The following Multnomah Friends Meeting (Portland, Oregon) response to the Friends World Committee for Consultation Global Change process was sponsored by the Multnomah Friends Peace and Social Concerns Committee and Global Coolers. An hour and a half worship sharing was held at the meetinghouse on September 9, 2011 with sixteen Friends in attendance. Six queries provided by FWCC were reduced to a shorter version, based on the original FWCC queries. Following the worship sharing, the vocal ministry was summarized by two Friends. After posting the responses in the Multnomah Friends newsletter for corrections by those attending the worship sharing, the written document will be submitted to the FWCC to be shared at the Friends World Conference in Kenya in 2012.
1) How has global change affected us?
As individuals in a privileged culture, we are affected emotionally. Our peace of mind is overcome by anxiety about the future. Survival of humanity is in question and we are concerned about our children and grandchildren. We encounter frequent frustration and occasional broken relations in our attempts to reason with those who believe climate change is a hoax or cannot be attributed to human activity.
As a nation, the US is affected in varying ways in different regions. Serious weather extremes including tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding are occurring more frequently. Hot weather and major drought is more frequent.. Rising air and water temperatures have affected wildlife, while declining air quality affects health. The global energy balance is changing. Increasing reliance on imported oil from distant sources is a cause of war. US attempts to protect access to diminishing energy resources lead us to develop costly military technology. Technological developments have allowed us to kill more people without threatening our own lives – increasing the risk of more military interventions and wars – while decreasing positive influence with other nations.
Affects from global change around the globe are more serious and life threatening than in North America. Temperatures are rising, glaciers are retreating and sea ice is melting. Climate change amplifies social, economic and environmental stress. Crop failure, malnutrition and hunger occurs due to drought and lack of water for irrigation. Extreme weather events cause deaths and encourage mass migration, setting the stage for conflict. Unequal distribution of wealth results in a sense of relative deprivation that can lead to violence.
Globalization results in increasing destruction of environment and confiscation of locally-owned land by multinational corporations. In addition, globalization sometimes reduces developing countries ability to be economically sustainable. Cheaper prices for products sourced outside of the United States have made it difficult for companies to provide employment for production of energy efficient goods at home.
2) What actions are we taking in response to global change?
Efforts are being made to reduce human-caused carbon emissions by reducing the use of coal and oil and replacing them with cleaner energy sources. People are exploring the use of solar power. We are aware that energy-saving techniques may initially be more expensive and we are willing to invest our resources into these important efforts.
We are educating ourselves, discussing the issues and attempting to teach others about global change. Lobbying, letter writing, emailing, and street protests attempt to influence government policies to protect our environment and stimulate investment in new technologies.
We work at reducing, reusing and recycling. Changing our behavior does not have to result in suffering. We can demonstrate to others that powering down is fun. We are eating local foods, growing our own fruits and vegetables, buying less packaged goods and reducing our consumption. We are buying locally produced products and supporting small local businesses. Some of us are using our financial resources and volunteer time to encourage corporate social responsibility for global change through organizations such as 350.org, Environment Oregon and the Sierra Club. We are striving for a balance with nature.
3) What role does faith have in our response to global change?
Faith can be an impediment to responding to global change. Some faith traditions teach that there is no need for human action to decrease global warming, because global change is part of God’s plan, or because God will provide. When people of other faiths approach us in an effort to convert us, we may be tempted to respond in anger. Perhaps we can use this as an opportunity to communicate our faith’s response to global change, raising our concerns to support others in positive change.
Faith can also help us respond to global change. Many of us find hope and inspiration in our faith community. Our faith helps us see the world with more possibility and to see the goodness in humanity. Our relationships in our faith community help us deal with change. Many of us join together with others through the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon and Multnomah Friends Meeting’s Global Coolers in a common effort to respond to global change.
4) What inspires us to respond to changes in the world?
History shows that progress is possible. For example, brave Friends worked to abolish slavery and much progress has been made on this front. Individuals have inspired actions that have changed the course of humanity. We can look to these accomplishments to give us hope that we can make a difference during these times of global change.
If we focus more attention on possibilities, we can be more encouraged by the practical steps that people are taking towards sustainable living. An example of community-based action in Portland includes entire neighborhood blocks employing the tools of permaculture. Across the globe in South Africa, women are preparing food in solar cookers, an alternative to burning firewood.
Individual acts of love can also inspire positive change in the world. Multnomah Friends Meeting’s recent delegation to Nicaragua is an effort to learn how we might help a community become more self-sufficient and sustainable. Nicaraguans inspired the delegation. Working together and exploring alternative ways of living together on this planet inspire us.
5) How can our Quaker testimonies address global change?
Quaker testimonies of peace, simplicity and equality are helpful in addressing global change.
Our testimony of simplicity guides us to strive for responsible use of resources and reduction of personal consumption. We do this not only through individual actions but also through speaking out as a religious community to make changes in corporations and government.
Friends are inspired by our testimony to create peace and we are aware that a healthy environment is a fundamental requirement for world peace.
We are called to live as responsible members of the world community and our equality testimony calls us to right sharing of the world’s resources. Those of us who live in the US play a disproportionate role in perpetrating harmful acts against the environment. We are among those most responsible for climate change but countries with the least ability to cope are suffering the most..
Multnomah Meeting’s Global Coolers helps us develop a support system to make daily efforts to change our lives and act on our concerns. We must act with integrity, not just talking the talk but walking the walk of sustainable living practices and advocacy. We need to lead by example. When we come together as a faith community, we can hold each other accountable and help each other see the consequences of our actions. We find that as we come together in Quaker meetings, we are supported for our “green” actions.
As a faith community, we are proud to be a part of the Friends Committee for National Legislation and the Friends World Committee for Consultation who are looking at issues of global change and taking action. Friends working together with international communities are critical to addressing global change. We share in our efforts to respond to global change in our loving faith community. Together we can make a bigger impact for the cause of sustainability. Currently, our world is very interdependent and we are responsible for the common good of all. We can find a sense of contribution to the world by coming together with our faith community with the purpose of attaining the good of all those across the globe.
6) How can we support one another to respect creation?
We are creating our future. We are part of an interdependent web and together we can develop new innovations that preserve creation. Together, we can unleash our creativity to foster new possibilities and creative activism.