committee work. For example, the Finance committee could benefit from individuals with gifts in this area, to help guide the use of our money. Youth Programs could use such people in planning youth programs. Not too much―but the discussion of the issue helped us all become more sensitive to it and a little better idea of what it means―a major rethinking of our values...”
―Nancy B. Isaacs.
The list below summarizes some of the activities of some of the Meetings in New England. It is not comprehensive neither in its listing of activities for an individual meeting nor in its listing of Meetings. We include it because we heard very often that Meetings would like to know what other Meetings are doing. We encourage Friends to give us updates to this list, particularly for Meetings not included here.
· Six families did the Ecoteam Program, a seven-part self-directed course on sustainable lifestyles. They made several key household changes and learned a great deal.
· Held a workshop on "the Science of Sustainability" with speaker Janet Clark.
· Are surveying its members for priorities.
· Considering wider community forum on sustainability literature
· Creating material for an adult class called, “The Environment and Religion” to be led by Jim Munger and based on Lisa Gould's book Caring for Creation, which supports discernment on Bible directions and stewardship.
· An informal committee started on Earth day 1999Sponsored an adult forum on earthcare that was open to the wider community. Ruah Swennerfelt of Burlington (How does change occur?) and Walter Haines of Bennington (Markets, profits and the cost to earth) were speakers.
· Using Earthcare for Children study guide in First Day School
· Meeting monthly to read Your Money or Your Life by Robin and Dominguez.
· Starting a tool lending library
· Considering initiating a bartering system
· Established a BFUN committee that meets monthly
· Check‑in monthly to report personal efforts toward ecological integrity
· Intergenerational outings to nature center
· Present to First Day School
· Sponsored an adult forum on sustainable living and Quaker values
· Has queried other Meeting committes about earthcare
· Participated in “Buy Nothing Day” at the downtown mall, carrying posters and handing out material urging less materialism. A vigil was continued once a week until Christmas.
· Sponsored an evening meeting about Chiapas in Mexico and free-trade policy impacts.
· Drafting a Minute
· Created and brought Minute to Business Meeting (see “Minutes” in Chapter 3)
· Held many workshops
· Sponsored several speakers
· Surveyed members and attenders at FMC as to how they saw their relationship with creation
· Created queries
· Has an active FUN Committee
· Retreat used theme of sustainability―what would a sustainable world look like.
· Joined the Connecticut Energy Co-op as a Group Member so that all meeting members and attenders can join the co-op at a discount. Energy Co-op is making green electricity available in Connecticut.
· Committee is working on queries for other meeting committees that encourage the committees to consider sustainability issues in their work.
· Involved in several external projects: the Heifer Project and Save the Bay
· Equal Exchange Coffee
· Encouraged the creation of a local organic cranberry farm
· Hosted a celebration of the simple life including a meal with locally grown food and discussion about power and energy.
· Sponsored Peter Arnold on global warming and changes in our households and organizations.
· Studying cleaning materials to address recyclability and safer solvents.
· Book discussion groups reading Dream of Earth by Thomas Berry and When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten
· Sponsored a presentation by the “Food Connection” to encourage farmers’ markets and consider food distribution methods and poverty
· Exploring green power options for the State
· Conference planned on impacts on Maine of global warming
· Sponsored a second hour discussion. Janet Clark of Acton (Science of Sustainability and the NEFUN Sustainability Game) was the speaker.
· Participate in the interfaith A Spirit in Nature Trails, in which several paths in the beautiful Vermont woods encourage meditation on the spirit in nature according to different faith traditions, including Friends.
· Drafting a Minute
· Committee formed
· Created a sustainability questionnaire
· A group (the Full Moon group) began to support each other in work in relationship with the earth took up the query about sustainability as a testimony and helped to thresh it in the meeting. They continue in this inquiry and to support each other in efforts to live and work in integrity with the earth, alternating monthly sessions between breathing in (looking at personal issues) and breathing out (looking at community issues).
· Have done two adult education hours
· Produced some statements
· Working on illegal dumping issues
· Yearly Retreat focused on sustainability; included a Council of All Beings co-led by Kathleen Moran and Susan Lloyd McGarry
· Passed a Minute in July 1999
· Equal Exchange coffee and tea
· Worm composting inside
· Organic gardening
· Creative paper recycling
· Discussion of tapes of Lisa Gould's Bible talks at Yearly Meeting.
· A focus group has been formed.
· Equal Exchange coffee and tea
· Share meeting house with community based agriculture farm
· Hosted Quarterly Meeting on this topic
Quaker City Unity
· Potluck discussion around the query "What would you take with you 50 years into the future?"
· Land Use committee addressing sustainability at new meeting house
· Discussion with Louis Cox and Ruah Swennerfelt
· Project to help clean up the PCB damage to the Housatonic River
·Considered environmental friendly issues with new meeting house, sometimes difficult to decide what truly was most environmentally friendly
·Sponsored worship sharing on relationship with all creation
·Held book group on "Against Globalization"
·Held threshing session on environmental priorities as part of response to FCNL survey
·Created list of queries for Meetings and Committees
· Has approved Acadia’s Minute
· Helping develop a nature trail at Friend’s Camp
· Landscaping with native species
· Coffee from Equal Exchange
· Helped a local shelter for the homeless build a garden
· Sponsored an environmental education speaker
· Grappling with affordability of a sustainable lifestyle
· Focus on one topic per month with the volume of information to absorb kept short
· Thanksgiving service outdoors with expressions of thanks for the natural world
· Held an Earthday worship ceremony
· Sponsored a hike to Quabbin Reservoir
· Held a ceremony honoring trees
Chapter Three - Writings, Queries and Minutes that Ground Us
in the Spirit
1. The Netherlands Yearly Meeting Minute
2. Sustainable Development As a Quaker Testimony? By Bob Hillegass
3. Environmental Sustainability and Friend’s Testimonies. From the Full Moon Group
4. Minute Proposed by Cambridge Friends Meeting
5. Minute adopted by Acadia Friends Meeting
6. From Storrs Friends Meeting
7. Epistle from New Zealand
8.Celebrating the Earth. by John Yungblut
9. Daily Bread. by Louis Cox
1. The Netherlands Yearly Meeting Minute -- FWCC 19th Triennial Meeting
A concern from Netherlands Yearly Meeting, revised September, 1997
In 1988 Netherlands Yearly Meeting agreed on a minute in which to the 1988 Triennial was asked to request the Triennial in Japan "as a matter of urgency, that the theme of the ecumenical Conciliar Process—Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation—will be given priority in the activities of FWCC in the next few years. "
At our 1997 Yearly Meeting we reconfirmed this minute and elaborated on it. Of the theme—Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation—two elements, social justice and peace, have been Friends Testimonies throughout Quaker history.
Although individual Friends and Friends Meetings, past and present, have been concerned about our need to care for creation on such a way that we preserve this God-given web of life, as well as about the ecological issues involved and the way in which we use or abuse natural resources, we believe that now is the time that Friends everywhere should speak out on this issue and consider it a testimony on an equal footing with the testimony on peace and social justice.
Given the scale and possible even the irreversibility of the changes that humankind is inflicting upon creation (depletion of non-renewable resources pollution, climate change, rapid extinction of endangered species) "there is no time but this present."
At our Yearly Meeting we were reminded that our friend John Woolman "looked upon the works of God in this visible creation" and learned that "as the mind was moved on an inward principle to love God as an invisible, incomprehensible being, on the same principle it was moved to love him in all his manifestations in the visible world; that as by his breath the flame of life was kindled in all animal and sensitive creatures, to say we love God as unseen and at the same time exercise cruelty towards the least creature moving by his life, or by life derived from him, was a contradiction in itself." (Journal)
In this, Woolman's testimony we may recognize one of the Psalms “To the Lord belongs the Earth and everything in it, the world and all its inhabitants . . . " (Psalm 24) And indeed, throughout Friends history we were reminded not only of the "Words of God" but also of the "Works of God." Both may inspire us and fill us with awe and respect.
Who are we to put these works of God at serious risk? They do not belong to us! Rather, we belong to them, we are part of this God-given web of life we call Creation. We are called to sound stewardship on order to care for its integrity!
We live in a society where political and economical choices are more often dictated by greed than by need. What choices do we make as individual Friends? If the dominate life-style, if the dominate economic model, is causing the above mentioned detrimental effects, even the extinction of many of God's creatures, should Friends not question it? How do we let our lives speak in answer to the love of God? We asked ourselves these questions at our Yearly Meeting. The keyword for a solution seems to be sustainability. If we live by our traditional testimonies as a God and truth-loving people, seeking justice, peace and simple life-styles, "living simply, so that others may simply live," adopting sustainable development as an additional testimony seems to be the necessary next step. Isn't it a living tradition, we take part in?
If we consider sustainability a testimony, we must confess, however, that we very often fail to live up to it. But we have committed ourselves to come back to these questions and explore ways to let our lives speak more effectively in this respect.
We know about the work that is done to promote sustainable development by environmental movements as well as by the (world-wide) ecumenical movement, such as the work on climate change by the World Council of Churches. Some of our members are involved in these activities, using silent diplomacy much like e.g. Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) representatives do in the fields of social justice and peace.
We therefore hope and pray that Friends gathered at the Triennial will unite with the concern of Netherlands Yearly Meeting that it is our responsibility to help preserve the Integrity of God's Creation by adopting sustainability as a testimony to live by.
We hope that this will be expressed at international, national and local levels. Friends World Committee for Consultation, with the Quaker United Nations Offices as our international instrument, should make it one of its priorities for the twenty-first century.
At the same time, we should not forget to cooperate closely with on-going work of other international bodies. Yearly Meetings could likewise join national ecumenical work for the Integrity of Creation. Local meetings and individual Friends should actively explore ways in which to use resource sustainability, using as little energy as possible and producing a minimum of waste. Let us—at all three levels—seek to live Quaker lives that testify to our awareness of being part of the God-given web of life called Creation!
2. Sustainable Development As a Quaker Testimony?(A Personal Response)
New England Yearly Meeting this year adopted a minute from NEFUN (New England Friends in Unity with Nature Committee) exhorting our yearly and monthly meetings to seek discernment to the meaning and practice of sustainability in our lives. Attached to this minute was another from Netherlands Yearly meeting urging Friends everywhere to adopt sustainable development as a Quaker testimony along with Simplicity, Peace, and Social Justice.
To avoid a too-easy assent to a challenging ideal, hadn't we better ask at the outset just what some of the effects of a sustainable economy might be on the living of our lives. And because to sustainability" is such a slippery term, let us adopt Jonathan Biorrit's conception: A sustainable economy implies improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of the Earth's ecosystems. *
In my view, this quest would involve nothing less than a profound transformation in our values: personal, economic, and political.
At the national level, for example, Gross Domestic Product will have to be dethroned as the key measure of prosperity. It does not count the ecological costs, nor does it measure human. Well being, let alone equitable distribution.
To conserve natural resources and curb pollution, substantial public funds will have to be invested in renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency, while community-based organic agriculture must become the norm rather than the exception. Re-use, repair, and recycling must replace the free enterprise dream of a material cornucopia. We will have to produce less rather than more, so as not to exhaust irreplaceable resources. (Sustainable growth is a self-contradiction, since exponential growth cannot continue indefinitely off a finite resource base.)
All this means that the new bottom line is that we―especially the well-off―will have to do with less: fewer goods, less power-driven machinery and appliances, and a good deal less it stuff, especially plastic. Simplicity, a traditional Quaker ideal, will become an economic imperative.
At the same time, we are going to have to subsidize clean technologies for poor countries so that they can produce more―because that is an essential step in their ability to eliminate poverty and control the population explosion, without which nothing else will avail.
Even these few examples point to the reality: sustainable development implies a truly new world order managed for the benefit, not of the wealthy or of certain advanced nations - not even for humanity alone―but for the new vision of the Community of Living Things. Because everything is connected and interdependent, what harms one ultimately harms all. The health of humans is inseparable from that of algae or of the soil's microbes. Living with these understandings, the Western tradition of radical individualism must give way to the life-honoring
ideals of community and justice.
The difficulty of such an agenda looks staggering. It is the ultimate disarmament which will affect every aspect of our lives. It wil1 require unprecedented wisdom on the part of leaders as well as the spiritual rebirth of millions. For Friends, it means finding that of God in all of creation.
Scientists tell us we have a decade or two at most to reach a decision and change our ways. Mindful of my many addictions to our culture of convenience and efficiency And, I ask myself, am I seriously prepared to commit to an agenda on that scale―to a virtual redefinition of society, of progress, even of what it means to be human? Are Friends ready to make that commitment? And if we are, can we begin to act without first asking forgiveness in prayer for the devastation we have helped cause? And of whom, or what, do we ask forgiveness?
I am certain of only one thing. The only power on Earth capable of effecting a transformation of that magnitude is the power of Love―enlarged to embrace new domains. But in the face of that daunting prospect, I hear the voice of Penn on the difficulty of bringing peace to a world accustomed to war: Somebody has got to begin it.
―Bob Hillegass, Monadnock Friends Meeting
3. From Mt. Toby Friends Meeting “Full Moon Group”
Environmental Sustainability and Friends Testimonies
A group from the Mt. Toby Friends Meeting in Leverett, Massachusetts, has been meeting monthly for more than a year, to explore the ways our Quaker faith informs, and is informed by, our relation to the natural world. We began meeting after many of us had served as resource people for a Young Friends' Retreat on Earth which was held at our meeting. In different ways, we are all ‘Earth activists.’ We meet to help one another develop a spiritual foundation for responding, as individuals and as members of our larger communities, to the growing environmental crises sweeping over us. These problems are so immense and so intractable that the support and comfort of others is essential for avoiding the despair and paralysis that otherwise come so easily.
As we become more mindful of the environmental impacts of our lives' actions, our ultimate goal is to transform our way of being in the world (individually and collectively), to reduce the destruction we have caused. While we are tempted to leap immediately into solutions to perceived problems, it is our sense that there are so many changes we should/could be making that it is essential to develop a clear spiritual context for making such changes. Otherwise, there is a great risk of increasingly frenzied response, accompanied with an increasing sense of guilt, futility, and despair. In the face of these risks, we seek to quiet, center, and ask to know what is right for us and for the Earth.
In the fall of 1998 we were asked by the clerk of our Monthly Meeting to respond to the Netherlands Yearly Meeting Minute on Sustainability. This minute was brought before New England Yearly Meeting in August 1998. Monthly Meetings have been asked to respond to the minute, coordinating responses through the New England Friends in Unity with Nature Committee of the Yearly Meeting. We discussed the Minute at several of our meetings, sponsored a worship-sharing hour in which many Meeting members participated, and several of us taught First Day School sharing our understanding of links among Earth, people, and spirit. This work has led us to further reflection and clarity on questions of environmental sustainability.
Our Evolving Perspectives on Environmental Questions
We start with the belief that the environmental dilemmas we face are not merely technical problems, but are rooted in the kinds of materialism and busyness which separate us from God and from each other. For ourselves, at least, we feel that changing our lives to respond to the perceived environmental crises is most likely to be effectively sustained if it is embraced joyously as a way to enhance our spiritual aspirations, rather than grudgingly accepted as sacrifices to our ``lifestyle'' that are forced on us. Making these choices is a religious obligation, requiring spiritual discernment about who we are and what we really aspire to for ourselves and our world. We are concerned that many who seek sustainability take as their premise the desirability of preserving ‘business as usual,’ with our high levels of consumption, travel, and general complexity of life. We feel that actions based on this premise are almost certainly doomed to failure. We seek to truly comprehend that our concern for the Earth may well afford us opportunity and strength to make those changes in our lives necessary for our spiritual growth.
At the same time, we are aware that many of the problems have highly complex and interacting ecological, economic, and social components, so that making choices and setting priorities intelligently will require that we take the time and care to ground ourselves in some of the technical complexities involved, avoiding the overly simplistic ‘solutions’ that can be so tempting.
We want to ensure that our response to environmental questions grows out of a loving and intimate connection with the natural world, rather than from a more remote and analytical position. We are concerned not to fall into the trap of over-intellectualizing the discussion, with lengthy debates over whether or not global warming is real, or with discussions like whether or not “stewardship” is the appropriate name for the relationship we aspire to with the natural world. Before we can name the relationship, it has to exist, in a complex of simple, everyday acts of attention, care, and interaction. We have spent time discussing the kinds of daily practices each of us has, and would like to have, for grounding ourselves more mindfully in the world around us. We hope to spend more time developing ways to support one another in cultivating habits of spending parts of every day in ways that directly strengthen our sense of connection to, and dependence on, the rest of Creation.
A traditional view asserts that human nature consists of a spiritual side in opposition to a physical one, with the goal being to transcend our baser “creaturely” selves. Many of us reject this view, aspiring to perceive ourselves and our place in the world as an indivisible synthesis of body, mind, and spirit. We are shaped by the millions of years of our history, and our resulting capacity for joy and sorrow is a cherished and integral part of who we are, providing us with a deep sense of kinship with our fellow creatures, and giving us a vital stake in what happens to them. This connection is also, for many of us, one of the principal sources of nourishment for our spiritual life.
Our Response to the Idea of a Testimony on Sustainability
In 1997, a minute was approved at Netherlands Yearly Meeting calling for Friends to develop a new testimony on sustainability as an essential part of our response to the environmental crisis. While we are sympathetic to much of the minute, we are not convinced that adopting such a testimony would be helpful. We have examined the proposed testimony from the following perspectives:
Is it necessary?
The Netherlands minute asserts that we need a new testimony on sustainability. This motivated us to go back and reread the existing testimonies (as reflected in the Queries) in the New England Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice―particularly those on Personal Conduct, Stewardship, Vocations, Social Responsibility, and Peace and Reconciliation. It seems to us that the problem is not that we don't have a testimony that speaks to the environmental crisis, but that we aren't taking seriously the testimonies we already have. Most of the causes of our environmental problems arise from the same roots―greed, failure to nurture a simple and spiritually oriented life, lack of attention to the impact our behaviors have on others―that have diminished the lives of humans for centuries and that spiritual teachers have long addressed. To view environmental degradation as a new kind of problem requiring new cures risks missing the important point that we are getting ourselves in trouble for the same reasons we always have. There is thus the danger of seeing the solution in too superficial, too technical a light.
At the same time, though, there are some important aspects of our relationship with Earth that our Queries don't seem to address adequately. They do not explicitly call us to consider the impacts of our actions upon future generations; they do not explicitly endorse our creaturely side and help us to affirm and enjoy this part of our nature; they do not speak to our role in the larger ecosystem. It would be helpful to expand our Queries to take these aspects of our lives into consideration.
Is it clear?
By creating a name, we are in danger of thinking that we have found a solution. But what do we wish to sustain―our comfortable middle-class life? The status quo? The ultimate sustainable environment is a lifeless world. We fear that this term means too many things to too many different people to be helpful. We need a conceptual tool that is clear and sharp, but “sustainability” is too vague. The fact that so many politicians and international corporations are co-opting the concept, talking virtuously about sustainability or, worse yet, “sustainable development” suggests that we are dealing with a compromised and fuzzy concept.
Is it useful?
Similarly, the concept of sustainability is so broad that it often does not offer a clear guide on making the small decisions in our everyday lives that we need to make. We find the traditional testimonies of simplicity and right use of resources to be more helpful in this regard.
Is it honest?
The problem is, we are nowhere near taking biological, economic, or community sustainability seriously. When we talk about recycling, public transportation, fuel efficiency, etc. while ignoring issues of population growth, petroleum-dependent economies, and inequities of wealth distribution, we may be talking about fine and useful things, but we are not really talking about sustainability. If we don't really mean sustainability, moral integrity suggests we develop a more honest vocabulary to describe what we are talking about―amelioration, slowing the pace of destruction, lowering our levels of consumption, etc.―and not pretend we are talking about a lasting solution to the deeper problems.
We Are Already Home
We are part of the Earth, not above it―the Earth supports and sustains us more fundamentally than ever we do the Earth. At the heart of much of our ecological problem is that we have come to see ourselves as aliens to Earth. We are sufficiently evolved so that we no longer know―in our senses, in our minds, in our heart―our need of Earth. Because we do not recognize need, we do not honor obligation. Accordingly, we perpetuate the tourist mindset that seems to characterize so much of our living and thinking.
What Do We Do Now?
Friends tend not to be philosophers, but doers. The question we are called upon to prayerfully consider is “What is needful now?” Recognizing that all answers are provisional, that certainty and guarantees are unavailable, we are simply required to respond faithfully to whatever discernment is given to us at this moment, trusting that further light will be forthcoming as we proceed. It would be a tragic mistake to wait until we feel we have the whole picture clear before we act, since unexpected events are certain to radically alter the best-laid plans.
We sense that our simple changes may be profoundly transformative; we acknowledge our deep fear of fundamental change.
We need to begin now, living mindfully from day to day. We need to share our journeys, struggles and successes with each other. Our monthly gathering is one of the very important things we can do.
The Importance of Joy
As we grope our way into the responses that feel appropriate to us individually and the kinds of collective changes we seek, we aspire to remain deeply aware of the tremendous beauty, joy, and spiritual inspiration by which we are everywhere surrounded. To become so overwhelmed by the magnitude and apparent insolubility of the problems, to become so bereaved by the very real losses that are taking place around us that we fail to see the great joy that remains―that would be a defeat indeed.
4. Minute Proposed by Cambridge Friends Meeting
To facilitate the Meeting's focus for discussion of 'sustainability as a new Friends' testimony Cambridge Friends in Unity with Nature brings forward the following proposed minute For a statement of the context in which the minute is being brought, see other side of page.
The universal processes that establish and maintain the forms we find in nature, including those forms we call "life," are a manifestation of God in which we are blessed to participate. In the manner of continuing revelation we are becoming aware of the total and sacred interdependence of all things. A new story is unfolding in which we are an integral part of the pattern of existence rather than its main purpose. We are learning to see the complex patterns of change and exchange that underlie the apparent stability upon which we rely to live, and we are moved to worshipful awe.
Our inherited religious tradition exhorts us to have "dominion" over a natural world created for our use. However, our new understanding of the impact of humankind on the rest of nature calls into question traditional assumptions about ourselves, our origins, our future. Practices which degrade the systems on which they depend are inherently unsustainable. The Earth's bio-system is a living web that maintains out own existence and that of many other life forms, both known to us and unknown. In these times we observe a growing degradation of this bio-system. We are now called to examine the extent to which our tradition leads us to collude, wittingly and unwittingly, with actions that contribute to that degradation.
We accept that a faithful response to God's life moving in us requires that we re-examine our behaviors and actions, our policies and practices, as they affect Earth's web of life. We need to do this at personal, community, national, international and corporate levels, and to work to change those that degrade the processes by which God enables our lives. To this end we should adopt long-term sustainability as one measure of the rightness of the practices we live by. God has troubled our hearts, and is showing us that the way to a renewal of our peace is to forge a human way of life in harmony with the sacred patterns of nature in which we participate. 3/6/99
5. A Minute Approved by Acadia Friends Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Bar Harbor, Maine, January 18, 1998.
“For me, God is creative, responsive love, binding together all that exists in the universe, manifest to us in the experiences which can bind us, all parts of creation, together in a blessed community.”
―Bruce Birchard, "This Is My Quaker Faith"
As members of a religious society that has been evolving for 350 years, we believe the time has come for us to develop a testimony on living in unity with nature.
Friends, like other faith groups, are entering an era of conscious empathy with the unity and diversity of life on Earth. We are beginning to view every form of life as an expression of universal love. We are glad to welcome this new era as a time of expanded faith and action.
We see now that our well-being depends on the well-being of Earth as a living community. How does such an insight fit with our exploitation of that same community? How does the quest for unity with nature fit with our habitual attempt to dominate nature itself? Has the time come to turn the focus of human attention away from unnecessary consumption of natural resources toward living simply with our Earthly neighbors in the biblical spirit of loving them as we love ourselves?
We would not be here without the help of other forms of life--the plants that give us oxygen and nourishment, the microbes that digest our food, the fungi and bacteria that break down our waste, and the myriad species contributing to the functioning and wonder of the paradise in which we live, including those we have never seen or don't know exist. Instead of being born to dominate the Earth, we now see ourselves born to a partnership with the plants and animals that sustain us. Our understanding is incomplete, cultural habits are hard to change; but that does not mean we should not strive to bring in the new era. We can only proceed from where we are, revising our efforts in light of our growing experience. The coming era can be an era of new challenge and fulfillment. Human understanding of life processes is expanding rapidly. Faith is not diminished but is nourished by that larger understanding. Living in unity with nature means living simply and lovingly with the blessed Earth community in light of continuing revelation. In witness of that revelation, we will do all we can to be worthy of the life spirit wherever and in whatever form we find it expressed.
From now on, every day offers us opportunities for living out our renewed faith. Are we ready to act lovingly toward all parts of Creation as we would have others act toward us? Can we reach out to that of God in every one, every creature, and everything? Will we recognize the divine presence in all its myriad forms, seeing our daily lives as a series of sacred encounters? Living in unity with nature is a challenge that invites us to become responsible members of the larger natural community which embraces and supports human society. Starting with ourselves as aspects of nature, some of the ways we might express our wonderment, love, and respect include:
1. Caring for our bodies by striving to eat a healthy diet, be physically active, get adequate rest, and avoid substances we believe to be harmful to us
2. Caring for our loved ones, our home communities, and those parts of our local bioregions within reach of our influence―that is, thinking globally and acting not only locally but personally, familially, communally, and regionally
3. Sharing our resources with those in need at home and abroad
4. Reducing our demand for energy and consumable goods reusing what goods we can, and recycling what we cannot reuse
5. Finding simple joy and fulfillment in being alive instead of in consuming goods and resources
6. Trying not to support industries that pollute air, water, or soil
7. Working on behalf of all parts of creation to achieve equality, justice, and freedom from prejudice, and
8. Seeking peaceful means of keeping the human population within Earth's carrying capacity
Taking actions such as these, we bear witness to our spiritual faith, and express the creative, responsive love at the core of our existence. That central theme gives us a sense of well-being, revealing daily life to be a series of sacred encounters with the universal spirit, and unity with nature to be at the heart of an Earth community that is truly blessed.
For additional information contact Steve Perrin, Clerk, Unity with Nature Committee, Acadia Friends Meeting, P.O. Box 21, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609-0021, Earthling@acadia.net
7. Epistle from New Zealand, July 2000
Epistle from Yearly Meeting Aotearoa/New Zealand
of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Te Haahi Tuuhauwiri
To Friends everywhere,
Over Easter weekend in the year 2000 approximately 100 Friends came together for Yearly Meeting at the Quaker Settlement in Wanganui, in the North Island. We were warmly welcomed and made comfortable by the customary thoughtfulness of Wanganui Friends which gave our extended weekend its sense of intimacy and connectedness. The design of the new Quiet room and its foyer complemented this feeling of family.
Throughout the meeting we were made aware of the need for remembering our history, while relating our actions and outreach to the new century. At a Meeting for Worship at the Wanganui Meeting House we remembered the special qualities of those who worked for Friends School, Wanganui, and its local meeting
A session devoted to Junior/Young Friends in New Zealand and in Australia emphasised their needs for guidance from experienced Friends and for a degree of autonomy. We enjoyed the reading of a daily interchange of e‑mail messages with participants in the YF camp being held simultaneously in Wellington. We also appreciated the presence of a 100-year-old Friend. Throughout Yearly Meeting the theme of sustainability appeared and reappeared: sustainability of world resources through global corporate accountability, as well as our own spirituality, our relationships, and in the Religious Society of Friends.
In particular a number of Friends had been working on spiritual ecology, partly in response to the Netherlands Yearly Meeting's challenges at recent FWCC triennials. Their session provoked deep and passionate contributions resulting in the accompanying statement.
We listened to and laughed with two Scottish Friends, hearing their inspiring stories of courageous protest against nuclear weapons which brought maximum publicity to the rules of International Law.
The loving good humour generated at the seminar preceding Yearly Meeting has remained with us and supported our decision-making. We have felt a tenderness toward each other and we have been left in no doubt that the Invisible Light is still shining.
Now is the time to act together trusting that the Inner Light will open our eyes to the Light within the whole of creation and will lead us to our right place.
Many Friends in Aotearoa, New Zealand have had a long and deeply held understanding that the whole of Creation is sacred. We have experienced personally the beauty and interconnectedness of Creation.
The time has come for our Yearly Meeting to affirm these leadings of the Spirit as a testimony. We need to recognise the spiritual nature of our responsibility to live with reverence for life. We want to extend our compassion for each other to compassion for all of life.
Each of us is part of the whole of life. All of life is in each of us. We grieve for the parts of our greater being that have been lost. We humans are driving thousands of species to extinction, causing deforestation, erosion and floods, polluting our rivers, soil, oceans and atmosphere.
Let us recognise the diversity of life, its interdependence, and balance. The inherent wisdom of life astounds us. From cells to ecosystems we see a self-organising, self-repairing, cooperative whole. Our human focus needs to be widened to encompass the whole web of life. We need to change from domination to participation. The process will not be easy.
Our belief in simplicity will help us to live full and joyful lives without devouring the Earth's resources. We can cheerfully do more with less. We affirm that we are able to make a difference. Now is the time to act together trusting that the Inner Light will open our eyes to the Light within the whole of Creation and will lead us to our right place.
To each person life has given a unique being. We call on everyone to use that uniqueness to serve the whole. We encourage individual Friends of all ages and all meetings to consider and amend our life-styles and to support each other in making the changes necessary as our witness to this testimony.
8. Celebrating the Earth, by John Yungblut, Cambridge, May 5, 1993
I am grateful to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education and the Friends in Unity with Nature Committee for extending the invitation to be with you this evening. Because of the increasing diminishments I suffer from my Parkinson's disease, it will probably be my last speaking engagement. As such it holds special significance for me. It represents the end of a journey which has come full circle, beginning here at Harvard University in 1930 and bringing me home to Cambridge tonight. And down the street a little way is the Episcopal Divinity School from which I graduated in 1939.
This journey was given its point of departure and its direction by three influences: the shaking of the foundations I experiences in sitting under the benign spirit of Alfred North Whitehead, imbibing the evolutionary humanism of Kirtley Mather, my favorite lecturer and author of the book, Enough and to Spare, (one of the early assessments of our ecological status), and Rufus Jones, my favorite preacher in the college chapel, whose exuberant spirit drew me to seek its source. When I finally amassed enough courage, I waylaid him in the corridor after worship and put to him this question: "I am, by accident of birth, technically a Christian and an Episcopalian. But I realize this orientation is relative. How can I come by the 'universal' in religious experience?" He replied, "For that, my son, you must consult the mystics of all the living religions and of secular humanism as well." It was the best counsel I ever received, and pursuing it has been the major source of joy in my solitude ever since.
At the same time, Kirtley Mather, direct descendant of Cotton Mather, an earlier American evangelist, with his boundless enthusiasm and optimism, embodies and articulated a viable integration of science and religion. His interpretation of continuing creation through evolution reflected all the passionate excitement of Henri Bergson's "elan vital." Having written Enough and to Spare many years earlier, his last book was entitled, The Permissive Universe, a sober warning that without commitment to conservation there would not be enough, much less "anything to spare."
Toward an Evolutionary Mysticism
I mention these early influences in my life to account for what I see as a lifelong preparation to approach our current ecological concern with the conviction that what is needed is nothing less than the emergence of a new world-wide evolutionary mysticism. Far enough back and deep enough down, we are related to every other creature, flora and fauna, on the tree of life. We know nothing more about the beginning or the ending of our universe, but we know a great deal more about the background history, where we're coming from and where we're tending on this, our home, planet Earth. There has been fresh revelation, the discovery of the fact of evolution, only a little more than a century ago. We haven't yet awakened from or adequately interpreted this new dream of the Earth. But Teilhard de Chardin has given us two new metaphors toward its understanding. Evolution is a "fact illuminating all other facts; it is a curve which all lines henceforth must follow." I do not believe this is an excessive evaluation. The lines of Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy followed that curve. So also, perforce, did Kirtley Mather's myth of meaning.
The revelation of where we're coming from on this planet did not come a moment too soon. Developed mystics were capable of identifying with other creatures before the advent of the momentous revelation, but the paradigm of the tree of life, substantiated by incontrovertible evidence in fossil remains, has emerged in the fullness of time, just as the aftermath of the industrial revolution, contaminated by human greed, has threatened to make the world uninhabitable. Learning that our source is the same as that of all other creature on this planet has opened our eyes to behold the profound interdependence which underlies and undergirds our existence. The fabulous ambience of life on our planet Earth is diminished by every species that becomes extinct. As Thomas Berry suggests, we've been shaken out of the trance in which we've been living until now. At long last some of us see how immanent is the cosmic tragedy awaiting us if we do not wake up.
I believe with Thomas Berry that it will take nothing less than a new spirituality of the Earth to provide the sustained motivation to save us from the fatal course we are currently pursuing. I mean not a spirituality about the Earth, or for the Earth, but the Earth's own spirituality, arising from the Earth itself, as we have arisen out of the very bowels of the Earth. This spirituality will have to take the form of a mysticism growing out of the experience of relatedness to all other creatures, a mystical experience of unity with nature. The values of this evolutionary mysticism have been discerned by Thomas Berry to be three in number: differentiation, interiority, and communion. The process of continuing creation through evolution functions through mutation. Within the human species we are discovering that there is a drive toward differentiation that Jung has named individuation. As individuation progresses there is a deepening of interiorization, an expanding consciousness of a unique inner journey. And when individuals cultivate individuation and interiority, they become capable of a richer communion between themselves and other creatures. This inner growth extends the ability to empathize with other creatures and to experience a mystical identification with them.
Albert Einstein has said, “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest as a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons near us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
The crucial question is, how do we widen the circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature? It involves, I believe, an expansion of consciousness through what in the East is called meditation and we call contemplation, and, two, the practice of active imagination under the inspiration of a master. A chosen master would be someone who has achieve a consciousness of unity with nature and who is capable of interpreting the experience. I have not myself attained this form of raised consciousness, but I have long ago chosen those masters who continue to help me grow in this direction: William Wordsworth, Teilhard de Chardin, and Loren Eiseley.
Some Chosen Masters
Wordsworth had the advantage of growing up in the charming Lake District of England. Not since Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century had anyone live on such intimate terms with nature. In the great poem, "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," he shares with us the spirituality he consciously aspired to: "I could wish my days to be bound each by natural piety." This is to be understood as a piety evoked by nature, a spirituality of the Earth. It led him to profess a persistent gratitude:
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
We need to rediscover such thoughts and to learn how to experience such an intense relationship with nature. Wordsworth expresses the essence of his nature mysticism in the poem, "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey":
A sense of sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought
And rolls through all things.
Wordsworth's poetry was itself a celebration of the Earth. It was his response to the enchantment nature held for him. To let the Earth recover her enchantment for us, that is what we need to do.
My interest in the process of evolution, having been awakened by Kirtley Mather, was fanned into flames in the early sixties by happening on the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. Standing on the shoulders of Charles Darwin, Teilhard raised the question with which Darwin had not concerned himself: What is the relationship between pre-life and life on this planet? Focusing his attention on what he called the "within of things," Teilhard perceived that the same unbroken continuity that characterized the evolution of life had prevailed in the transition from inanimate matter into life. Life had sprung from the heart of matter. He fabricated a fabulous new myth of meaning for our time. Whereas Albert Schweitzer's personal revelation took the form of "reverence for life," Teilhard's took the form of reverence for matter, inclusive of life.
In the book, The Heart of Matter, he confides in us the nature of his experience:
“Starting from the point at which a spark was first struck, a point that was built into me congenitally, the world gradually caught fire for me; burst into flame; how this happened all during my life, and as a result of my whole life, until it formed a great luminous mass, lit from within, that surrounded me. Within every being and every even there was a progressive expansion of a mysterious inner clarity which transformed them. But, what was more, there was a gradual variation of intensity and color that was related to the complex interplay of three universal components: the Cosmic, the Human, and the Christic―these (at least the first and the last) asserted themselves explicitly in me from the very first moments of my existence, but it has taken me more than sixty years of ardent effort to discover that they were no more than the successive heraldings of, or approximate outlines of, one and the same fundamental reality.
“Crimson gleams of matter, gliding imperceptibly into the gold of Spirit, ultimately to be transformed into the incandescence of a Universe that is Person―and through all of this there blows, animating it and spreading over it in a fragrant balm, a zephyr of Union and of the Feminine. The Diaphany of the Divine at the heart of a glowing Universe, as I have experienced it through contact with the Earth―the divine radiating from the depths of a blazing Matter.”
Our experience of the Earth will probably never reach these lyrical heights, but each in our own way may come to perceive the diaphany of the divine―at the heart of matter, especially that matter which we have come to call life.
Saddened by the tragedies which afflict our sorry world, when we life our eyes to the far horizons perceived on this scale of evolution, we may be heartened by Teilhard's invincible optimism. In the prediction of this poet-prophet:
“The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”
The third master I have chosen to teach me the celebration of the Earth is Loren Eiseley. Deprived of access to sustained communication with both his mother, who was stone deaf and neurotic as well, and his father, who was remote and preoccupied, he turned as a child to other creature for companionship. He transformed the barrenness of his home into an invitation to commune with nature. Though a trained scientist called to fill the multiple-discipline Benjamin Franklin chair at the University of Pennsylvania, he understood his real vocation to be that of literary naturalist in the tradition of Henry Thoreau and John Muir. Happy for us that he did so because no one among our contemporary masters can better interpret and impart the spirit of an evolutionary mysticism for our time. His capacity for identification with other creatures through active imagination was fabulous. He could play with the fox cubs, soar into the billowy sky when the tethered hawk was released to join its mate, and dance the mating dance with the crane at the zoo. If anyone ever knew how to celebrate the Earth, it was Loren Eiseley.
His vast knowledge of the myriad animals produced by evolution enabled him to keep the human animal, man and woman, in proper perspective. "We are one of the many appearance of the thing called life; we are not its perfect image, for it has no image except life, and life is multitudinous and emergent in the stream of time."
Eiseley attributes the expansion of life to a characteristic of all creatures, which he names "reaching out":
The drifting cell masses of the early ocean lived in a nutrient solution. Salt and sun and moisture were accessible without great mechanical elaboration. It was the reaching out that changed this pattern, the reaching out that forced the cells to bring the sea ashore with them, to elaborate in their own bodies the very miniature of that all-embracing sea from which they came. It was the reaching out, that magnificent and agelong groping that only life―blindly and persistently among stones and the indifference of the entire inanimate universe―can continue to endure and prolong.
He then identifies the "most enormous extension of vision of which life is capable": The projection of itself into other lives. This is the lonely, magnificent power of humanity. It is―far more than any spatial adventure―the supreme epitome of reaching out. It is this particular gift of humanity that we are being called to exercise at this critical moment in evolution: the capacity to reach out to and to identify with our cousins on the tree of life, in compassion and communion.
This reaching out will have to include relating in new and creative ways to other human beings, our brothers and sisters, on this wondrous and fragile planet Earth. Survival of the fittest until now may have included the skillful use of violence. But now it is only the "meek" who "shall inherit the Earth." Eiseley put it this way:
The need is not really for more brains, the need is now for a gentler, more tolerant people than those who won for us against the idea, the tiger, and the bear. The hand that hefted the ax out of some old blind allegiance to the past fondles the machine gun as lovingly. It is a habit man will have to break to survive, but the roots go very deep.
Finally, a heavy responsibility rests upon us. No one has expressed its gravity more eloquently than Eiseley in these sobering words:
“In a universe whose size is beyond human imaginings, where our world floats like a dust mote in the void of night, men have grown inconceivably lonely. We scan the time scale and the mechanisms of life itself, for portents and signs of the invisible. As the only thinking mammals on the planet―perhaps the only thinking animals in the entire sidereal universe―the burden of consciousness has grown heavy upon us. We watch the stars, but the signs are uncertain. We uncover the bones of the past and seek our origins. There is a path there but it appears to wander. The vagaries of the road have a meaning, however; it is thus we torture ourselves.
“Lights come and go in the night sky. Men, troubled at least by the things they build, may toss in their sleep and dream bad dreams, or lie awake while the meteors whisper greenly overhead. But nowhere in all space or on a thousand worlds will there be men to share our loneliness. There may be wisdom; there may be power; somewhere across space great instruments, handled by strange, manipulative organs, may stare vainly at our floating cloud wrack, their owners yearning as we year. Nevertheless, in the nature of life and in the principles of evolution, we have had our answer: Of men elsewhere, and beyond, there be none forever.”
All the more then we must learn to celebrate with the companions we've been given on this our good Earth.
9. Giving Thanks for “Daily Bread” by Louis Cox
The catastrophic meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl in the late 1980s inflamed anti-nuclear sentiment around the world. Public outrage was strongest in Sweden and other parts of northern Europe that were dusted with radioactive fallout. Responding to public pressure, Sweden’s government has made a commitment not to build any more nuclear power plants, even as existing ones age and are decommissioned.
Since nuclear power provides about half of that country’s electrical generating capacity, the Swedes must begin deciding how much of that deficit will be filled by new coal-fired plants and how much they are willing to offset through energy conservation. Environmentalists are watching for signs which ways the Swedes are likely to go, since the outcome is one of the many ways the Earth’s health hangs “in the balance.”
In the past, critics of the energy-intensive lifestyles of U.S. Americans have cited Sweden as a model, since it enjoys a comparable standard of living with about half of our per-capita energy consumption. But does this prove they are more environmentally conscious? Recent studies suggest otherwise.
A study reported in Environment magazine in 1994 found that Swedes generally are not well informed about global warming, acid rain, and ozone layer depletion and are as oblivious to the environmental impacts of their lifestyles as are most U.S. Americans seem to be! More significant, most of those interviewed said they would not be willing to reduce personal comforts―maintain lower room temperatures and take shorter showers, etc.―to support a decline in their country’s electrical generating capacity. But they would make some sacrifices to conserve if their already high utility rates were to more than double. The study suggested that public education might change their attitudes and behavior, but concluded that the ups and downs of international oil prices would probably have a greater influence on Swedes’ incentives to conserve energy.
We environmentalists who have committed much time and money to public education over the past three decades may be troubled by this analysis, because we don’t believe the quality of life on this planet should be driven solely by money and politics, because we don’t believe the only choice is nuclear power versus increased global warming and acid rain. We still believe in people’s ability to change voluntarily to sustainable lifestyles.
But if the price of oil tends to speak louder than the reasoned pleas of most public education programs, what can we say that will promote a longer-range perspective and an Earth-centered ethic? Facts aren’t enough to change deep-seated and culturally reinforced habits and attitudes. There is also a need for a spiritual transformation. This can happen when we are confronted with paradoxes, which may lead us to question our current perceptions. For instance, we are shocked when we first learn that many of our possessions and pastimes are having serious negative personal, social, spiritual, and environmental side-effects. How can something be both “good” and “bad”? Why do things that are less hazardous to the environment often carry a higher price tag? And how can the financial markets be projecting such a rosy picture of the future when for billions of people the general quality of life is going down?
Some people respond to such paradoxes with denial, rationalization, scapegoating, or alibis. Although unconstructive, these can still be stages in the process of spiritual transformation. A pricked conscience may strike out in annoyance, but at least something is stirring in the depths, and that’s reason for hope. Resistance to change doesn’t mean that people want to remain stuck and are hostile to truth. The spiritual ecology movement will get more attention and support when it demonstrates that what we all really need and want is a sense of wholeness and relationship, and that we can’t get there by pursuing the “American dream.”
If we are in fact on a superhighway to environmental disaster, we must encourage and enable more people to get off. To start, we need to establish the existence of a saner “road less traveled,” with a map that shows the off-ramps. We also need to share success stories from others who have already ventured that way. Publishing such a “map” is one way of describing the work of Friends Committee on Unity with Nature (FCUN) and affiliated groups such as New England Friends in Unity with Nature (NEFUN). Through reports and stories in BeFriending Creation and other publications, more people are being exposed to alternative lifestyles that help the Earth and foster personal health and happiness.
For example, I live in a solar-electric house. My experience of living “off the grid” has profoundly altered my perception of reality and my sense of personal connection to the Earth: I am much more aware of the changes in the weather and seasonal cycles as they affect the amount of solar energy gathered by my photovoltaic panels. Rather than feeling hampered when nature’s ebbs and flows don’t synchronize with my agendas, I am learning to give thanks for this “daily bread” and the opportunity to feel in tune with Mother Earth by moving in time with her rhythms.
Photovoltaics may not be the answer for every household. But I can affirm from my experience the need for everyone to get reconnected to fundamental Earth processes, in whatever ways are appropriate and accessible. Greater consciousness of these processes will, I believe, naturally lead folks to walk more gently on the Earth.
Countless people around the world are already beginning to make significant changes in their lives. A group of power company customers in northern Michigan recently agreed to have their homes and businesses taken off the main power grid and to be wired up to a large community wind generator, knowing that their basic monthly utility charges are expected to increase. The key to this program’s success was a public education campaign that helped people understand and weigh along with dollar costs the true value of “clean” energy, as well as the needs and rights of future generations.
If FCUN and NEFUN supporters can foster that kind of spiritual transformation and commitment within the Religious Society of Friends, we will have made an important contribution to this growing movement.
Chapter Four - Resources for Discernment
I. Sustainability and Quaker Faith
Using Friend’s queries
A special query at 10:00 am
Quotes from John Woolman, George Fox
Queries for committees
Council of All Beings
Our Story, a Journey in Time Through Creation
Nature trails with meditational readings
II. Sustainability and Quaker testimonies
1. Sustainability and Simplicity
Living on the Earth--The Underlying Assumption
What’s Wrong With Our Food Systems
2. Sustainability and Justice
Food technology and monopolies
Coffee that is fair
Energy and exploitation
3. Sustainability and Peace.
Sustainability a matter of degree
Cause for conflict
Environmental effects of war
III. Sustainability and Quaker Practice
Some visions of sustainability
Ideas from around NEYM
Discover Unity with Nature in First Day School
I. Sustainability and Quaker Faith
What is God’s guidance for us on our responsibilities towards Creation? How can we open ourselves to fully experience the gifts and joys of Creation? Can the words of others on these questions be helpful in our seeking? What practices can we follow to bring Light as we wrestle with these concerns? Thoughts on these questions are recorded in this Section. Contents include the following:
a. Using Friend’s queries
b. A special query at 10:00 am
c. Quotes from John Woolman, George Fox
d. Queries for Communities
e. Council of All Beings
f. Our Story, a Journey in Time Through Creation
g. Nature trails with meditational readings
I. a .Using Friends’ queries
You, God, the Earth and ALL the Inhabitants of the Earth, from Susan Lloyd McGarry
To prepare, please consider these traditional Friends' queries:
“Do you live with simplicity, moderation, and integrity?
Are you punctual in keeping promises, careful in speech, just and compassionate in all your dealings with others?
Do you take care that your spiritual growth is not sacrificed to busyness but instead integrates your life's activities?
Are your recreations consistent with Quaker values; do they refresh your spirit and renew your body and mind?
“Do you revere all life and the splendor of God's continuing creation?
Do you try to protect the natural environment and its creatures against abuse and harmful exploitation? Do you regard your possessions as given to you in trust, and do you part with them freely to meet the needs of others?
Are you frugal in your person and committed to the just distribution of the world's resources?
“Do you respect the value of all useful work? Does your daily work use means and serve goals which are consistent with the teachings of Jesus?
“Do you respect the worth of every human being as a child of God?
Do you uphold the right of all persons to justice and human dignity?
Do you endeavor to create political, social, and economic institutions which will sustain and enrich the life of all?
We ask you to sit a while with these queries. Then we ask you to read the Netherlands Yearly Meeting Minute on sustainability (which has been copied on the back. New England Yearly Meeting has asked that all Monthly Meetings consider this minute.)
And then come on the 23rd to share what rises for you:
“So, what can you say about your relationship to God, to your neighbors, to the Earth in the light of these queries?
“How do you answer now?
“How do you wish you could answer?
“What do these testimonies mean: simplicity, integrity, right sharing of resources, stewardship, peace? How does the proposed testimony on sustainablilty relate to them?”
from Susan Lloyd McGarry
I. b .Query at 10:00 am
In “This Is My Quaker Faith,” Bruce Birchard wrote, “For me, God is creative, responsive love, binding together all that exists in the universe, manifest to us in the experience which can bind us, all parts of creation, together in a blessed community.”
In nature, you are who you are, where you are, but you are never alone. You are part of a loving community, a blessed community.
Gather yourself in silence. Create a space inside to receive other members of the natural community.
Give yourself to nature, and be fully yourself.
Ask, who are my neighbors? What are they doing? How large are they, how small?
What effect do I have on them? What effect do they have on me? What emotions do I feel?
What beauty do I see? What drama? What interactions?
What is being revealed to me? How am I connected to this outer world?
Do I feel a part of this scene? Do I feel a stranger or an intruder?
What sounds and images can I carry with me from this experience?
I. c .Quotes from Woolman and Fox
“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.”
George Fox 1656
“I kept steadily to meetings; kept First-day afternoons chiefly in reading the scriptures and other good books and was early convinced in my mind: That true religion consists in an inward life; Therein the heart doth reverence and love God the Creator and learns to exercise true justice and goodness, not only toward all men, but also toward the brute creatures. That as the mind is moved by an inward principle to love God as an invisible incomprehensible being, by the same principle it is moved to love him in all his manifestations in the visible world. That as by his breath, the flame of life was kindled in all animal sensible creatures. That to say that we love God as unseen, and at the same time, exercise cruelty toward the least creature moving by his life, or by life derived from him, is a contradiction in itself.”
John Woolman, Journal
“The produce of the earth is a gift from our gracious creator to the inhabitants,
and to impoverish the earth now to support outward greatness appears to be an
injury to the succeeding age.”
-- John Woolman, 1772, (as quoted in Britain YM Faith and Practice, 25.01) From Conversations on the True Harmony of Mankind...ms 1772 included in the journal and essays ed AM Gummere, 1922, p. 462)
I. d. Queries for Committees
Suggested Queries on Sustainability for Meeting Committees from Hartford Friends in Unity with Nature Committee.
As a concern arising out of the September 1999 Meeting Retreat on Sustainability, the Friends Committee on Unity with Nature is asking other Meeting committees to consider how issues of sustainability are reflected in the work of each committee. So as not to overwhelm each committee we have selected a few relevant queries that you might consider discussing as a committee.
The queries have been taken and sometimes modified from Lisa Lofland Gould’s Becoming a Friend to the Creation, a book from Friends Committee on Unity with Nature that is available in our Meeting library.
Worship and Ministry-Pastoral Care
What would it really mean to live a life of faith and deep communion with all life spirit rather than one of material accumulation?
Do we seek to understand the spiritual consequences of our broken relationship with the rest of Creation, and how this broken relationship is affecting our human communities and the wider biological communities to which we belong?
Is our Meeting aware of the spiritual basis of our concern for the environment?
Do we seek to be aware of God’s love and energy in all of Creation?
Living in that spirit, do we strive to relate with love and respect to ourselves, other people, other creatures, all living and inanimate objects, and materials that we meet each day?
Are we aware of and sensitive to our present consumption patterns?
Do we keep our lives uncluttered with things and activities, in balance with the natural world, and avoid commitments beyond our strength and light? Is the life of our Meeting so ordered that it helps us to simplify our lives? Do we offer our individual lives so as to nourish our spiritual growth?
Are we formulating and implementing an ethic for responsible stewardship of our planet when we make decisions about the Meeting’s physical and financial resources?
Peace and Social Concerns:
As we work for peace among humans and for unity with the natural world, are we nourished by peace and unity within ourselves?
What are we doing to remove the causes of war and to bring about the conditions of peace? Where there is hatred, division, strife and destruction of the environment, how are we instruments of reconciliation, love, and healing?
Buildings and Grounds-Hospitality
Is our Meeting actively involved in substantial efforts to recycle glass, paper, and other reusable materials, and in the preservation or enhancement of our local natural environment, including local streams and open spaces? Does our Meeting use recyclable and biodegradable materials as much as possible?
Do we educate ourselves and help educate others about local, national, and global problems of conservation and the environment?
What are we doing to teach others, including our children and members of our community, to walk gently over the earth, cherishing each strand of the intricate web of life?
Are we looking for literature that would encourage and support the Meeting community in living more sustainably and living with care for all beings?
I.e. Council of All Beings
The Council of All Beings is an intergenerational introduction to “deep ecology” that gives voices to all the “least creatures” of Earth spoken of so eloquently by John Woolman (see Quotes from Woolman and Fox, above). Easily adaptable to different settings and amounts of available time, the Council of All Beings, invites each participant to “become” a particular creature .or even a particular ecosystem, as it seeks to make us humans more aware of and sensitive to “all our relations,” in the nature world, many of whom we are horribly abusing or driving to extinction because of our ignorance and anthropocentrism.
The Council promotes transformation in consciousness by leading participants in such activities as meditation, art work, role-playing, and worship-sharing to get below the conscious, rational level and confront the reality of the basic physical and spiritual inter-relatedness of all living beings. They may find there the source of motivation to treat their fellow creatures more humanely, and to take more responsibility for protecting the health of Earth’s ecosystems, something that is often lacking when we are simply informed about the global environmental crisis but aren’t engaged at a deep, personal level.
The activity culminates in a Great Council gathering, at which “delegates” from the different animal and plant kingdoms convey to humans the unique talents and perceptions of those species as well as their sufferings at the hands of humans. There is a large body of writings on this subject; a good beginning would be Thinking Like a Mountain, Toward a Council of All Beings, by John Seed, Arne Naess, and Joanna Macy. However, just as the Council is not a “head” experience; it doesn’t come from that place either. Leaders ideally will be “trained” by having been participants in other Council sessions that have touched and aroused them at a deeper level.
I. f. Our Story, a Journey in Time Through Creation
“Our Story, a Journey in Time Through Creation” is another intergenerational activity that involves participants in the story of Creation in terms of recent scientific discoveries about the origin of the universe. Mary Coelho of Morningside Friends Meeting in New York, has written the following introduction.
We’re told the universe is some 15 billion years old, Earth is 4.6 billion years old, so the stuff of which we are made is unfathomably ancient. The cells in our bodies have a direct lineage to ancient cells, with a nucleus that developed around 2 billion years ago.
This remarkable new knowledge, as much as it fascinates us, seems initially to be impersonal scientific information about a vast cosmos and to not really matter or affect our daily coming and goings. But this information actually crystallizes with a great deal more, to form a coherent story of the unfolding and differentiation of the Universe from the beginning to its present condition.
This “New Universe Story” challenges and informs our most basic, often unquestioned assumptions about how things are. We need great acts of imagination, of intuitive perception and celebration to help us embrace the revelatory material being offered us.
One such act is the development of the “Cosmic Walk” by Sister Miriam Therese McGillis of Genesis Farm in New Jersey. It is a symbolic reenactment that helps us enter personally into the New Universe Story. This creation story was reenacted at the 1997 FGC Gathering in Ontario and at New England Yearly Meeting in 1996. Many participants reported being profoundly moved by this experience.
Arrangements for a Cosmic Walk are very simple: Lay out a long rope in a spiral, representing the entire unfolding and gradual differentiation of the Universe and Earth from its beginning to the present. Place a lighted candle at the center of the spiral, representing the original “Big Bang.” With appropriate background music, invite the participants to one by one light a candle at the center and then walk meditatively along the spiral course, gradually arranging themselves at points marked on the rope representing major events in the unfolding of the Universe. A participant who stops at a particular point reads aloud a short message describing that stage, such as, “I am the solar system, just forming” “I am the first flowering plant,” “I am the first bird taking flight,” or “I am the first human farming the land.” (In settings where candles are not allowed or would not be practical, participants may take flowers from a vase at the center of the spiral as they start the walk.)
After the last person is in place, the music ends and everyone waits in silence to contemplate the meaning of what has just happened.
Initially this seems like a walk along a time-line, but actually it is much more, since we don’t observe passing events as observers from the outside. We walk into and join the unfolding of our very being and that of the entire Earth and the ecosystems of which we are a part. By walking along the symbolically very long path and lighting a candle to mark a particular event, we seek to identify with our own history. After all, our present world is a new structuring in the Eternal Now of the very substance that was previously a long succession of other beings and relationships.
The Cosmic Walk also enables us to celebrate the noble creatures of Earth, both ancient and new, to identify with Earth and to grasp the depth of our interdependence and communion with Earth and other beings as we participate in its unfolding out of a common origin. Have we realized just how amazing it is to be self-aware, conscious beings -- a very recent form that the Universe and Earth have become? Have we known what remarkable creatures our brothers and sisters the plants and animals are -- each with unique sensitivities and awareness?
In this time of great need the Cosmic Walk can nurture within us a transformed consciousness and enable us to join the Great Work of bringing about the next stage in the Universe’s unfolding, which Thomas Berry, co-author of The Universe Story, so aptly calls the ecozoic era.
If you want to know more about the cosmic walk or would like help in arranging an re-enactment, contact the FCUN office.
I.f. Nature trails with Meditational Readings
Middlebury Friends Meeting
participates in Spirit in Nature to provide a place of “interconnecting paths
where people of diverse spiritual traditions may walk, worship, meet, meditate,
and promote education toward better stewardship of this sacred earth.” All are invited to walk any of 10 different
paths, encountering sayings along the way from Buddist, Jewish, Muslim,
Christian, Friends, New Age and other faith traditions. Spirit in Nature can be
reached at 802-388-7244 (Vermont)
II. Sustainability and Quaker Testimonies
"What is a testimony? ... (It is) a declaration from a worshipping congregation that a faithful response to God's life moving in us requires that a certain thing be done or avoided, or that a certain standard be set up toward which we are bound to strive. We are aware that these perceptions are to some extent time-bound, and that we see imperfectly, yet after weighty reflection we must declare that this is a part of the Truth God is teaching us. This is rather different from a dogma. It is experiential in the truest sense, ... not derived ... by intellectual activity. A new testimony may well follow logically from some other, and the logic may play a part in preparing the way for a new clarity, but it Is really when first one, then another, then a whole Meeting feels there is a persistent call - only then are we ready to testify that God has troubled our hearts and shown us the way to a renewal of our peace."
"When events in the world ... bring to our attention a place where healing and redemption are needed, one or more in earnest prayer may feel that God is opening for us ways to move into that redeeming and healing ... If our community has been given the gift of a concern, if God has broken through,... then those who first feel the awareness should seek whether others in the community have had the opportunity to hear the news ... As we accept this opening with thanks, and strive to put it into words and plans, if we stay close to our guide, "gospel order” means that we will be brought into unity and the concern into action...
From Brian Drayton's Bible Half Hour talks at NEYM, 1995, as published by Mosher Book and Tract Committee as a pamphlet, “Treasure in Earthen Vessels.” Some phrases are taken out of order.
Is it worth calling out "sustainability" separately from other testimonies?
This is for us to decide. Friends may find that "sustainability" Is adequately addressed by new interpretation of the traditionally acknowledged testimonies. Friends may find that our unfolding understanding of God's world is profoundly new, so that speaking in terms of a new testimony is clearest. Friends may find that "sustainability" is not the right word to express this new understanding. Friends may find that what matters is not what we call it but finding God's guidance toward "a faithful response to God's life moving in us" and a "renewal of our peace."
Mary Gilbert, Cambridge Friends Meeting.
1. Sustainability and Simplicity
Because of the severity and extent of environmental problems of the last few decades, Friends have increasingly asked themselves if concern for the environment might be or soon become of equivalent weight to Friends’ longstanding testimonies such as simplicity, justice, and peace. Many in New England Yearly Meeting have identified the word “sustainability” as representing the range of concerns we associate with the Earth or “the environment.” As part of our process of discerning whether sustainability merits separate treatment, we present the following material in an effort to inform Friends and that process.
The following topics are addressed in this section:
b. Testimony on Simplicity
c. Living on the Earth -- the Underlying Assumption
d. What’s Wrong With Our Food Systems
e. Technology queries
Some of you may know that I have been working on finances and integrity issues for a few years now within the Quaker community and without. I have been thinking recently a bunch about what I am calling “the intersection between Enoughness/Sufficiency and Economic Justice” and wishing that I could have some people to “talk to,” to hear what they are thinking about these topics. As my spiritual home base, I thought I would ask you folks what you know. So, I have a few questions in line with some work I am considering developing and sharing in some format.
i) About Enoughness/Sufficiency:
People who do Your Money Or Your Life have a tracking and questioning process to help them to consider where “Enoughness” lies for us. But most people don’t use that tool. Have you found any other tools to be useful? Are there any mental questions or visceral sensations that help you to recognize that you have reached “enough” or exceeded it? I am looking to develop a kick-off list of half a dozen to start conversations on this topic‑and perhaps to create an exercise/game for it.
ii) About giving money:
Do you give money away? If you are now able to live without working for money, did you give money away before this was the case? How did you sense that, in spite of not being completely financially safe, it was time to give away money? What influenced your risking your future to do that?
Do you have some kind of plan you use? (example: percent of gross income)
Do you make a regular contribution of some percent of your income to a religious/spiritual institution?
iii) About using your money to help address wage inequities and to help others who are unlikely to get on the “asset train” to be able to do so:
If you are working on these problems, what mechanism/s or organization/s are you using? Are you familiar with the Individual Development Account concept (in which individuals/banks match by 1:4 or even 1:7 the money a low-income wage-earner saves in order to help the latter to buy a house or gain an education)? Do you know of other approaches to this concern?
I am finding people who are inheriting money, or who work for computer companies that were bought out and therefore experienced a financial windfall, or who otherwise have more than enough -- suddenly. And I want to consider how I can use my experience in thinking about finances and values to be of service to people who suddenly are above “Enough,” helping them to recognize that that is the case and to create an organized way to aid low-income wage-earners and institutions by creating some individualized game-plan that is reflective of the value of the donor.
Thank you for you help on this!
PS If you are interested in this let me know and I will include you in as I collect data.
1. b. Testimony
“It occurs to me: maybe Friends’ traditional testimony on simplicity needs to be combined with the new one on sustainability. The former, both in its spiritual and practical aspects, seems to apply mainly in the individual sphere; the latter by contrast mainly in the social/political. Thus the two testimonies complement each other, right? I think if this bracketing took place, it would be easier for some F/friends to have a constructive dialogue on sustainability. One good case for the simplicity (and other) testimony is in an excellent article called, ‘Are we ready for greatness?’ in the December 1999 Friends Journal “.
-John MacDougal, Acton Monthly Meeting.
“One of the chief reasons to lead a more sustainable life personally is for the liberation from things and their acquisition, allowing us to focus more inwardly. At the same time, we need to clarify why the call to sustainability is not simply a restating of the call to simplicity. One of the major differences is that simplicity largely addresses our individual behavior, while sustainability is more like the peace testimony in that it has both a strong personal component and a collective one.”
- Ken Hoffman, Mt.Toby Meeting.
1. c. Living on the Earth, April 4, 1997: The Underlying Assumption
There's an underlying assumption in our culture that we're going to purchase all our food. It may be at the super market, at a convenience store, in the cafeteria at work or at the fast-food place on the way home. Whether we order a pizza delivered or take a complete packaged meal from the freezer for re-heating in the microwave, in every case, money will be traded for food. We are bombarded with information about foods' price, freshness, flavor and convenience. We hear about good and bad health effects, but it is always assumed that we'll be buying all our food.
The extent to which we participate in growing and preparing our food, however, may be its most important characteristic. One of the most effective strategies for addressing a wide range of environmental and social problems is to become directly involved in using local resources to feed our families and our communities.
Human beings need to eat. To stay alive, each one of us requires regular inputs of food which contain chemical energy and nutrients. The chemical energy we need- to pump our blood, to breathe, to think and to act - comes from the sun, by way of green plants and perhaps via animals.
The nutrients we require are also made or captured by plants, using sunlight, from air, water and a few common soil minerals.
In the past, humans found food right where they were-whether on the frozen Arctic tundra or in the seemingly-barren Kalahari desert, for example. People obtained food in a variety of ways including hunting, fishing, gardening and gathering. Wastes were quickly recycled into air, water and soil for reuse in a elegant, cyclical system powered totally by energy from the sun. Getting enough food provided exercise as well as an intimate knowledge of the local ecosystem. Hunting and growing rituals were the basis for culture.
Now things are very different. The last 50 years have changed everything. Americans buy most of their food. Energy and nutrients no longer come from the sunlight falling on our communities, and from the air, water and soil in our neighborhoods. The solar energy on which our bodies run is captured in Chile, Mexico or California and then trucked or flown thousands of miles before being displayed in an energy-intensive retail establishment. The nutrients we need are extracted from the air, water and soil by corn and wheat plants in the Midwest at a cost of pennies a pound, and then sold to us, after processing and packaging, for dollars a pound.
The message is that we don't have to be bothered with growing or catching our own food. It's so cheap and plentiful here in the US. that suburban supermarkets and fast-food restaurants give it away "free" as long as you buy something. In the cities, citizens, churches and businesses join forces to give food away to feed more and more hungry people. Why should we worry?
A shrinking number of increasingly larger-scale farms produce our food wherever the costs for labor, land, water, regulation and environmental protection are lowest. Then, one of a shrinking number of ever-larger, global food distributors delivers the farm produce to supermarkets and stores after it's been processed, packaged, transported and advertised. For these services, the giant companies take 80 cents of every dollar we spend on food.
There are some serious problems with this system. It takes a lot more energy and resources, and causes lots more pollution to move sunlight and common nutrients halfway around the world, than it does to get them from your garden or the farm at the edge of town. The increasing distance between where the food is grown and where it's eaten breaks nature's most elegant cycles. Soils are depleted in faraway places and here, wastes accumulate and pollute. Since food comes from the store, with no thought of the farm, we think we can turn our land into roads, malls, and chemically treated lawns. As more of the world's population behaves this way, we can expect to have serious farmland shortages soon.
Despite 10,000 years of evidence to the contrary, the USDA doesn't acknowledge gardens as "real sources of real food." The USDA thinks that real food has to be grown on a very-large scale and then it has to be sold.
So, plan to grow or buy your food locally. Plant a small garden at the very least. Better yet, start a community garden in your neighborhood. Recognize the true value of food without buying it.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth ©1997, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491. Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban agriculture projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and Norwalk, CT). Their collection of essays Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, Conn. New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those since November 1995 are available there.
1.d. What’s Wrong with Our Food System?.
Land degradation: approximately 11 percent of Earth's vegetated surface has been moderately to extremely eroded by humans since World War II (Source: World Resources Institute)
Depletion of aquifers
Groundwater and surface water degradation
Depletion of fish stocks
Deforestation: 42 percent of deforested land was converted to permanent agriculture between 1980 and 1990 (Source: World Resources Institute)
Global warming from agricultural practices (such as methane released by rice paddies), production of agricultural inputs (such as fertilizer), and
Genetic erosion of crop species and non-domesticated species
Inhumane treatment of livestock (e.g., battery chickens, veal)
Human and social costs:
Lack of access to food because of distorted power relationships within and between countries, and lack of planning or political will to forestall the effects of natural disasters
Violence between countries and regions fueled by inequitable access to resources needed to produce food
Poor working conditions for agricultural workers in high-income and low-income countries
Loss of pastoral peoples and agricultural communities as land is converted to other uses and power over food production becomes more concentrated
Concentration of power, and lack of access to decision-making about our food system by most people
Declining returns from investment in inputs which have increased productivity in the past
Declining rate of return from increased fertilizer use
-from Molly Anderson
1. e. Technology Queries by Charles Segal
Is it useful?
Is it sufficient?
Does it harm our health or the environment?
Does it empower people or make them passive?
Is it a tool or does it control you?
Does it intrude into home or family life?
Does it have destructive side effects?
2. Sustainability and Justice
“We must break the common perception that environmentalism is essentially a white, middle-class movement designed to keep third-world people in poverty so we can have a lovely world.”
- Ruah Swennerfelt
“To me, talking about sustainability in the 1990's without talking about corporate power is like talking about exploitation in the 1850's without talking about slavery.”
-Karl Davies, Mt Toby
The unequal distribution of wealth and resources has frequently emerged as key concern of Quakers around the world. With increasing evidence about the unequal distribution of pollution and associated health consequences, the widespread and often unforeseen effects of global climate change, as well as large-scale corporate interventions in agriculture, Quakers, as many, are growing aware of the links between sustainability and justice. The materials below illuminate these links.
Topics addressed in this section are:
a. Food technology and monopolies
b. Coffee that is fair
c. Extreme weather
d. Energy and exploitation
2. a -Food technologies and monopolies
From: the Financial Times 13 Sept 1999
Title: “Genetically Modified Foods Groups Face Huge Lawsuit”
By: Jean Eaglesham, Legal Correspondent
The world’s biggest life science companies and grain processors will face a multi-billion dollar antitrust action to be launched in up to 30 countries later this year.
The unprecedented lawsuits will claim that companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Novartis are exploiting bioengineering techniques to gain a stranglehold on agricultural markets.
The action is being brought jointly by the Foundation on Economic Trends, run by Washington-based biotech activist Jeremy Rifkin, and the U.S.-based National Family Farm Coalition, together with individual farmers across Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America.
It will be the biggest antitrust suit ever brought, with the possible exception of that against Microsoft.
“It has literally global implications,” said Michael Hausfeld of Cohen Milstein Hausfeld and Toll, one of the 20 U.S. law firms that have agreed to take the cases on a “no-win no-fee” basis.
The move represents the first global challenge to controversial techniques for exploiting genetically modified crops commercially.
Companies take out patents on GM seeds and then lease, rather than sell, them to farmers to be used for one season only. In the US, where GM crops are rapidly becoming the norm, farmers have been sued for replanting GM seeds.
Companies have also developed “terminator” genes that cause GM crops to produce sterile seeds.
Concerns about the potential control this gives life science companies over food, particularly in the developing world, have been exacerbated by a bout of takeovers and mergers within the sector.
Ten companies now own 30 percent of the $23B annual commercial seed trade, according to recent estimates, and five of those,.Monsanto, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Aventis, and DuPont,.control virtually all GM crops.
“By the early part of the next century, less than a handful of corporations will possess control over the entire agricultural foundation for every society.
You can see the potential for market abuse and manipulation,” said Mr. Hausfeld.
The legal action comes at a sensitive time for the biotech industry, which is facing growing consumer and political resistance to GM crops in Europe and in developing countries such as India.
The issue seems likely to be raised at November’s World Trade Organization talks in Seattle.
The companies can be expected to fight the lawsuit tooth and nail. They reject any charge of market control.
“There is fierce competition around the world. We have a 42 percent market share [of the $20B corn crop] in the U.S. and we’ve had to work hard for it,” said Pioneer Hibred International, the U.S. seed company which is about to be bought by DuPont.
“We’ve had to prove to farmers that our hybrid is better than any other.”
Pioneer added that farmers retained the choice of whether to buy GM or conventional seeds.
2. b. Coffee that is fair
Around the world coffee and fellowship come together where we share community. A warm pot of coffee is often the centerpiece of fellowship hour and other gatherings. Yet the small farmers who grow our coffee often struggle just to make a simple living. Most live in rural communities in some of the poorest countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Isolated from markets, they are forced to accept low prices. Without affordable credit, they become trapped in cycle of debt. Many lack access to adequate housing, healthcare and education.
But there is an alternative. The Interfaith Coffee Program is a circle of partnerships between Equal Exchange, faith-based development and relief organizations such as Lutheran World Relief and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), small farmer co-ops, and individual churches and congregations. These partnerships seek to support economic justice, inspired by faith, mobilizing congregations to build fair trade in our own communities while increasing access to fair trade for poor farmers overseas.
By serving Equal Exchange fairly traded coffee at your place of worship, you can share fellowship with our neighbors in coffee-growing countries, making a difference in their lives while enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. Through the program, farmers earn a fair price for their products, receive affordable credit, and gain a long-term trading partner that they can trust. By pooling their resources in democratic cooperatives, farmers are able to invest in training, health care, and agricultural improvements in their communities.
Every cup you serve helps these farmers as they build better lives for themselves and their families.
For information on how to order, go to their website at www.equalexchange.org or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-830-0303 x228.
"What's different about working with Equal Exchange is that we send our coffee directly to them without intermediaries. The extra money that our cooperatives receive makes a difference in medicines and nurseries to care for our children." Mateo Rendon of FESACORA, A cooperative federation in El Salvador.
From Equal Exchange website
I just received this from John Porter, the Superintendent (Field Secretary) of North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM). John is a good friend of mine from FUM General Board, and I am shocked to hear how distressed he sounds. Please pray for the hurricane victims, as he requests, and share this message as you are led.
Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 18:11:50-0400
Subject: First person account of flooded area
From: John P. Porter <email@example.com
Please ask all Friends through out NC yearly mtg. to keep all the flood victims in eastern N.C. in their prayers...Wayne County as well as many others have been hit very hard...Our personal family damages are minor compared to the 2,700 homes destroyed or badly damaged due to the floods in our county. Please ask Friends to contribute to the flood relief charities set up through the governor’s office and the Am. Red Cross...It would be impossible to tell you how bad everything is here in the flooded areas...They are calling this the flood of the century for eastern N.C....Every creek, swamp or river that crosses a road in the county has been flooded or washed out...Most are still impassible...The schools have been closed since last Tues. week and remain closed...Some will not be opened next week...Areas that have never flooded are now under several feet of water...and things continue down the Neuse River into Kinston...Hwy 70 remains under water, as does most of the town of Kinston...Other towns devastated by floods are Greenville, Wilson, Rocky Mt., Tarboro, Trenton, Windsor, Ahoskie, and many, many more...Water has had to be boiled before using...In some cases the water is still off...Power plants have been underwater with power rerouted and extended outages...They have stopped flying helicopters in for rescue, and now they are flying in to deliver water, food and relief items...There are shelters in every flooded county...It is unbelievable...Please keep us all in your prayers...Our family farm has sustained high losses to the crops and some buildings...A tree fell on Daddy’s house...Two barns full of tobacco and a greenhouse are gone...They cannot get the feed they need for the turkeys‑many are dying...Water had to be hauled in from deep wells to water the birds...The cotton and beans have been damaged by the winds and now the water...but we still have our homes and feel very blessed...Again, keep all those in eastern N.C. in your prayers as we recover from the high waters and have to face the task of clean up and the threat of disease and polluted waters...Many farm animals have drowned and are still in the flood waters...Fuel leaks, sewage spills....it is impossible to cover it all...Please pass this prayer request on to all the Meetings as well as the request to contribute to relief efforts with money or donations of relief items
2. e. Energy and exploitation: The Energy Endgame
What are the basic facts of the situation? What are the right questions to ask about all the implications of declining oil supplies? The following is one attempt at identifying the basic facts and the key questions.
First, we have to establish the facts about past oil extraction/consumption. Then we have to establish what’s left in the ground. See http://hubbertpeak.com/midpoint.htm for Petroconsultants’ best estimate on these numbers and the associated trends.
Second, also need some rough calculations on how many people can ultimately be supported with different renewable energy scenarios, i.e., different BTUs per person per year, and how much time we have until total reliance on renewables becomes necessary. See diagram 3 at http://www.etn.lu.se/~folke_g/oildepl/logexp/logexp.htm. Folke Gunther at Lund University in Stockholm estimates that only 1 to 3 billion people can be supported with renewable energy sources.
Third, we need to anticipate how climate changes resulting from the burning of all these fossil fuels will influence our abilities to adjust and adapt. See http://www.daviesand.com/Choices/Precautionary_Planning/Antarctic_Ice/ for an indication of what could be in store for us in this regard.
Since global population increases are a function of the availability of cheap energy resources, and since we’re already very near or at the peak in global oil extraction, we’re also very near or at the peak of global population. There’s no way they both won’t go down in the future.
So the question then becomes what is the optimal goal for a “soft landing” into a sustainable, renewable energy economy in 20 to 40 years? How do we avoid a “hard landing?” How do we manage the transition? Who decides? Who gets to sit at the table? Will it be everyone on the planet through democratic processes, or will it be a few people in G7, CFR and other elite corporate/government networks?
As it is now, who makes decisions now about our global future? Who decides the price of oil? Who decides the subsidies for different industrial sectors and products? Who declares war? Who decides trade policies? Who decides financial policies? Who decides agricultural policies?
Given the fact that the corporate/government elites have no intention of giving up any of their wealth and power, it’s certain that given the choice (which they have heretofore preempted), they will opt for slavery and/or depopulation rather than energy and wealth redistribution. Enslavement of third world and inner city peoples is already proceeding rapidly under the aegis of the WTO, IMF and WB. We know what their plans are in this regard
They have conventional, biological and nuclear weapons at their disposal. They doubtless have detailed contingency plans to use those weapons to eliminate the least profitable segments of the global population (probably favoring biological weapons). How do we find out what their plans are in this regard? How do we counteract them?
What is their vision of an energy-scarce global future? Where do they see the global economy and population going over the next fifty years? What are their optimal scenarios for oil at $50 per barrel? How about $100 per barrel? How about $200? How will scarce energy resources be allocated between military, industry, agriculture, transportation, and heating? What is our vision of all these things? And what is our definition of a process that could get us to that vision? Even though oil prices have temporarily fallen from their highs of this past winter, they are certain to go up again, maybe sooner, maybe later.
It’s not a question of whether; it’s only a question of when. If we are unprepared for all the ramifications of our energy-scarce future, we leave the decisions and policies to corporate and government elites, and we suffer the consequences. Is this something that we are willing to do?
-Karl Davies, Mt Toby Meeting, People Against Corporate Takeover (PACT) http://www.topica.com/lists/pact-list
Water and Second-Hour Discussions
Water is life itself and therefore of universal concern. A number of people in our Meeting have made a life-long witness of their use of water.they have a lot to teach us. At the global level, clean water is becoming scarce.a well-known fact. What many don’t know is that Monsanto and some other biggies are planning to monopolize the world’s supply of potable water and sell it. This calls for concerted political action. Possibly we could use NEFUN, FCNL, PhYM,etc. to help channel our energies here.
In any case, some of us thought we might adopt Water as one strong focus for upcoming First Hours.not exclusively, though: Energy, Pollution, Food, Medicine, etc. are waiting in the wings. We hope that if enough of us show up Sunday a.m., we might use the last part of the meeting to take preliminary soundings on the depth of our Water concern.
3. Sustainability and Peace
This Section offers the following topics:
a. Cause of conflict
c. A Matter of Degree
3. a. Cause of Conflict
Quakers are often strongly identified by themselves and by others as generating and implementing non-violent solutions to conflicts. Concerns about sustainability and the Earth invariably lead to concerns about armed conflicts, since military preparations (e.g., weapons testing, disposal of nuclear wastes) and actions (e.g., campaigns, bombings) are among the largest sources of long-term negative effects on ecosystems and human health.
For example, we know that military installations are among the worst Superfund sites. We also know that Agent Orange, Desert Storm syndromes represent only a recent tip of the iceberg in long-term effects on humans. Moreover, it is clear that money used for military preparations and actions is money unavailable for non-violent resolution of conflicts, let alone begin the clean-up of damage to the Earth that will last for millennia.
Further, many observers notice connections between globalization of corporate control of the Earth’s resources and peace in the world. To the extent that military interventions and acts of violence around the world can be linked to control of the Earth’s non-renewable resources (e.g., petroleum). Governments of the world’s rich nations often justify increased defense expenditures as a means to protect these non-renewable resources, that is, global corporations’ ability to exploit them. It is only a short leap to the conclusion that promoting sustainable policies and practices that lessen reliance on the Earth’s non-renewable resources also promote peace.
Finally, some among Quakers ask that we refrain from violence against any part of creation, whether for food, clothing, shelter or any activity that might result in death or injury to any other living being. They would maintain that not to do so goes against Quakers’ longstanding peace testimony. At issue for us is the extent to which we can implement this concern.
We (NEFUN) ask you prayerfully to consider the following, as we discern the connections between sustainability and peace.
How can we help factor in the environmental consequences of military preparations and actions into the traditional Quaker concern for non-violence?
If increased demands on the Earth’s resources could cause war in the years ahead, does our inequitable use of those resources contribute to violence in the world?
Does our individual existence on the planet require some level of violence against creation? What is our place in the cycle of life and death?
3. b. Globalization
Suggested reading for discussion:
The World’s view of Multinationals@ The Economist, Jan. 29th–Feb. 4th. www.economist.com
Take the bosses of the world’s 1,000 largest companies, accounting for four-fifths of world industrial output, and 33 national leaders, including the president of the United States. Assemble them in a secluded Swiss ski resort, and then surround them with gun‑toting police. Is it any wonder that the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos this week has become, to some, a sign that there is a global economic conspiracy perpetrated by the white men in dark suits who run the world’s multinational corporations? Many people -- and not just the folk with ponytails and placards who disrupted last December’s meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle -- now think of multinationals as more powerful than nation states, and see them as bent on destroying livelihoods, the environment, left-wing political opposition and anything else that stands in the way of their profits.
None of this is new. Three decades ago, multinationals were already widely denounced as big, irresponsible, monopolistic monsters. But they then went through a period of being sneered at as yesterday’s clumsy conglomerates, before being lauded in the 1990s (including by third-world leaders in Davos) as the bringers of foreign capital, technology and know-how. Yet now the hostility has returned. One explanation is the sheer speed at which multinationals have recently expanded abroad. This has made them the most visible aspect of globalization, buying some local firms and driving others out of business. Even to rich, well-run countries, their sheer size can seem threatening. Thus the Irish sometimes fret about the fact that foreign firms account for almost half of their country’s employment and two-thirds of its output; and Australians point nervously to the fact that the ten biggest industrial multinationals each has annual sales larger than their government’s tax revenue.
Such clout needs to be used with care, if it is not to be seen as a threat to national sovereignty and democratic accountability. For example, countries may feel that their freedom to set taxes as they wish is threatened by the ability of multinationals to shift profits, or operations, from one country to another (see our survey of globalization and tax in this issue). Every so often, too, a multinational does something stupid. Nike, Shell, Enron, Monsanto, McDonald’s: each has recently made errors of judgment that united opposition at home and abroad. And multinationals face strong incentives to behave badly. Thus those in the natural resource and mining business often cozy up to whichever regime is in power, however nasty, in order to protect their investment. Those making consumer goods frequently flit to whichever country offers the best deal on labor costs at the moment.
What most companies fear more than resentment abroad, though, is the protest at home. Typically, they still employ two-thirds of their workforce and produce more than two-thirds of their output in their home country, which, in the case of 85 percent of multinationals, is one of the wealthy members of the OECD. Here, they have been the easy targets of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which understand perfectly well the value to themselves, in prestige and membership, of running a campaign which succeeds in humbling a mighty corporation (see article). Paradoxically, NGOs have been able to harness both the discontent of those who believe globalization destroys jobs, and the ill-focused unhappiness felt by the children of the prosperous baby-boom generation. Just as John Kenneth Galbraith warned their parents that the world would soon be run by huge, unaccountable corporations, so this new generation seizes on the similar fears expressed in books such as Naomi Klein’s *No Logo* (see article).
To the well-meaning, honorable folk who generally run multinationals, all this is a travesty. They listen: even the World Economic Forum has invited representatives of 15 NGOs to put their case. They try: they set guidelines for dealing with environmental safety and sexual harassment in countries where no such words exist in the local tongue. Their corporate morality is a great deal better than that of the average government: most would kick out a chairman who behaved like Bill Clinton or Helmut Kohl. They are at least as accountable (to their shareholders and the law) and a good deal more transparent than the average NGO.
Individual firms are as capable of doing harm as is any other entity. But as a class the multinationals have a good story to tell. In the rich world, according to OECD research, foreign firms pay better than domestic ones and create new jobs faster. That is even more true in poorer countries: in Turkey, for example, wages paid by foreign firms are 124 percent above average and their workforces have been expanding by 11.5 percent a year, compared with 0.6 percent in local firms. Big foreign firms are also the principal conduit for new technologies, as is clear from the fact that 70 percent of all international royalties on technology involve payments between parent firms and their foreign affiliates. As for the environment, most research suggests that standards tend to converge upwards, not downwards.
In other words, the NGOs, also as a class, often get their way. The campaigners need big business as a tic-bird needs a wildebeest. By alighting on big companies, they can often force through changes that would be hard to achieve through the political process alone. They can claim a seat at international negotiations, even though they represent nobody but their members. They can even influence what happens in distant countries: it is easier to change things in Nigeria by boycotting Shell than by lobbying the Nigerian government.
More broadly, the balance of power is not what it seems. Big companies now come and go at lightning speed: one-third of the giants in America’s Fortune 500 in 1980 had lost their independence by 1990 and another 40 percent were gone five years later. Globalization is as much of a threat to lumbering giants as to smaller folk, and often a boon for the nippy little firms that create most of today’s new employment and wealth. The merger waves that attract so much attention, and fear, more often reflect defensive efforts by the corporate establishment than the predatory acts of world-dominating devils.
Multinationals should continue to listen, to try to do no harm, to accept the responsibilities that go with size and wealth. Yet, in the main, they should be seen as a powerful force for good. They spread wealth, work, technologies that raise living standards and better ways of doing business. Perhaps if a few bosses took to the streets with placards, that message might more readily get across.
3. c. Sustainability, a matter of degree
Unlike the peace testimony, where one can be absolutist, sustainability will always be a matter of degree. In the immediate future, few of us will be able to lead completely sustainable lives, so what is required is a greater awareness of the ways in which our lives are not sustainable and the discernment to begin making appropriate adaptations to reduce the areas in which our lives are out of balance. I would hope we could phrase this so that it comes across primarily as a call to joy rather than a call to guilt.
-from Ken Hoffman.
III. Sustainability and Quaker Practice
What is required of us to be responsible participants in on-going creation? How can we find guidance on the specific personal life choices of housing, transportation and food? What are the appropriate steps for social and political action on these questions? How important to finding guidance is awareness of our personal physical place in creation, both our impact on the environment and our dependence on the environment? Can this practical awareness, combined with a listening for God’s voice be the way forward? This section contains a variety of resources, workshops, ideas and games for educating ourselves and informing our worship.
This section is organized as follows:
a. Some visions of sustainability
b. Ideas from around NEYM
f. Service opportunities
i. Workshops: Lisa Gould, Molly Anderson, Louis Cox, Susan Lloyd McGarry
III. a. Some Visions of Sustainability
Location and advertising‑Perth is in the middle of nowhere. They are able to rely on local industries more and do not have to deal with many brands advertising for their attention. One day I was taking the bus home from downtown and I was just sitting there thinking about what I might do that weekend, thinking about new ideas for the report I am writing, etc. Then I realized what was so different: I had ridden out of downtown for about 15 minutes without seeing one advertisement, none on the bus, no billboards, none at the bus stops, none on people’s jackets, etc. Wow. That really allows some mental down time in a way that I hadn’t realized before. So because of this, I think people are more able to live in they way they want to without that feeling of need to keep up with the Joneses.
Also, stores are not open in the evenings, except for Thursdays, and most are not open on Sundays. This also allows for a more civilized life. At first it was hard to get used to, but now I really like it. Thursday night is shopping night and you have to plan for the rest of the week. Of course this does not include the corner market, which has some expanded hours, like 8 p.m. weekdays, still closed on Sundays.
This city was also designed around walking and biking. You see lots of older people pushing their European-style shopping carts to the corner market. They are the least aggressive drivers ever. Today I was waiting at a stop because I was thinking I had to give way right and this other car just waited patiently for me to remember that I was in another country and that it was actually my turn to go. No horns, nothing. You almost never hear a car horn, even in the downtown, there is no reason to beep, no hurry to get anywhere. A U.S. commercial for a Kia SUV is about two drivers fighting for a parking place, and the Kia woman drives over curbs, etc to beat the other woman into the spot. When I saw it, I thought how inappropriate it was for the Aussie way of life and that it wouldn’t convince anyone around here to buy that car. Then I heard that the Aussie road safety folks are trying to get it taken off the air, as they think it promotes aggressive driving. Kids wander further from their parents than would ever be safely allowed in the U.S.
-from Karen, friend of Janet Clark
These visions of a green and peaceful future resulted from a NEFUN workshop at NEYM in 1999:
Vision One‑2020 Clarity: A windmill graphic showing a sustainable value base, an economy guided by the compass (The Natural Step?), people connected to Earth, learning from the Spirit, happy children and solar farms and structures, a world of love, time for joyful pursuits, fulfilling and fair work, community sharing, schools that teach and monitor Earthcare,
Vision Two‑Pleasantville, with farms and a hot air to power generator next to the capital building and banks so they will not be a burden to society, human powered and ultralight personal vehicles, light rail, schools fun like a circus with apprenticeship connection to real life, all construction is of recycled materials, community center for music and art is also the senior center, recyclables and reusables are the admission price, rent or swap books, tools, clothes, knowledge.
Vision Three‑Beautiville, small communities, self sufficient, clean water, river transport, bikes, skating, straw bale construction, power from solar or wind, small retail shops for hand tools, transportation, Sam’s Simple Samples, worship center in the forest serves also as cultural center, small farms with herds, orchards, compost and red worm culture.
Vision Four.X + Y ‘ Village, an intentional Quaker community by the sea, common greenswald, university produces technologies with low impact energy such as the protonstack, wind and solar -- all given away freely, farms vegetables and animals, cultural awareness of the watershed, mag-lev trains, bikes, exchange house, covenanted population control, percent of acreage devoted to ecological services is large.
III. b - Ideas from around NEYM
Sustainability and Friends around New England : A report summary on the activities of Monthly Meetings 8/10/99
“First Hour gatherings at the rise of Meeting for Worship
Create a Minute on Sustainability
Do a retreat
Discuss at Meeting for Business
Let Peace and Social Concerns work out the details
Do public outreach
Have a pot luck meal discussion
Create a Monthly Meeting FUN committee
Queries and silence
Offer a query/practice for finding truth
Invite speakers: Sister Miriam McGillus, Walter Haines, Ruah Swennerfelt
Plan Earth Day
Focus on a crisis,
Focus on simplicity
Focus on investment
Earthcare curriculum for youth
Write for local and national newsletters
Create a lending library (see resource list below)
New solutions are being generated all the time.
#1 target is getting awareness of connectedness with all life.
Unjust practices are unsustainable.
Free enterprise without justice and compassion is unsustainable.
We are only beginning to understand the implications of right relationship with Earth.
Embrace change joyously, a spiritual quest: love the Light.
Connection nourishes spiritual life.
We are getting ourselves into trouble for the same reasons we always have.
We are already home.
We need to begin now.
What might I have to give up?
We need moral changes our background has not prepared us for.
Most of human history is not sustainable (expansionist)
The term sustainable is an imperfect word.
The words-action gap
Isolation from other Meetings
We need to take time with the technological complexities involved.
The science involved is confusing.
Reduce resource use; increase efficiency.
Speak out when things are not right.
Support land trusts.
Support seed banks.
Become connected with creating food.
Give talks to schools.
Reduce use of your car.
Share land, tools, journeys.
Eat local food.
Do everyday actions with care, attention, interaction.
Support each other in cultivating habits that strengthen our connection to Earth.
III. c. Surveys:
i) Threshing Session on Sustainability as a Testimony, and Environmental Questionnaire
New England Yearly Meeting has asked each Monthly Meeting to discover where their Meeting community stands with regard to the Earth’s ecology as a spiritual concern, and to report back to the Yearly Meeting.
The Friends in Unity with Nature Committee of Friends Meeting at Cambridge (CFUN) will conduct a “threshing session” on April 16 at 1:00 PM, where we hope for deep discussion of our relationship with the natural world. All are invited.
Since we are a large Meeting, and we want to hear from as many people as possible, we have also devised this questionnaire. Please help by taking the time to fill it out. You can return it by putting it in the labeled box in the Friends Center, or by mailing it to Friends Meeting at Cambridge, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA 02137.
Part I Please indicate whether you (1) strongly agree, (2) agree, (3) are neutral or don’t know, (4) disagree, or (5) strongly disagree with the following statements.
The environmental crisis is being exaggerated by the press and other media.
Technological solutions, such as the “scrubbers” on stacks of coal-burning power plants, can be relied on to solve problems with the environment.
If individuals would act more responsibly, for instance practice the 3 R’s -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- we wouldn’t have to worry about the environment.
Most waste and pollution occur before goods ever come to the market place, so system-wide, pre-consumer correction is necessary to save the day.
“Global warming” is not really happening; it’s a misinterpretation of the data.
“Economic sustainability” is a policy of conservation and replenishment of natural resources, to maintain our modern way of life, that should be adopted worldwide.
“Economic sustainability” is based on a limited understanding of only human needs. We need instead a vision of the health of the earth as a whole.
International corporations and policy-makers should re-order their priorities, based on consideration of the long-term effects of current policies on the environment.
The primary reason we should care about threatened species like the spotted owl is that their presence indicates the health of ecosystems humans depend on.
It is helpful to think of human beings, like all other life forms, as participating parts of their ecosystems, rather than as inhabitants of them.
ii) Bioregional Quiz: Where are you at?
These quiz questions were adapted for the Gulf of Maine bioregion (stretching from south-coastal Maine to Boston’s South Shore) by the staff of Garbage Magazine from a bioregional quiz that appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly in 1981. They were compiled by Leonard Charles, Jim Dodge, Lynn Milliman, and Victoria Stockley.
1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
2. What soil series are you standing on?
3. What was the rainfall in your area last year? (Guess within an inch and you get full credit.)
4. What were the primary subsistence techniques of the indigenous culture in your area?
5. Name five native edible plants in your region and their season(s) of availability.
6. From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?
7. Where does your garbage go?
8. How long is the growing season where you live?
9. Name five grasses in your area. Are any of them native?
10. Name five resident and five migratory birds in your area.
11. What is the land-use history of where you live?
12. What primary ecological process influenced the land form where you live?
(One point bonus: What’s the evidence?)
13. What species have become extinct in your area?
14. What are the major plant associations in your region?
15. What spring wildflowers are consistently among the first to bloom where you live?
0 to 4 Unlock your door and go outside.
5 to 8 You have a fairly firm grasp of the obvious.
9 to 12 You really pay attention.
13 to 20 You know where you’re at (and where it’s at).
iii) Living Lightly Profile -- a self test
This is a series of questions which may be used to help determine what lifestyle changes are most important to you. Completing the profile will take 30 minutes or less. Created by the Institute for Earth Education at the Simple Living Network, Inc., this profile is available to you on the World Wide Web, where you are granted permission to print one copy for personal use only. For educational use, a set of copyright-free duplication masters can be purchased for $6. http:// WWW.slnet.com/cip/iee/weblmlp.htm
iv) Monadnock Meeting Survey
Please check (a) your top 3 priorities in pursuing the suggestions below and (b) the order in which you think they might be most effectively addressed. Please sign and return as soon as possible to a member of the ad hoc Committee on Sustainability. (See below.)
Review Friends testimonies on (a) Simplicity (b) Stewardship and (c) Social Justice. How is each related to the question of Sustainability? (Ample materials available, as well as personal testimony from Meeting Friends.)
Deepen and expand our own spirit by (a) personal contact with the earth (b) learning about earth‑centered indigenous traditions (c) studying (and attempting to live out) the creation spirituality of such eco-theologians as Matthew Fox, Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, Tielhard de Chardin and such naturalists as Annie Dillard, Barry Lopaz, Wendell Berry, Donellla Meadows, etc. Also biblical passages that speak to the relationship of humans to the Earth.
Show one or two videos of the New Cosmology and/or the devastation of the Earth caused by human production and consumption.
Examine our own lives with respect to such concrete issues as over‑consumption, waste disposal conservation of water and electrical energy, use of toxics in house and garden, medicines and the food we eat, clothing and the exploitation of Third World labor. (These issues might be addressed in small support groups of 3–5 people, on the A.A.'s 12-step model. (See Jack Phillips' "Viewpoints' statement in Friends Journal Feb. '99 -- in Library on "Sustainability" table.)
Invite representatives from NEFUN to visit us and 'listen" or lead a workshop. (They have already offered to do this.)
1. Try to identify a list of indicators of Sustainability.
2. Send a progress report to NEFUN -- as requested -- explaining how the Meeting is approaching this issue, and what progress we have made.
As an ultimate undertaking, strive to envision and plan for an intentional sustainable community, to be participated in by those willing to make such a commitment
III. e. Listserves (NEFUN, FCUN, Quakernature)
1.)NEFUN -- Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the informal listserve of the New England Friends in Unity with Nature committee, including members and any interested in “listening” or participating.
2.) FCUN ‑ contact Ruah at email@example.com
This listserve is for the national Friends in Unity with Nature committee and any interested in participating.
3.) “quakernature” - Pacific Yearly Meeting Listserv
Pacific Yearly Meeting Committee on Unity with Nature is organizing an e-mail distribution list (listserv). We hope that this list will provide opportunities for communication and collective authorship during the gaps between times when we can physically meet together. Partial text of the new-subscriber message is appended below, to give you an idea of what the list is for.
If you wish New England Friends in Unity with Nature to be a member of this list, I will enter you as a subscriber. Very likely much of the traffic on the list will be of a regional nature, which would suggest being only indirectly involved (a correspondent who is a member could pass on to you anything of interest to NEFUN). Whatever you decide, please let me know.
-Eric Sabelman, Clerk, PYM-CUN
Content of communications on “quakernature” is expected to comprise: Efforts to deepen our understanding of the spiritual underpinnings of environmental consciousness‑what do we mean by “Unity with Nature”?
Exploration of changes in the culture of inhabitants (ourselves) of the [over] developed world that would ameliorate the ecological damage being done‑in particular, creating a sustainable energy policy,
Support for EarthLight magazine and its incorporation of multiple points of view on spirit‑led ecological awareness,
Communications to and from correspondents in monthly meetings,
Joint preparation of letters for circulation within and outside PYM, and documents and schedules for use at PYM-CUN sponsored events.
III. f. Service opportunities:
i.) Quaker Eco-Witness
From Kim Carlyle, Asheville (N.C.) Monthly Meeting August, 2000; Ed Dreby, Mt Holly (N.J.) Monthly Meeting; Elaine Emmi, Salt Lake (Utah) Monthly Meeting; and Keith Helmuth, Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting.
We are seeking Friends to join in Quaker Eco-Witness to promote US government and corporate policies that help restore and protect Earth's biological integrity and enable human communities to relate in mutually enhancing ways the ecosystems of which they are a part.
Quaker Eco-Witness will:
Be grounded in reverence for Earth's communities of life as God's creation.
Be guided by the Spirit and work within and through the Religious Society of Friends.
QEW's initial purposes will be:
To enable Friends Committee on National Legislation to lobby for policies that seek "an earth restored...."
To inform Friends about current policy issues from an ecological and faith perspective.
QEW also intends:
To participate as a Friends' entity in activities of the nation's faith communities relating to US government and corporate environmental policies.
To be a voice for Friends concerned about our species' ecological realities and economic policies promoting unlimited economic expansion.
How You Can Help!
Be a QEW contact for your monthly meeting
Volunteer time with QEW's projects of networking, education, and advocacy
Make a contribution (tax deductible) to Quaker Eco-Witness.
Quaker Eco-Witness Affiliation and Structure
Quaker Eco-Witness intends to be a network of Friends working through existing organizations as a catalyst for action on U.S. policy. QEW will function with its own identity as a project of Friends Committee on Unity with Nature. Its activities will develop within guidance statements approved by FCUN and be reviewed for clearness by QEW's Oversight Committee that includes a member designated by FCUN.
QEW will develop means to consult periodically with all those who participate in its project activities and are part of its network. QEW participants will receive BeFriending Creation, FCUN's bimonthly newsletter. As a special project of FCUN, QEW must raise most of its own operating funds.
Guidance Statement on Policy:
As Friends, we recognize the intrinsic value of the natural world as God's creation, beyond its use by humankind. We are part of an intricate web connecting all of Earth's communities of life. Failure to recognize our interdependence with and responsibility to all life results in activities and institutions that are impairing Earth's ecosystems and their ability to support life. We are called to promote policies, laws, and institutions that respond to these problems.
Restoring balance between natural and cultural systems is an obligation of faith and requires us to recognize that Earth is a finite planet. Friends' historic testimonies on peace, justice and simplicity require us to help curb our society's production, marketing, and consumption of energy and material goods, and the pollution and waste that ensues. Human enterprise cannot continue to expand without continuing to impair Earth's communities of life on which it depends. To prevent this, we must learn to:
Limit ecologically disruptive substances in the biosphere such as: heat trapping and ozone destroying gases in the atmosphere, acid deposition from the air in soils and waters, heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants, and radioactive substances;
Stabilize and then reduce human numbers, and shape our social and economic institutions so as to accomplish these ends;
Limit the amount of land we exploit for human purposes so as to preserve Earth's biological diversity and productivity;
Redesign the way we use land, water, and natural resources, and restore degraded land, so our communities relate in mutually enhancing ways to the ecosystems of which they are part;
Limit and manage our technologies so as to restore and preserve Earth's biological diversity and productivity;
Transform our institutions of government, enterprise, finance and trade so they enable people to live in ways that are ecologically sustainable and strengthen institutions of family and community.
These changes will require an unprecedented degree of international cooperation and equity, and restoration of greater self‑reliance and responsibility to regions and communities. Little of consequence will be accomplished if we do not address the prevalence of violence and extremes of wealth and poverty within the human family, or if we try to manage environmental problems without regard for both local and global ecological limits.
The Quaker Eco-Bulletin (QEB), is now a joint project of Quaker Eco-Witness and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. To receive QEB by e-mail, check the space provided, or e‑mail QEW@springmail.com.
We welcome your comments, suggestions and questions.
PLEASE RESPOND by mail to:
Quaker Eco-Witness, 173‑B N. Prospect St, Burlington VT 05401‑1607
or e‑mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Name ________________________Monthly Meeting __________________________
____I'll be a monthly meeting contact. __I'd like information about helping with projects.
____I'll support Quaker Eco-Witness financially. (Make check payable to Quaker Eco-Witness)
Please indicate amount of contribution: $10 __ $25 __ $50 __ $100 __ Other ______
____I receive Quaker Eco-Bulletin by e‑mail. ___I want to receive Quaker Eco-Bulletin by e‑mail
ii) Witness for Peace (WFP) is a politically independent, grassroots organization. Their mission is to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. foreign policies and corporate practices which contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently, delegates work in Nicaragua, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico. The organization’s delegates work to develop alternative modes of development, taking their lead from the people of the region, and return to the U.S. to work as an activist for change. To learn more and get involved go to the WFP web site at www.witnessforpeace.org.
-- submitted by Elizabeth Miller, Delegations Coordinator e-mail: email@example.com.
i.) The NEFUN Sustainability Game
The setup: Seven envelope pockets labeled one of the following topics in no particular order --Entertainment, Learning, Community, Consumption, Transportation, Connection to Earth, and Investment.
Within each envelope is an assortment of issue cards. The following cards were created by the NEFUN Yearly Meeting workshop, but groups should be encouraged to add more cards as well as consider new envelope topics.
The play: Players encounter the issue cards and move forward or backwards based on the listed practice or uncontrolled circumstance. The goal is described on a sign labeling some destination spot as follows:
“Good News! You are becoming an Earth-minded Friend. You are living more lightly on our planet and helping achieve peace with Earth. Keep it up!”
At the Yearly Meeting (R.I., 1999), the cards were placed so that Friends wandering through the rotunda and stairs encountered them and had a choice about being drawn to the next cards. A better introduction would have avoided confusion, but feedback suggests that many appreciated the challenge of figuring out the game was afoot.
Another idea would be to have 1 to 10 people line at the base of a line of seven chairs, each numbered and holding a separate filled envelope. A deck of cards determines each player’s initial advance to one of the numbered chairs, upon which a related card from the envelope is read and acted upon. All could advance at the same time and read the cards in turn, or the entire play could be in turns.
The Issue Cards follow. Envelope topics are in parentheses.
You are hooked on a TV series. You know five “Seinfeld” jokes. Move back one. (Entertainment)
You have developed skills in group activities and games, creating space for joy. Move ahead two. (Entertainment)
You don’t know the what constellations are visible in the night sky, but you do know Tuesday’s TV lineup. Move back one. (Entertainment)
You learn how to dance. Move ahead two. (Entertainment)
You learn the names of 10 plants and 10 animals in your local. Move ahead two. (Learning)
You are familiar with over one thousand commercial trademarks [average] Move back two. (Learning)
You learn the source of your food and technologies used to grow it. Move ahead one.(Learning)
You talk to your neighbors. Move ahead one. (Community)
You work with your neighbors to save or create good wildlife habitat. Move ahead two. (Community/Connectedness)
You have a neighbor who likes chemicalized lawns and doesn’t like to see a clothes dryer. Move back one. (Community)
You share tools and other resources with your neighbors. Move ahead two. (Community)
You had three neighbors move away in the last year. Move back one. (Community)
You grow your own vegetables and compost kitchen wastes. Move ahead two. (Connection to Earth)
You walk or sit to keep in touch with the Earth. Move ahead two. (Connection to Earth)
You pave a larger driveway. Move back one. (Connection to Earth)
You find alternatives to using your car one day a week. Move ahead one. (Transportation)
You carpool to meeting and work. Move ahead two.(Transportation)
There are no mass transportation lines in your neighborhood. Move back one. (Transportation)
You can’t afford to replace your old car with a more efficient model. Move back one. (Transportation)
You use a bicycle for short errands. Move ahead two. (Transportation)
You participate in socially and environmentally responsible investing. Move ahead two (Investment)
You are reluctant to share your wealth with others. Move back three. (Investment)
You eat locally and organically grown food when possible. Move ahead one (Consumption)
You buy used items instead of new. Move ahead one. (Consumption)
You borrow or rent instead of buying whenever possible. Move ahead one. (Consumption)
Your children are embarrassed that your consumption does not keep up with TV or magazine images. Move back two. (Consumption)
You are offered few choices in you local store of wholesome foods minimally packaged. Move back one. (Consumption)
-- from Janet Clark
This is a fun intergenerational activity that teaches about the relationships between predator and prey and illustrates the amazing process of echo-location, using sound frequencies beyond the range of human hearing.
One person is blindfolded to play an insect-eating bat. Several others play moths who are trying to avoid being eaten by the bat. The rest of the players form a circle around the bath and moths. The size of the circle and the number of moths can be used to adjust level of difficulty as needed for the particular person playing the moth.
The game starts when the bat yells out “bat,” representing the high-frequency sound an actual bat would make while hunting for food. The moths in turn must immediately yell back “moth,” representing the echo from the sound made by the bat. The bat uses this “feedback” to chase down and catch as many moths as possible. When the bat gets too near the outside circle, participants in the larger circle can yell out “tree,” or “house,” or some other obstacle to steer the bat back into the circle. When the bat catches a moth, that person leaves the circle, and the game continues until all of the moths are caught. Then another person is selected to play the bat.
Rules of the game can vary according to the situation and the ages and interests of the participants. For example: Game leaders can experiment with blindfolding the moths as well as bats or covering one of the bat’s ears to show the importance of binaural hearing in echo-location.
If time permits, at the end of the game the group could sit in a circle and talk about what what they learned. This could be combined with the reading of an appropriate story. The children’s story, Stellaluna, holds some interesting possibilities for discussion among older children by bringing up the differences between insect-eating and fruit-eating bats.
- from Louis Cox
iii.) Rainforest Game
This game was played at the 1998 Annual Meeting of Friends Committee on Unity with Nature. We drew lots to divide ourselves into different groups representing developers, bankers, scientists, native peoples, government agencies, and environmental activists. We were given slips of paper that represented various resource credits that could be exchanged through various negotiations among the parties. The participants experienced the challenges and dilemmas facing different parties who are pursuing what they see as their self-interests, while the rainforest thrives or declines according to different sets of rules and scenarios. Although this “game” starts out as innocent role-playing, the ensuing interaction often leads to high feelings among the participants of the different factions. At the conclusion, when the leaders finally calm everyone down, time is allowed for in-depth discussion of feelings and perceptions about what took place and what sociological and ecological lessons different people had learned.
-- from Louis Cox
iv.) Population Resources Exercise
This simulation exercise was adapted from the game “Food for Thought” from Adventures in Population Growth program of Zero Population Growth. It also has the same theme as the OXFAM game, where people draw lots before a dinner. In that game, a tiny fraction are given “tickets” to an exquisite dinner; a second small group receives a nicely balanced meal; a third large group receives rice, beans, and water; and a fourth group receives nothing. In this Friendly session, the participants are physically grouped and supplied with food tokens according to geographical location, and role-playing is used to dramatize the inequities in the current distribution of world resources.
The time needed for the exercise averages between 45 and 70 minutes. Materials needed are: a tape, string, or chalk, and crackers (preferable those with sections, so they can be easily divided)
A “map” of the world is drawn on the floor, and the participants are assigned to the different countries in proportion to relative populations, while crackers are distributed according to the relative scarcity of food in those countries. Participants are led in various kinds of role-playing in which they attempt to maximize their available food, sometimes in competition with others, at other times through cooperation. The exercise is followed by worship-sharing, a crucial component if Friends are to search deep to understand the spiritual basis of this concern.
A detailed description, including charts for population and food resources, is available from Friends Committee on Unity with Nature as a booklet called The Population-Resources Exercise. Stan Becker, the author, says, “We’ve tried this exercise three times at Friends General Conference Gathering with groups of thirty to forty, and we found it to be a stimulating, creative, and learning experience.
-- from Louis Cox.
III. h. NEFUN Retreats at Woolman Hill Conference Center -- Earth, Air, Fire, Water series.
For several years the NEFUN committee has sponsored fall retreats at Woolman Hill, Deerfield, Mass., with the intention of rotating the theme every four years. These retreats have served the New England Quaker community by offering spirit-led and fun opportunities for participants to gain new appreciation for the interconnectivity of their lives to all Creation. The themes have been first Earth, then Air, Fire, and finally Water.
Experts in the field (in succession: a geologist, a meteorologist, a physicist, and a hydrologist) participate in bringing a solid base of information to the weekend, but poetry, song, appropriately chosen food, theme walks and activities (ie: examining rock, a bird walk, a celebratory bonfire, and canoeing) are woven into the weekend's program.
The feedback has been very positive, and the Committee intends to continue offering this end of October, Woolman Hill "tool" in the foreseeable future.
"Best parts of the retreat were the guided meditation, the landscape, advanced concepts [shared by our featured professional], the community, singing, spontaneity, discussions, getting called to play, meteorology, the flowing and gentle program, the great food, and the relaxed breathing space."
--an "Air" retreat participant
Watch for the Retreat notices posted at New England Yearly Meeting. A description of the earth and fire retreats follow:
New England Friends in Unity with Nature held a retreat October 25–27, 1996 at Woolman Hill Quaker Conference Center near Deerfield, Mass, the first in a series of annual retreats focusing on the elements of “earth,” “air,” “fire,” and “water.” Twenty-seven participants from all over New England brought samples of rocks and soil from their homes and shared what the soil meant to them. Everyone then went outdoors to commune with Earth in silence. When they returned they walked barefoot through the soil samples, then made a solemn ritual of washing each other’s feet.
On Saturday morning there were two presentations: Ken Hoffman, a professor at Hampshire College, interpreted the geology of western Massachusetts. He later led the group on a nature walk, sharing his extensive knowledge of plants and animals native to the area. Louis Cox, speaking as a journalist trying to spread new ideas, encouraged greater appreciation for “The Little Things that Run the World”.the hosts of ants, spiders, millipedes, fungi, and microbes that biologists are discovering play a vital role in plant nutrient cycles and other vital earth processes.
The group next toured nearby Winterberry Farm, a small, diversified operation run by Jim and Jill Horton Lyons, who demonstrated the successes and challenges of small-scale agriculture in New England. Several participants who witnessed the butchering of one of the farm’s dairy cattle that had gone dry later asked for group time to process their thoughts and feelings about the use of animal products, animal rights, and mindfulness about where their food comes from.
On Saturday afternoon, participants role-played different species, similar to a Council of All Beings. Small groups then discussed ways in which rituals are useful in helping people connect spiritually to Earth. On Saturday evening, David McAlister, an anthropologist who worked among the Navajo for 40 years, shared Native American songs and stories that had earth themes.
The retreat concluded on Sunday with Meeting for Worship with a concern for care of Mother Earth.
-- from Louis Cox.
We arrived rather cold as traprock, and said we wanted to walk out like someone born into fire – re-stoking our internal fires for the winter. We arrived wound up tight as new pine cones, and said we wanted to laugh and learn -- unfolding with new perspectives, knowledge and deeper peace. We arrived hard and tired as trammeled earth, and said we wanted this communion to kindle awe and a flame to spread into our other lives.
At first we shared what we had brought -- poems and stories, red peppers and fiery leaves of Autumn. Saturday morning we learned about the hierarchy of fire from nuclear energy and chemical bonds to the extreme fusion heats of suns and black holes. Did you know there are millions of tiny energy transactions in a single cell, that we are such elegant machines that we
can safely burn within us ergs that would destroy us in a lesser design? We learned about geothermal technology, played with and studied candles, and later ate chocolate chip cookies cooked in a solar oven!
Focusing on sustainability though Bob Hillegass's article got us nicely fired up. Some comments:
"Recommend the voluntary simplicity study circles"
"This letter is effective and beautiful"
"Population issue is critical and also difficult"
"Need tough decisions about technologies"
"What is our ecological footprint"
"Include social and economic issues"
"How we behave in community"
"We need social experiments"
"Community is crucial"
"Elise Boulding's 'green and peaceful future"
"Rings true and welcome the challenge, but will require a real stretch to give up some things and activities (flying)"
"There is unlimited creativity and initiative even if resources are limited"
"Materials as capital - don't spend what you don't have"
"Need to help the weak have a voice"
"It will be a messy transition"
"Lord, this is impossible"
"What we do may seem insignificant, but it is important to do"
"Not called to be successful, just faithful" (M. Teresa? Clarence Jorden?)
"Move forward from loving passion, find source of inspiration"
"Acknowledge deep despair to make room for joy and commitment"
"The industrial machine is huge. Don't waste energy on us-them wars"
"Don't dump on others"
"Do it with love"
"Integrate the head and heart"
"Be adventurous, joyful. We are called on only for the next step. Stop worrying"
"Language must be clear, not apocalyptic. Maybe the language of love?"
"Maybe its already together, we just need to connect"
"Live the question"
"Just be grateful for the day"
We walked over the beautiful glowing earth through the woodlands of Woolman Hill, ate Annie's golden food and took warm naps. At night we created a bonfire and moved from meditation on the Universe Story as we brought the stars into our lives to songs of fire and spirit. At the end, we said we loved being with friends who talked respectfully about our deep concerns, to be able to talk about sustainability with spirit, to learn more science -- rich metaphors, to prepare for hard realities down the road, to remember the joy and hope, to take embers away from this circle to others, to feel the presence of the God we know.
-- from Janet Clark
III. h. Workshops
i.) “Caring for Creation”: Lisa Gould
Lisa Gould from Westerly Meeting can speak to the your Adult First Day class about her book, Caring for Creation, Reflections on the Biblical Basis of Earthcare. This is a good chance to talk with Lisa about what we can do concerning Sustainability in our lives and how we can make a difference.
Also, Allen’s Neck Meeting is in the process of developing material for an adult class on sustainability called “The Environment and Religion.” Based on Lisa Gould’s book Caring for Creation, it will be lead by Jim Munger and will start in March and run through June. Class participants will be discerning what direction the Bible gives us for being good stewards of the earth. Through discussion they will develop ideas on how to practice sustainability. At this time the class is designed for the Adults in First Day School. It is possible that the curriculum could be distributed to other Meetings for their use.
ii.) Eat What your Believe: Molly Anderson
First - Offer pre-workshop readings. (See “Living on the Earth” and “What’s Wrong With our food Systems” above under “Simplicity” section)
Second - Begin the workshop with the video “My Father’s Garden” by Bull Frog films. Discuss.
Third - Taking turns around the circle, track where a hamburger comes from step by step. Discuss.
Fourth - Discuss “What can one person do?” below.
Fifth - Workshop participants work in groups to create a sustainable food system. (See workshop results below)
What Can One Little Person Do?
What can one little person do,
What can one little me or you do?
What can one little person do to help this world go round?
One can help another one, and together we can get the job done.
What can one little person do to help this world?
1. Promote greater local self-reliance.
Grow some of your own food in your yard or in a community-garden plot, or join a Community-Supported Agriculture farm. Give away or barter the extras that you grow.
Help start community and public school gardens so people without land have a place to grow food, and children learn how to grow.
Buy locally-grown foods, and try to buy directly from growers (at farmers’ markets or farmstands)
Patronize restaurants that buy locally-grown foods.
2. Support environmentally-responsible farms and socially-responsible farming alternatives.
Buy organic and IPM-certified foods preferentially, and ask for these products at your supermarket.
Patronize restaurants that serve organic or IPM-certified foods.
Buy from Fair Trade companies which don’t exploit farm workers or growers.
3. Be Environmentally Responsible In Your Own Home And Business.
Use Integrated Pest Management in your own home and business. Advocate for use of IPM in your public school system, if not used already.
Naturalize your lawn.
Seek out “green” products (for example, by purchasing from companies recommended by Co-op America or using “green-seal” certifications).
4. Recycle and reduce waste.
Compost organic waste (including yard-clippings).
Recycle containers and buy in bulk.
Avoid "single-use" products such as disposable cups and napkins.
5. Learn about your food system and alternatives.
Read! Patronize your library, or subscribe to journals for current information.
Establish or participate in forums discussing problems of our food system and alternatives (such as discussions of Fair Trade in the Providence Monthly Meeting, or environmental problems in the Cambridge Forum).
Establish or volunteer time with existing programs in public schools.
6. Contribute to hunger relief in your community.
Volunteer with a pantry, shelter or food bank.
Volunteer with a community farm or garden that donates food to shelters or meal services.
Donate money to these organizations.
7. Work for political change.
Start or join a food policy council in your town to make sure food needs and alternatives are part of the town plan.
Join community or regional organizations that are pushing for legislative changes in our food system (for example, the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group or the new on-line discussion group NEFOOD-L).
Join the National Community Food Security Coalition or Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
1998 Workshop Recommendations from participants
Food production and distribution must be premised on human rights to adequate, safe, nutritious foods.
Each person should have access to land for growing food, if s/he wishes to do so.
Farmers should be compensated for social benefits of agriculture.
Hunger relief programs should be coordinated with farm-support programs.
All farming should be conducted with the most environmentally-responsible methods available, and foods should be labeled to indicate their growing methods.
Foods grown locally and with environmentally-responsible methods should be bought preferentially by any institution that receives state or federal funds.
Education about food, nutrition, and agriculture should be readily available, in easily accessible forms to all members of society.
iii.)Workshops: Louis Cox
Below are summaries of four activities that can help structure a one-day workshop.
First: Opening group sharing: 20–30 minutes
“share briefly an important experience you recall from being in the natural world.”
This activity draws on the innate desire most people have to “be known,” to take advantage of the opportunity in a supportive environment to share one’s feelings and concerns. This works best when there is a “talking stick” that is left in the center of the circle and picked up by the next person who is led to speak, rather than going around the circle and putting on the spot people who may not feel ready to share. The leader could serve as a model by telling of a personal experience that evoked awe and wonder and provided a sense of being part of the natural order. At the end
Second: Candle meditation: 20–30 minutes
This is one way of illustrating in vivid terms the basic meaning of sustainability. It also provides an occasion for discussing the moral implications of our current overuse of the earth’s resources, in terms of the metaphor, “burning the candle at both ends.”
Box of matches
Four slender, emergency-type parafin candles. Sharpen one of the candles at the flat end so the wick is exposed at both ends. Pare down the center so it has two flat faces.
Three small, short candle holders
A device for holding one candle securely in a horizontal position. A hobby vice for tying fishing flies is very handy for this. However, a clothespin, half of which is held down to the top of a short block of wood with a strong rubber band will serve.
An aluminum pie plate for catching melting wax
A wide-mouth glass quart jar; make sure the inverted quart jar will fit over the candle holder.
A wide-mouth glass gallon jar
A model car
A slick, colored advertising supplement from a newspaper.
This activity is a meditation about the meaning of sustainability. Although it involves scientific principles, it is not a science lesson as such.
1. Line up three of the candles in candle holders, on a low table in front of the presenter. Light all three candles. Allow everyone several minutes to focus meditatively on the flames.
Lesson: the flame represents the invisible flame that burns in every thing that lives. Living things are, of course, different from candles: candles start out large and grow smaller, while we start out small and grow larger. This is because we can grow and continually replenish of our reserves. Despite the guilt that some would lay on us, the life-force that we embody is good, so there is nothing inherently wrong with our consuming energy and other resources in order to live and enjoy life. Even consuming beyond a simple, subsistence level, which helps to make life more interesting through art, music, literature, and other cultural activities is not something we should feel guilty about. Let us reflect on this and give thanks for this wonderful gift of life.
The question being raised in this meditation is the rate at which we are consuming resources and what we consider our fair share.
2. Lower the quart jar over one of the burning candles. Watch as the flame is extinguished in less than 15 seconds.
Lesson: our physical existence as individuals often obscures the fact that we are dependent on a sometimes invisible flow of vital resources from elsewhere. Sometimes the our demand for more goods and services creates temporary shortages and stresses that can lead to serious problems if not alleviated.
3. Lower the gallon jar over one of the other burning candles. Watch as the flame is extinguished in less than one minute.
Lesson: often the proposed solution to such shortages is a quantitative one, using technology to increase the flow of goods and services to meet the increased demand-supply-side economics. The assumption is that ultimately all resources can be developed without limit. However, the typical result increasing the supply of goods and services is also to increase the demand, leading to another shortage of some vital resource at a larger scale.
If the room we are sitting in were completely sealed we too would eventually suffocate for lack of oxygen. Expanding this concept further, we can appreciate that all oxygen breathers on earth would have died out billions of years ago if we all had to depend on a finite source of oxygen. The fact is that the supply of oxygen is continually replenished by the cycles of nature. In other words, we did not invent the idea of sustainability. The earth and its community of live have been managing their resources sustainability for billions of years. Let us reflect on this and give thanks.
4. Bring out the fourth candle and fit it in the holder so that it rests horizontally over the pie plate. Light both ends. Watch as the burning proceeds so inefficiently that 95 percent of the wax melts off the candle before it can perform useful work.
Lesson: “burning the candle at both ends” has been a way of describing someone who wastes his or her life energy by fast, high-risk living without getting enough rest and nutrition. But this is expression is increasingly a metaphor for the age we live in, where our common resources are being squandered at an appalling rate.
5. Hold up the model car.
Lesson: the private automobile with an internal combustion engine is perhaps the most glaring example of wasteful use of resources in modern society. Some 95 percent of the energy in a gallon of gas goes to moving the car itself. The resulting air pollution is a serious problem that takes more energy to solve. Further, the lifestyle that has developed around the use of the private automobile has stimulated sprawling community developments that increase dependence on the automobile.
6. Hold up the advertising supplement.
Lesson: In most aspects of our economy we also have become dependent on growth for growth’s sake, which has required the stimulation of demands for consumption to keep the economic engines running. A symptom of this dependency is the flood of expensive, slick advertising that is aimed at enticing us into buying more and more stuff. According to some studies, only 1 or 2 percent of these catalogs result in a sale of one of the products being advertised. Yet businesses are so dependent on those few additional sales that this is considered an acceptable rate of return. Meanwhile, advertising has to compete with other advertising for limited consumer attention and resistance to media influences, increasing the number of catalogues that must be designed, printed, and mailed out to have any impact on sales. Meanwhile, the other 98 or 99 percent of the copies go straight into the trash, requiring more energy to be spend in disposing or recycling them.
7. Note the condition of the two remaining lit candles: One of the original candles continues to burn, with only a small amount of its original wax consumed after some 15 minutes. The fourth candle, the one lit at both ends, is about to go out after only about 5 minutes.
Lesson: So we are looking at more than isolated problems of temporary shortages of resources and accumulations of waste products. As a society we are operating increasingly unsustainably, and the rate of disintegration at all levels is increasing as we strive to stay on this treadmill of increasing throughput of resources.
Yet this meditation is fundamentally a message of hope. As we noted earlier, the idea of sustainability is not new. We have plenty of models from the natural world to guide us as we seek to re-learn how to live sustainably and joyfully, for the sake of future generations and the entire community of life. This goes far deeper than technology, education, and politics. It goes to the heart of what we value as human beings and how we can meet our needs in a just and sustainable manner. Let us consider how the basic values and historic testimonies of Friends -- such as the testimonies of integrity and simplicity -- can contribute to our understanding of that challenge.
Third: Demonstration: “Earth’s Fragile Veil”
A desk-top size globe of the Earth, preferably one that shows oceans, continents and other physical features but not political boundaries. Inflatable models are available from toy stores, educational supplies stores, and map companies.
An oversize marble, a regular size marble, and a small stone or kidney bean.
Throughout human history we have tended to think of Earth as something huge and threatening. When human population was small and technology was primitive, there was justification for the view that nature was something that needed to be conquered and that resources to satisfy human needs were inexhaustible. But the last century has changed all of that. With human population at 6 billion and technologies at the modern world’s disposal for large-scale exploitation, we are discovering that the fate of the planet is literally “in our hands.”
Holding up the globe explain that at the dawn of the 21st century we are awakening to a shrinking planet, where were are encountering widespread scarcities of many vital resources. Although the planet seems huge when viewed from the ground, when viewed from space we have realized that all life is contained and sustained in an incredibly thin “veil” we call the biosphere. This fragile zone, where virtually all living things are found, extends only a about mile into the oceans and only about three miles into the atmosphere -- which is only one-half of one-tenth of one-percent of the diameter of the planet. The depth of this biosphere could be compared to the depth of the film of paint on the model globe.
Holding up the larger marble, ask participants to guess which essential resource that represents, in terms of the size globe being used for this exercise. When someone guesses correctly that this represents the aggregate of all the breathable air, share about personal stories about how easily air mixes with other substances (i.e., pollution).such as how quickly we become aware of perfume worn by someone who has recently entered a closed room. Stress importance of preventing contamination, because of the limited nature of the resource and the extreme difficulty of cleaning the air once it has been polluted.
With the smaller marble, go through a similar discussion concerning water, explaining that the marble represents the aggregate of all forms of water on the surface of the planet, that only one percent of that is fresh water, and only a tiny fraction of the fresh water would be considered drinkable today. Share personal stories about how water easily becomes tainted or polluted by various substances.
Finally, hold up the kidney bean and led a discussion about how it represents all of the soil on the surface of the planet -- everything granular down to bedrock -- only a tiny fraction of which is currently arable. Recite the factors that are rapidly reducing the amount of arable land -- development, desertification, erosion, etc.
If there is time, segue to a reflection on exploding human population and the developed world’s pattern of excessive and wasteful consumption. Note that physically speaking the aggregate of human takes up only very small amount of space, but our use of resources can create an “ecological footprint” that overwhelms the planet’s ability to sustain life, not to mention indulgent lifestyles. With sufficient time, the discussion could cover related issues of rare and non-renewable resources and such intangibles as solitude, beauty, justice, democracy, etc. that are threatened by a world that isn’t sharing its resources equitably.
Fouth: Closing Group Sharing -- “What I fear for the future, what gives me hope for the future.”
iii.) Some Basic Science: Janet Clark
This was created for a group already exploring “water” and therefore doesn’t address that topic.
As we humans investigate our world, we hope that with understanding will come knowledge. Human goals of improved viability and quality of life have driven innovation -- applied science. In this way, we have created tools that we call technologies for improving our lives. These technologies or tools have included baseball bats and lazers, plastics and medicine, hybred food stock and computers. With the glorious life they have created for us, some of these technologies have had unintended and unhealthy consequences. Toxic poison in our communities and resource degradation (soil, water, energy) have reminded us of the limits to our expansion, and dramatic patterns of weather and atmospheric disturbances have induced even insurance companies to search for solutions. In this search, theories being proposed many of which are correct, some are wrong and some are dishonest. Hopefully we can tell the difference by being involved and informed as citizens, aware of the power of money to corrupt science as well as nurture it.
II. Systems and subsystems
To study living systems, we can look to the approach taken by scientists. An ecologist starts by naming the elements of an ecosystem, describing them and listing them. Key patterns of flow and interaction can highlight how the system controls itself to maintain stability -- usually some kind of dynamic equilibrium. These patterns include energy and materials flows, reproduction and mortality, concentration and dispersion, attraction and repulsion, efficiency and redundancy, structure, and health (a system is said to be “robust” or “fragile”. Trends that are proven pretty predictable are stated as “laws” and are studied for insights about the mechanism of function. Scientists look for what makes the miracle, especially the mechanisms of system-control and stability. Engineers are beginning to look at natural systems for design strategies that are energy efficient and low-impact, using these same scientific techniques of observation.
While looking at details, a clear perspective of the whole system is important. This whole system perspective is called a holistic approach. Interactions between the system elements can have great significance to the whole, and can be observed, quantified, and named. Data is collected and theories are proposed. For example, observations of beaver and aspen meadows suggest that beaver ponds were once aspen groves, and will be again as the beaver generations move up and down the stream system.
Earth’s ecosystem is made up of sub-systems, such as the water, energy, materials, social, and economic systems. You have been learning about the hydrologic cycle, and can envision it as a wheel with elements and flows that connect the circle. A closed system would loose no water in this cycling, but living systems are seldom completely closed unless very mature and efficient or completely isolated physically. The earth is a closed system with regard to matter, but not with regard to energy.
We will review the energy and materials sub-systems next in this consideration of the science of sustainability.
Energy is defined as the capacity to do work. Forms of energy include light, heat, chemical energy, moving matter, and electricity. Solar energy heats the earth’s atmosphere from -400 degrees Farenheight, and helps to drive the water cycle as well as others. Indirectly, the sun also powers wind, falling and flowing water, and the creation of biomass. Passive solar energy can be captured as heat in a cold frame or the mass of a large rock. 1% of the energy we use on earth is commercially sold in the marketplace, mostly in the form of fossil fuels.
The rate that we use fossil fuels has greatly increased in the last century, with the United States using 25% of this with only 4.7% of the world’s population. It supports our higher standard of living, but is inefficient in meeting those standards. This is because we use high quality energy like electricity and extreme heat to do work needing only low quality energy like sunlight or moderate heat.
Solar energy is free, but very dilute and of a very low quality form of energy. However, passive solar energy is excellent for gentle heat and light, and photovoltaic systems for producing electricity are becoming less costly.
Materials can change chemically or physically, either taking up or giving off energy in the process. In observing energy being changed from one form to another, scientists have never detected any creation or destruction of energy. This miracle is the first law of thermodynamics. When we wonder where the energy in our flashlight battery has gone, remember that light and heat are forms of energy. These are lower forms of energy than the electricity stored in the battery. In fact, scientists have taken millions of measurements of energy transformations, and found that there is always a decrease in energy quality or in the amount of useful energy. This is the second law of thermodynamics. It means that energy is dispersing as heat in every use of energy for work. A machine’s efficiency can be measured in terms of the amount of energy turned into useful work (motion, light, heat, etc. ) versus how much is wasted as heat. A light bulb uses 5% of the electrical energy as light and emits 95% as low-quality heat. The automobile is 10% efficient. If escaped energy and wasted energy are considered, our civilization might be said to be 16% efficient.
We could improve this rate of efficiency by applying the principle: Don’t use high-quality energy to do something that can be done with lower-quality energy. Consider the wind dispersal of seeds versus a motor-driven propeller. Another good idea is to slow the escape of useful energy. Maple seeds are structured to use gravity to drive their helicopter wings and float sideways for a longer distance. Still another good idea is to use natural systems where possible. For example, use falling water and capillary action to move water through a garden.
If we were to envision the energy subsystem, seeing incoming solar energy being transformed into useful work and heat, motion and biomass, it is very complex. Consider a household energy system. How would you improve on the efficiency of this system?
Matter is made up of elements and compounds, which are atoms and combinations of atoms. There are 109 different elements, ninety-two of which are natural. These include oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, sodium, calcium, and chlorine. The remaining 17 elements were created in laboratories. Combinations of atoms may be molecules such as O2, H2O and methane CH4. The latter is an organic compound because it contains the carbon atom.
Matter that is organized and concentrated is more valuable than diluted or dispersed matter. Scientists measure “entropy” by level of dispersion or randomness. Physical and chemical changes in matter do not create new atoms or destroy atoms. All we can do is rearrange them in different special patterns or different combinations. This is called the Law of Conservation of Matter, and it means that there is no “away” to throw our trash. It is always with us. For example, industrial facilities cleaned up their air emissions by putting scrubbers on their stacks. These use water or charcoal or a catalyst to remove pollutants, but generate aqueous and solid waste. Material is just being moved around. Pollution prevention is a better strategy for industry because it reduces the amount of problematic materials used in the first place.
The following compounds are a few of the ones important to the environment: Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated hydrocarbons, Chlorofluorocarbons, Perchloroethylene, Nitrous oxide, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon dioxide, Nitrogen dioxide, Sulfur dioxide, Sulfuric acid, Nitric acid, Phthalates, and Polyvinylchloride. Various chemical disasters (eagles and DDT, Love canal, Bho Pol, deformed frogs and alligators) have awakened us to the extreme hazards of manufacturing, storing and transporting toxic chemicals. Here in New England the book and movie, A Civil Action highlights not only the tragedy of such community exposure, but also the power of companies protecting the status quo. The story continues as news stories this year describe contamination in Castleton, Vermont and Spofford, NH. The latest report form the US EPA states that virtually all air in the US has contamination. A new congressional report counted over 600,000 chemical incidents from 1987 to 1996, with an average of 256 people being killed each year. New England governors have reported that 80% of the surface waters of New England are so contaminated with mercury that children, pregnant women, and the elderly are advised not to eat fish from them.
There are about 70,000 synthetic chemicals that have been added to our lives since 1945, and 1000 new ones are added each year. About 1600 compounds are regulated because they are know to be or suspected to be toxic or carcinogenic. About 75% of the top volume chemicals have not been tested for toxicity because the cost of doing so has weakened the political will to demand this. Also, tests have failed to account for multiple exposures and longer term effects. Some very progressive policy proposals include a more cautious approach to approving chemicals for use, prohibiting approval unless demonstrated to be safe by the industry seeking to use it.
If we were to envision the way materials flow through the ecosystem, within us and through our systems of production, transportation, food and waste, the amount of waste tells us how fast materials are flowing and how fast we are allowing entropy to build. If we slow the flow, we can postpone the entropy trap.
III. i. Discover Unity with Nature in First Day School
I believe that the fundamental -- but not sufficient -- basis of caring for the world around us is love. This love can motivate people to seek out the knowledge they need, act responsibly in relation to their environment, and sustain them through periods of discouragement. Studies of environmental attitudes show that the strongest common factor among people with a deep love of nature is positive experience in early childhood with and in nature, in company with adults they respect. There is a window of learning about nature during early childhood which may close later in life.
And if we want to influence the way adults relate to the natural world, working with children is an effective place to begin. Children approach the world in ways that make us see things fresh, and their comments and questions are sometimes quite profound. Their spontaneous tenderness for vulnerable, weak creatures is moving, but this tenderness must be nurtured, because it can so easily go underground if children are teased or if they begin to fear signs of weakness. To a teacher, few things are more satisfying that watching a child whose first reaction to a big beetle is “yuckk!” suddenly see the beauty in its iridescent wings.
As part of Quaker faith and practice, we need to instill in children an attitude of seeking truth and right relationship with their non-human community. The evidence of unraveling is all around us, but we must learn to understand those signs of disharmony with the natural world as cries for action. We certainly don’t have all the answers to how humans can live harmoniously in natural systems, but we have some clues to share with children so that they can learn to listen and respond to those cries.
Last year I taught 4- and 5-year-olds with Mary Gilbert, another member of Cambridge Meeting. We explored different ways to foster unity with nature while First Day School was in session from Labor Day through mid-June. Introducing children to Quakerism through the natural world came easily to both of us. I teach ecology to graduate students at Tufts University and direct a degree program in Agriculture, Food, and Environment. Mary brought a rich repertoire of songs about the natural world to our group, in addition to her passion for the natural world. But you certainly don't need to be a professional ecologist or a wonderful song leader to teach love nature. Anyone can become a seeker of harmony with the natural world. One thing I’ve struggled with for years in my profession is the way academic study tends to encrust a passionate attachment to the world in a dead husk of rhetoric. I think our job in First Day School is to break open that husk of not-caring, to help people make a vital connection between nature and their spirits.
Generally, lessons which seemed most effective involved making things which were not too complicated (especially making gifts for other people); role-playing; appealing, accessible stories with pictures big enough for the whole group to see; and plenty of chances to contribute to stories from their own experience and recent events. The lessons that flopped were those in which we tried to deal with abstract ideas, those which didn’t connect with children’s direct experience, and those which taxed the short attention spans of some of the audience.
In March we took a walk in the neighborhood to look for signs of rebirth, as a lead-in to a lesson on Easter. Then we made bird mobiles out of construction paper, using a design I found in one of the craft books listed at the end of this article.
In April, we read a children’s book, Earth Day, about the historical events which led to the first and second Earth Days and the establishment of Earth Day as an annual observance. Then we talked about things we can do to help take care of the world around us (the kids were full of ideas). We popped a big pan of popcorn, then made spring trees by gluing the popcorn to sheets of colored construction paper on which they drew a tree trunk and branches.
We focused on “Care of the Natural world” during June, after a month dedicated to care and respect for ourselves, our family members, and other people. We started the month with a walk in a conservation area. Cambridge Friends in Unity with Nature (CFUN) organized this activity for all First Day School families and other interested Meeting members. CFUN had distributed maps in advance, and we gathered at a First Day School Committee member’s home nearby. We encouraged the children to notice what was around them and reminded them not to trample and destroy as we walked through the woods. We stopped at a lake to read short selections from nature writings which CFUN had picked out, then “became” on thing around us. After meditating on how it felt to be that thing and moving like it, we told the rest of the group about the experience.
Two other lessons during June dealt with “Who owns the world?” and “Creating beauty.” For the first lessons, we read Once There Was a Tree by Natalia Tomanova, about a tree “belongs to all because it grows from the Earth that is home for us all.” Then we made tree collages out of items I had collected outside before class. For the lesson on beauty, we ready Barbara Cooney’s lovely book Miss Rumphius, about a woman who plants lupines, which grow and multiply, to help fulfill her father’s injunction to spread beauty wherever she goes.
In addition to the lessons directly about caring for the natural world, we used materials from nature in projects throughout the year. The class took walks through the year to look for changes and find out how animals copy with the seasons. We sometimes collected objects to examine back at the Meeting House. We also practiced not leaving impacts of our presence.
If you are wondering about particular books to use for lesson plans, visit your local public library. There has been a remarkable flowering of children’s literature in the last couple of decades. Look for large books with large illustrations -- they are easier to share with groups of children. In addition, there are several wonderful books on nature crafts appropriate to children of different ages.
The following is a partial list of nature activity books for pre-school children. Sometimes you will need to simplify stories or activities for your group (Becoming a Friend to the Creation: Earthcare Leaven for Friends and Friends Meetings by Lisa L. Gould has a longer list, with many other excellent resources.)
-- Molly Anderson
Caduto, Michael J. and Joseph Bruchac, 1988. Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children. Fulcrum, Inc.
____1991. Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children. Fulcrum, Inc.
Cornell, Joseph B., 1979. Sharing Nature with Children. Dawn Press.
――1989. Sharing the Joy of Nature: Nature Activities for All Ages. Dawn Press.
Hopkins, Susan, and Jeffry Winters, eds., 1990. Discover the World: Empowering Children to Value Themselves, Others, and the Earth. New Society Publishers.
Petrach, Carol, 1992. Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children. Mt. Ranier, Md.: Gryphon House.
Chapter 5. Leaders that provide Content or Facilitation
Don and Judy Campbell -- 4 Directions and experiential approaches to relationship with nature. Eco-living, Puppetry.
413/498-0027 Mt. Toby
Louis Cox and Ruah Swennerfelt -- Spiritual connectedness, fragility of Earth, opportunities for involvement, educating for sustainability, eco-living .
David Ahlfeld -- Resource utilization (especially water) and climate change (global warming).
413/253-5687 Mt. Toby
Susan Lloyd McGarry -- Meditative discernment, poetry, sacredness of place.
Molly Anderson -- Sustainable Food Systems, General sustainability topics.
Janet Clark -- Science, visioning, sustainable production, indicators, games.
Rod Zwirner – Personal ecology, biodynamic gardening. 617/282-7339 Monadnock
Karl Davies --Chiapas: How Our Savings and Investments Create Crisis, Friendly Economics.
Chapter Six --Recommended Titles, Organizations and Websites
This section is organized as follows
f. Children’s Books
g. General topics on Sustainability
h. Other Resources
Sabbath--Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Muller
Spirituality of Resistance, Gottlieb
Lost Gospel of Earth, Tom Hayden
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
The Human Phenomenon, (previously published as The Phenomenon of Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Sarah Appleton-Weber, trans. Sussex Academic Press, U.K., International Specialized Book Services, Portland, Ore., e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Harper & Row, New York, 1959
The Environment and the Christian: What Can We Learn from the New Testament? Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1991.
Earthspirit: a Handbook for Nurturing an Ecological Christianity, Michael Dowd, Twenty-Third Publications, Mystic, Conn., 1991.
The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, the Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance, Matthew Fox, HarperSF, San Francisco, Calif., 1988.
Earth and Spirit: The Spiritual Dimension of the Environmental Crisis, Fritz Hull, Continuum Publishing, Co., New York, 1993.
Gaia: The Growth of an Idea, Joseph Lawrence, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1990.
The Attentive Heart: Conversations with Trees, Stephanie Kaza, Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1993.
The Spirit of One Earth: Reflections on Teilhard de Chardin and Global Spirituality, Ursula King, Paragon House, New York, 1989.
Earth, Sky, Gods, and Mortals: Developing and Ecological Spirituality, Jay B. McDaniel, Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Conn., 1990.
Loving Nature: Ecological Integrity and Christian Responsibility, James A. Nash, Abingdon Press, Churches' Center for Theology and Public Policy, Washington, D.C., 1991.
Spiritual Ecology: A Guide to Reconnecting with Nature, Jim Nollman, Bantam Books, New York, 1990.
Earth Rising: Eclogical Belief in an Age of Science, David Oats, Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Ore., 1989.
Good. Wild. Sacred. Gary Snyder, Five Seasons Press, Hereford, England, U.K. 1984.
The Spiritual Dimension of Green Politics, Charlene Spretnak, Bear & Co., Santa Fe, N.M., 1986.
The Universe Story, Bryan Swimme and Thomas Berry, Harper Collins, New York, 1992.
The Earth Speaks. Steve Van Matre, Institute for Earth Education, Warrenville, Ill., 1991.
Earthkeeping in the Nineties: Stewardship of Creation, Loren Wilkinson, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich., 1991.
Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered, Machaelle Small Wright, Perelandra Press, Jeffersonton, Va., 1987.
Ecological Healing: A Christian Vision. Nancy G. Wright and Donald Kill, Codel, Inc., New York, 1993.
The Dream of the Earth, Thomas Berry. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1988.
Becoming a Friend to the Creation, Earthcare Leaven for Friends and Friends' Meetings, by Lisa Lofland Gould, Ed., Friends Committee on Unity with Nature, Burlington, Vt., 1994.
Healing Ourselves and Our Earth, by Elizabeth Watson. Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
Creation Spirituality: Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth, Matthew Fox, Harper, 1991.
Spirit and Nature: Why the Environment is a Religious Issue (an interfaith dialogue), Steven C. Rockefeller and John C. Elder (eds.), Beacon Press, Boston, 1992.
The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Matthew Fox
The Consumer Guide. Union of Concerned Scientists
The Good Life
Voluntary Simplicity, Duane Elgin, William Morrow & Co., New York, 1981.
Walking Gently on the Earth, Jack Phillips, Friends Committee on Unity with Nature.
Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered, Peregrine Smith, Layton, Utah, 1988.
Your Money or Your Life, Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, Viking Press, New York, 1992.
Making a Living While Making a Difference, a Guide to Creating Careers with a Conscience, by Melissa Everett. Bantam Books, New York, 1995.
Goatwalking: a Guide to Wildland Living. Jim Corbett, Viking Penguin Books, New York, 1991.
Simple Lliving: One Couple's Search for a Better Life. Levering and Urbanska, Viking Penguin, New York, 1992.
Diet for a New America: How your food choices affect your health, happiness, and the future of life on Earth. Robbins, John, Stillpoint Publishing, Walpole, N.H., 1987.
Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1993.
If John Woolman Were Among Us: Reflections on the Ecology of Flush Toilets and Motor Vehicles, Argenta Friends Press, Argenta, B.C.
Earthkeepers: Environmental Perspectives on Hunger, Poverty, and Injustice, Art Meyer and Jocele Meyer, Mennonite Central Committee, Herald Press, Scottsdale, Pa., 1991.
For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a
Sustainable Future, Herman E. Daly and John B. Cobb, Jr., Beacon Press, 1989.
Guns, Butter, and Steel
A New Name for Peace: International Environmentalism, Sustainable Development, and Democracy, by Philip Shabecoff. University of New England, Hanover, N.H., 1996.
The Post-corporate World, David Korten.
When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten
Beyond Growth, Herman Daly
... Barry Lopez
The Natural Wealth of Nations, David Roodman, Worldwatch Institute
Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Albert Gore Jr., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1992.
The End of Nature, Bill McKibben, Random House, New York, 1989.
A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, Oxford University Press, New York, 1966.
World as Lover, World as Self, Joanna Macy, Parallax Press, Berkeley, Calif., 1991.
The Universe is a Green Dragon, Brian Swimme. Bear & Co., Santa Fe, N.M., 1984
Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken
The Great Work, Our Way into the Future, Thomas Berry. A Bell Tower Book
Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings, John Seed, Joanna Macy, Pat Fleming, Arne Naess. New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, Pa., 1988.
House of Light, poems by Mary Oliver. Beacon Press, Boston, Mass., 1990.
The Hundredth Monkey, Ken Keyes, Jr., Vision Books, St. Mary, Ky. 1982.
Environmental Challenges for Higher Education: Integrating Sustainability into Academic Programs, Robert L. Wixom, et al. ed. Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
Saving the Planet: How to Shape an Environmentally Sustainable Global Economy, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 1991.
Envisioning a Sustainable World, Donella Meadows
The Philosophy of Conscious Energy, by Joseph Provenzano, Winston-Derek, Nashville, Tenn.,
f. Children's Books
Earthcare for Children, a First Day School Curriculum
Keepers of the Earth, Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Speak to the Earth and It Shall Teach Thee, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, available through the Friends General Conference Bookstore.
Earth Child: Games, Stories, Activities, Experiments, and Ideas about Living Lightly on Planet Earth, Council Oak Books, Tulsa, Okla.1991.
Rising Sun: Teaching Children to Love nature, Tricia Garwood and Frank Hajcak, Rising Sun Fund, West Chester, Pa., 1999.
Sharing Nature with Children, Joseph B. Cornell, Crystal Clarity, Philadelphia, Pa., 1979.
Teaching Kids to Love the Earth, M.L. Herman, et al., Pfeifer-Hamilton Publishers, Duluth, Minn., 1991.
My Nature Journal, a Personal Nature Guide for Young People, Adrienne Olmstead, Pajaro Press, 2000.
Hands-on Nature: Information and Activities for Exploring the Environment with Children, Lingelbach, Jenepher, ed., Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Woodstock, Vt., 1986.
This Planet is Mine: Teaching Environmental Awareness and Appreciation to Children, Fireside Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991.
Earthkeepers: Four Keys for Helping Young People Live in Harmony with the Earth, Institute of the Earth, 1988.
g. General Books on Sustainability
30 of the Best Sustainability Books of this Decade http://sustainable.state.fl.us:/fdi/fscc/res/booklist.htm, books addressing the general topic of sustainability
For a list of books and resources specific to sustainable agriculture, take a peek at "Future Horizons: Recent Literature in Sustainable Agriculture" in the the Extension and Education Materials for Sustainable Agriculture series at UNL's Center for Sustainable Agricultural System.
Future Horizons: Recent Literature in Sustainable Agriculture http://ianrwww.unl.edu/ianr/csas/extvol6.htm
h. Other Resources (video, articles, periodicals, organizations, websites)
New Foundations, New Beginnings, (AUDIO) Miriam T. MacGillis
The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, video series by Brian Swimme
Journey to Planet Earth PBS series (on Rivers) -
"Rivers of Destiny"
“Land of Plenty - Land of Want"
Educational materials for middle-school and after-school programs, created to accompany this film series. You can download a guide from the JtPE Web site at http://pbs.org/teachersource/planetearth or send a request to Michele Reap, South Carolina ETV Outreach PO Box 11000 Columbia, SC 29211, 803/737-3394 or email@example.com.
Beyond Affluenza The three part PBS series
Fooling with Nature, PBS, about manmade-chemicals as endocrine-system disruptors. It was produced in
1997, and the phone number on the video is 1-800/424-7963.
There are a couple of companies that carry a lot of environmental and public-interest films, and you might want to get their catalogs:
The Video Project
Media for a Safe and Sustainable World
200 Estates Drive
Ben Lomond, CA 95005
Bullfrog Films, Inc.
P.O. Box 149
Oley, PA 19547
Videocassettes in the NAL Collection Pertaining to Alternative Farming Systems, the National Agricultural
Library, firstname.lastname@example.org. Order videos from them through Interlibrary Loan, or you could use the ordering information in the bibliography to get your own copies.
"Sustainable Development as a Quaker Testimony?" A personal response by Bob Hillegass, Friends Journal, December 1998.
Crossing the Threshold: Early Signs of an Environmental Awakening. Worldwatch 12(2): 12-22. (March/April 1999)
"What Does Sustainability Really Mean? The Search for Useful Indicators." by Alex Farrell and Maureen Hart. Environment, Vol. 40, No. 9, November 1998
"The Globalization of Agriculture and Food Systems—Implicatons for Sustainability." Richard Boylan. Annals of the Earth, Vol. XIV, No. 3, 1996
Social Investors Forum
Orion, People and Nature. The Orion Society.
Green Cross, Christian Society of the Green Cross
National Green Pages
GeneWatch, a Bulletin of the Council for Responsible Genetics
BeFriending Creation, Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
Finca International, Inc. 1101 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005; 202/682-1510 www.villagebanking.org
New Cosmology/New Foundation, Sr. Miriam T. MacGillis
Friends Committee on Unity with Nature
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Right Sharing of World Resources
Quaker Green Concern
Maine Council of Churches,17 Pleasant Ave, Portland, ME 04103, tele 207-772-1918, email@example.com
Worldwatch Institute, 1776 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
American Teilhard Association
Center for the Story of the Universe, 311 Rydal Ave., Mill Valley, Calif. 94941
Forum on Religion and Ecology (formerly Teilhard Society?), Dept. of Religion, Bucknel University, Lewisburg, Pa. 17837
Center for Respect of Life and Environment, 2100 L St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20037; www.crle.org.
Defenders of Wildlife
Earth Island Institute
Center for a New American Dream
Websites on Corporations
http://www.dieoff.org Discussions and actions with regard to sustainability.
http://www.poclad.org Corporations, Law and Democracy
http://www.p2gems.org Cleaner production tips and technologies
http:// www.justtransition.org. “Just Transition” seeks to reduce the conflict between jobs and the
environment. It brings organized labor, the traditional environmental community and the people of color environmental justice movement together to call for financing a fair and equitable transition for workers and communities in environmentally sensitive industries as we move toward more sustainable production.
Websites on Sustainable Agriculture
Tracing the Evolution of Organic/Sustainable Agriculture http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/AFSIC_pubs/tracing.htm
"Sustainable Agriculture in Print: Current Books" from AFSIC: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/AFSIC_pubs/srb97-05.htm
"On Becoming Lovers of the Soil" at WSAA by Frederick Kirschenmann
Check out ATTRA's revised web page... blazing color, amazing links!
Websites on Sustainability, Science and Policy